"Has anyone got a couple of AA batteries for my calculator?"
Hypocrisy is an attitude that appears to have been enthusiastically embraced by certain senior members of Tameside’s council.

More and more we read in our local papers, council press releases lecturing us about imposed financial prudency by people who would have us overlook their own monetary shortcomings.

Take this example, written by Tameside council leader, Kieran Quinn on his latest blog:

KQ: “One of Tameside Council’s most pressing duties is looking after the public money with which it is entrusted. During times as uncertain as the ones we are currently experiencing, it is vitally important that we not only spend that money wisely but also plan carefully for the future”

Now tell me how that statement squares with the Key Decision Notice passed by the Executive Cabinet regarding speculating over £291,000 on a 3 year Christmas Market?

The first paragraph reads:

The principle of a Christmas Market is to promote Ashton Town Centre as a Christmas shopping venue. It should be viewed as a long term commitment and even if successful in the early years it will still take several years to break even.

It continues:

The Strategic Planning and Capital Monitoring Panel on 1 July gave approval, subject to an appropriate Key Decision, for £69k capital funding and £97k revenue funding per year for 3 years (total £291k) for the scheme. After which a decision will need to be taken whether the Christmas Market should continue or not. As part of this, consideration should be given to the on-going financing of the Christmas Market.

On-going monitoring will need to take place to ensure the costs are kept within this allocated budget. It is proposed that the income from stall rental will be used to offset some of the events running costs.

Cabin rental charges for the first year of operation (2013) are set at £200 for the two week period with a £25 early bird discount to all applications received before 15 November 2013.
(4) The Deputy Executive Leader (John Taylor) will annually review and set the cabin rental price with a view to increasing rents to £275 for the duration of the 2014 event (with a £25 early bird discount) and £350 for the duration of the 2015 event (with a £25 early bird discount).

 (5) To implement the decision at (1) above, approval be given pursuant to Procurement Standing Order D.12(3) to accept the tender of New Image where fewer than three tenders have been received.*

So for an outlay of £291,000 the council expects an income of a measly £24,750

That, dear taxpayer is a loss of £266,250 (two hundred and sixty six thousand, two hundred and fifty pounds!)

If this is an example of how this Labour run council is ‘spending money wisely and planning carefully for the future' - then God help us!


AUSTERITY BRITAIN? …Not in Tameside!

This Labour council appears to have adopted a new approach to communicating unpopular decisions and obscure reasoning to the public: If something is black, they call it white. Say one thing; do the opposite, therefore it's much more instructive to pay attention to what our councillors do than to believe what they say.

I don’t know about you, but I'm getting rather fed-up of hearing austerity advice from the humble councillor from Globe Lane, who week on week, spouts his warnings that because of continuing cuts from central government, this service has to be cut; such and such has to be shelved and publicly owned property and assets must be sold off, whilst on the other hand he has furtively orchestrated to ring-fence, vast sums of money to fund the dubiously successful Ashton Christmas Market for the next 3 years!

So, despite Hyde, Stalybridge, Denton and the other towns barely getting enough funding to plug-in a set of festive light-bulbs to encourage their towns Christmas footfall; according to a ‘Key Decision Report’ passed in July 2013, approval was given for £69,000 of capital funding to buy the materials to build 30 Log Cabins and an additional £97,000 revenue funding, per year, for 3 years, to finance the scheme. That’s £291,000 of our council tax money that was never disclosed up-front! At that point it would seem that Cllr Taylor and the rest of the controlling cabinet had clearly forgotten the phrase ‘Austerity Britain’ and substituted it for ‘Opulence Unlimited’

So, when we are told that services are being chopped, lollipop ladies dispensed with and community assets sold off, it’s not because the council has no money. It’s because those whose job it is to seek out value for money, just haven’t got a clue on what is a priority! - Surely this example of extravagant speculative spending has to be one of the biggest manifestations of hypocrisy that has ever been played on the people of Tameside!

Why on earth was it necessary to build 30 cabins at £69,000 when the very same cabins could have been hired for £13,800? And once the 2 week rents had been offset, they would have only cost £7,800! – A figure that most people would find far more acceptable! In fact, at that price, the council could have held two week Christmas Markets in Ashton, Hyde, Stalybridge, Droylsden and Denton, and still had £30,000 left over for publicity!

Nothing is ever as it seems at Tameside Town Hall, because it's not what officials say that counts. It's what they do - or don't do

The only thing that is truly consistent with controlling councillors is that they're generally regarded by most people as untrustworthy and do the exact opposite of what they say. Nice work if you can get it. And once they've got it, history shows they hang on to it!

 A situation that won't change until there's a major clean-up of the double-speak that infects local politics.



The Man who shot Liberty in Tameside
Just as cowboy builders are the bane of the building industry, cowboy councillors must be the equivalent curse in local politics.

I found it strange then, that during last nights Full Council meeting,Tameside Council's Deputy leader, John Taylor described his party’s venture into the Wythenshawe Ward; where they’ circled their political waggons’ in order to get their candidate Michael Kane elected, as a posse who had ridden boldly into unknown territory, with himself leading the hastily sworn in mob, as their Sherriff!

Unfortunately for the analogy challenged councillor, the term ‘Cowboy’ when associated with builders, is simply another term for a rogue trader, who often possess little or no knowledge of building, so inevitably you end up with a botched job! – Obviously, the same therefore must go for cowboy councillors! Who ruin things for perfectly reputable councillors, and for all the talk about them; whether they be Sherriff or just one of the posse, they’re in the minority – it just happens to be the minority that gets all the publicity.

The only saving grace for two gun toting Taylor is the ever increasing regularity in which he shoots himself in the foot!



"...Another few grand, we could have got Rent-a-Crowd!"
A couple of payments caught my eye the other day as I scanned Tameside council’s November & December 2013 payment archives.

The payments were to a company called New Image (Public Relations) Ltd; they were the company who were engaged by the council to run Ashton’s ‘successful’ 2013 Christmas Market event.

Item No. 5129366 for £56,752.50 and item No. 5132143 for £18,500 a total of £75,252.50

Now if these payments were paid to New Image to run the free entertainment, the free helter-skelter, free children’s swings, and security etc, then we must add this to the £69,500 the council put aside to buy the materials to build 30 pseudo ‘log-cabins’

 – that would mean that Ashton’s first Christmas Market cost the taxpayers of Tameside well over £144,752.50.

If this is not the case, perhaps Cllr John Taylor, (the man who has total responsibility for Markets) might like to explain why, in these cost-cutting times, just what the council are paying £75,252.50 to a Public Relations company anyway?

Given the timing of the rushed‘consultation’ where Cllr Taylor only wanted to hear views from ‘positive’ voices, I wonder if asked now; after all the hidden costs have been revealed; how many of those positive voices would vote to repeat this exorbitant exercise next Christmas?

Einstein said, if you keep repeating the same experiment in the same way and expect a different result, you must be mad.

Personally I prefer to quote José Maria de Eça de Queiroz, who said, “Politicians are like nappies - they should be changed regularly, and for the same reason.” 

Later today, we will once again be treated to the Leaders ‘Key-note speech’ where we will hear how much money has been cut from the council’s budget and therefore, how many ‘front line services’ will suffer and community assets sold off on the cheap, because of those inefficient politicians running central government. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear how much the council will need to increase the council tax again.

Just for once, wouldn’t it be nice if we heard that because of radical efficiencies the council are reducing our bills and giving the money back to ‘hard working families’

Dream On!