Yesterday we mentioned the importance of quality rather than quantity when it comes to our elected representatives – and this has become more important than ever now that the council operates a cabinet model of leadership.
Although the council has far less impact on our daily lives that it used to – since it provides far less by way of service – it nonetheless spends millions of our hard earned cash, without it really mattering whether or not it is put to the best possible use.
And before anyone cries “foul” let’s not forget the empty shops project which saw tens of thousands of pounds of grant money wasted in a pointless exercise which was excused as being part of a learning curve.
The fact is that all the real decisions affecting Boston are now taken by just seven people – or six based on January’s meeting, when one sent an apology.
In decision-making terms, that must be one of the smallest groups to impinge on the lives of around 60,000 people. A company with as many employees would have a far more comprehensive and capable board of directors.
The Cabinet meets tomorrow, with three items on the agenda.
The first is hopefully to endorse the recommendations of a committee which has asked for a fairer fee scale for the borough’s allotments – one that is acceptable to the allotment holders themselves.
The second is to adopt a more streamlined markets policy - replacing two sets of documents with one, which hopefully will simplify the operation. However, as a report to the cabinet points out, the existing documents prohibit market traders from paying their rent in cash – even though more than half of them have been doing it for years! Such an admission immediately calls into question the worth of any new “rules.”
The final item on the agenda is a recommendation to use a £200,000-plus government new homes bonus to return empty homes into use.
Despite the need to economise on staffing – and the borough’s Chief Executive has recently warned of “some very difficult times as we struggle to maintain services against a background of smaller resources,” the first £30,000 of this money to be spent will be on the funding of “a shared Empty Homes Officer for two years.” Would it not be possible to manage without one?
Each of these agenda items leaves us with a feeling that there are loose ends being left untied which ought to be better defined and addressed.
There is a growing sense that the cabinet itself is little more than a rubber stamping exercise for the thoughts and ideas of the senior officers who produce these reports - something which we know concerns many councillors outside the Bluelaw inner sanctum.
In three weeks’ time the Cabinet meets once again in a special session to approve the council’s budget for the coming year.
The thousands of words in the report include warnings that the risk of reduced income from government is high, as is the loss of matched funding from partners - and an increase in bad debts. There’s also a "medium" risk that efficiency targets will not be met - which would have a major impact on council performance, although we are assured that "robust efficiency plans, and a fully-scoped transformation programme ...."
Robots ... ? Transformers?
Isn't that some sort of kids' game?
The counterweight to these worrying trends mainly mostly seems to be to whack up car parking charges and to introduce them for disabled badge holders.There seems to be one serious shortfall that no-one has yet mentioned – which is the need for some creative thinking when it comes to developing streams of income, something that involves more than just bumping up the charges inflicted on the “usual suspects.”
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