For this reason as an Independent I often found it nearly impossible to promote new ideas or even question the status quo at Council meetings and when I and other Independent colleagues did so our points of view were dismissed by all parties as scaremongering or trouble making we were left out on a limb, our concerns dismissed as negativity, and our comments often ignored in the press.
So thank god for the blogosphere, here we can say as we please within reason, and be judged on not just the opinion we express but also on whether or not we called it right at the time.
Today in the third of my topical shorts we revisit two earlier blogs from the past to give you an update as to how close we called it at the time:
WHAT A LOAD OF OLD RUBBISH
Most of you will remember my posts on "Enterprise Managed Services" the new company that took over all of the Borough Councils refuse, cleansing and groundworks contracts in a 14 year deal. Praise came from all round the Council chamber from the big three, and in my last post on this subject I reminded readers that even Labour's Leader at the time Lee Mason commented that she didn't care who collected her bins as long as they didn't change colour! The Lib Dems agreed the deal, the Tory's trumpeted it as their own when they came to power, even going as far as to hold a re signing photo opportunity for the agreement.
Only two Cllrs at the time, myself and Malcolm Mildren spoke out, We challenged the figures, said that Enterprise had put in a loss leader as a bid and could not afford to deliver the service at anywhere near the price set. We questioned the long term security of the staff who would be transferred, and warned that 14 years was along long time if they made a mistake. We urged the Council to make its own changes to the in house delivery in order to keep control of the service. And we were ignored.
The warning signs were there, at the time Enterprise told the Council that it couldn't raise the funds itself externally to buy new vehicles to run the new contract and asked the Council to lend them the money to do so! Again Malcolm and myself tried to promote caution but our comments were relegated to the wheelie bin
So Enterprise started the contract, to begin with we had the usual teething problems, and as a result some changes were made, some at times seemed to have an effect, but only over time would we be able to judge the outcome.
That time is now approaching, and it is approaching at break neck speed. Let me tell you what my contacts down at Westbridge have been telling me over the last few days. First of all it seems as if Enterprise have lost money on the contract (surprise surprise) the figure I was told was that they have lost £2.5m in the first year. As a result of the above 15 staff were made redundant last week, with more to follow, refuse collectors, street cleaners, groundworkers all being cut back. The emergency clean up team who was successful in clearing up the mess made by their own refuse and recycling officers gone. 5 of the shiny new vehicles which Enterprise borrowed money from the Council to purchase gone. The Councils flagship recycling unit at Westbridge Depot? Closed and the staff laid off and the waste now being diverted by road to other recycling centres in the country expanding further the carbon footprint.
None of the above has hit the ears of Cllrs at NBC yet, and there has not been as much as a sausage in the local press, but when your bins are not collected as often, or you wonder where the street sweepers have all gone, or why the grass is three feet tall again. You can say I read about this on a blog from a bloke who the council said was talking rubbish when he warned them that this would happen. Rubbish indeed!
FOUNTAIN OF ALL KNOWLEDGE
The other criticism I receive is that I must be a real anorak at times to know so much about the most inane of subjects. I hold my hand up to this one, when I get my teeth into something I can't let go, and a number of times on this blog and on the Chronicle and Echos website I have warned about the potential dangers of the Council's next to useless fountain on the market square. If you want all the gory details just click here. http://tonyclarkeindependent.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/dont-go-chasing-waterfalls.html
What a load of old tosh they said, its perfectly safe. And yet it seems to have been off more than it is on recently, and anyone who missed in the press the ridiculous exchange between the Chron and the Councils leader over why it was currently turned off will be tickled to hear the story which goes something like this:
Local newspaper contacts Council and says "Is the fountain turned off because of the hose pipe ban"?
The Council responds by saying No not at all and announcing that "the fountain would remain on throughout the drought as turning it off would not actually make any difference to the town’s water supply". "So why is it off now then said the Chron two days later"? The Council replied with the following gem
"The water feature on Northampton Market Square will be switched off during the hosepipe ban to avoid causing concern to members of the public who might think it’s wasting water, the fountain was constructed to be very environmentally friendly. It‘s full of water which simply recycles itself over and over again. However, it’s hard to spread that message to everyone who will come into town over the summer, so rather than cause concern, we’ve decided to switch the fountain off until the ban is over.”
The above was all from a spokesperson with not one member of the Councils administration willing to be quoted.
So is this really the reason that the fountain runs dry? or is not everything as it should be? You see following my concerns raised with the council about how all that recycling of water in an area where dogs, pigeons and even humans foul cannot be good for little mites running through the mist ingesting all and sundry the council at least promised to carry out regular testing for a whole range of bugs and nasty's including TVC, E-coli & Coliforms, Pseudomonas, Legionella and of course Cryptosporidium.
For those who missed my earlier posts, my concern was that the above bugs and their spores are to be found where water has come into contact with animal faecal matter.
These tests started in Aug 2010 and took place in Aug/Sept 2010 April/May 2011 June/July 2011and again in Sept 2011.
But no testing has taken place since. More worrying is that the last test for Cryptosporidium was way back in Aug 2010 some 20 months ago!
Of course since September 2011 you can count on one hand the number of times the fountain has been working, but surely nothing untoward was found at that time?
After all Cllr Clarke (as I was told by many) was just scaremongering, the fountain is perfectly safe. And the Council surely would have said something to us if there was any public health risk. And if there was anything untoward we would have read about it in the Chron surely? And Councillors would have been made aware and would have considered it a duty to tell us if there was a problem? So it must be safe.
Safe that is until you discover that the test for TVC, E-coli & Coliforms taken on Sept 2nd 2011 was proven as positive!