Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Swindon Election : The Tory Legacy - The Monetisation of Swindon

If the Tories lose their majority on Swindon Borough Council tomorrow it'll mark the passing of an era that's a microcosm of Conservative national policy on one location.

Ultimately it'll mark the passing of the era that shifted from a full-service local authority to the tendering-out of much of it's function, then as the financial crisis started to bite the spinning-off of various remaining parts in an effort to make them profit-centres for SBC. Realising that was impossible for most parts and the cost of bringing them back in house and the final incarnation, an SBC cut back to beyond the bone, with vital bits missing, operating barely with minimal or no financial support and an entire absence of experience and knowledge from it's senior officers.

It saw a body of politicians so out of touch with it's own electorate (scared? Probably) that it imposed a new level of local bureaucracy (parish councils) to offload services and itemise the parish precept to them with explaining it away with "you're paying more because there's a parish now" despite the idiocy of many Borough councillors also now being Parish councillors at the same time.

The loss of economies of scale in contracting, purchasing and administration mean you are paying more and you are getting less, be in no doubt. This advert shows nearly £26,000 for a deputy parish clerk in one parish, plus they'll need an office, a PC, printer/photocopier, a website, I.T. support...

That's not even mentioning wringing cash out of Thamesdown Transport in the good years, then turning face and saying it was responsible when councillors chose to cut bus subsidy to lightly-used routes that could never be commercially run. Then of course selling it off in the end.

Then there's the £400,000 they gave to a businessman and we never saw again, the closure of Sure Start Centres, the axe swung in Dial-a-Ride's direction, the shock-doctrine threatened closure of all the town's libraries (except one), the Lydiard Park cock-up but the continued subsidy to Steam, the sacrifice of land around Coate Water, the roads to nowhere for a decade at Wichelstowe, the privatisation of Swindon Commercial Services (then that being reversed), the spinning-off of adult social care (SEQOL), the bizarre situation where they sponsored the town's half marathon, then it's return to council ownership, and on and on and on.

None of the above was inevitable, councillors get to choose what happens when they run a town, the choices may be limited in some situations, but they still exist.

Swindon has a choice tomorrow, we can choose to have a town with a council who's officers and politicians truly are the servants of the people. Or we can carry on like this.

The choice is ours.

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