Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Bedfordshire is dead, long live the Bedford!


Just received the great news that Bedford is to be a new unitary authority. For the people of Bedford, who have been sold short by a Tory County Council who think it is OK to pour their resources disproportionately into their heartlands and have sold Bedford short for many years, this is welcome news indeed. John Healey also announced two new authorities in Cheshire. The analysis is that this reorganisation will result in savings of £18million, one wonders why the County is still wasting tax payers money and pursuing judicial review, but why break the habit of a life time?

During my time as Branch Secretary I had to deal with so much fall out from botched privatisations and blinkered dogmatism. There was the privatisation of the school meals service "saving" £1million. Yes, the service cost £1million less because the amount spent on school meals was slashed by over a third! The County also then ended up with a £4million bill for cutting terms and conditions prior to the eventual privatisation. So where was the saving? Who benefited? Not the children, they had even less nutrition, not the workers, they had their terms and conditions cut, not the people of Bedfordshire, they had a net loss...........aaaah yes......it was the private company and their shareholders!

Then there was the company that took over payroll. They were really good, we had members coming in who had been paid 10 times what they were due and 10% of what they were due! I remember an occasion when I was sat in the public gallery watching a full council meeting. We had chatted to one of the Labour councillors at lunch who then asked the leader of the council how the "Partnership Programme" was going, he puffed out his chest and did a resume of what a success it was. "That's funny" said our councillor friend, "I was just talking to the union and....." . I have never seen that leader so red in the face, there was scurrying and whispering behind the chair and the head of HR was dispatched up into the gallery to give me a ticking off. "Cllr X says...if you ever embarrass the leader of the council like that again you will lose your facilities agreement." My reply "You go back and tell Cllr X if he wants to see me do embarrassment he has seen nothing yet....I have enough material to keep the local paper happy for weeks to come!"

Oh, and then there was the piece de resistance, HBS - "Strategic Partnership", a £267million contract that went belly up after four years. We tried to tell them, honest. We produced a report in 2000 - Bedfordshire, Failing Best Value - which was then followed by another in 2005 (after I had left) Strategic Partnership in Crisis. How much did that debacle end up costing the long suffering people of Bedfordshire?

Having got an email via Luton Campaigners, I then had a call from my erstwhile fellow councillor, Toryboy Andrew McConnell. He is celebrating by booking a holiday over election week, given that there will now be no elections here in May. I had a very pleasant evening with Andrew on Sunday (always good to catch up on the goss) and he was telling me how hard he was working to hang onto his seat, being as it will inevitably fall to us next time (my analysis not his - but given we took one of his ward seats last year the writing is on the wall!).

I am sorry for the many lovely people that I know from County Hall and I trust that Unison will work hard to ensure they get TUPEd over successfully, but I am not sorry at the demise of an authority that has caused so many people such misery because of the extreme right wing, blinkered, ideology of some of the leading Tory councillors.

1 comment:

Susan said...

There are so many other things Linda. Lets list a few...

The renogotiation of a contract to MP because it was not tied down enough - cost £300k (Contract let in 2005 by the current administration)

£2million pounds over spend last year - they balanced the books but did not deliver all they promised

almost £1m of unachieved income last year

I could go on...

Susan