Why do we continue to pursue our “War On Waste”? The answer may seem self-evident, but examples of waste on the part of local authorities just keep on coming. Here are three examples from south and east Kent.
Ashford High Street has a bandstand, built in 2003 to enliven the area. It has no roof however, anyone using on a rainy day had to use a bright yellow parasol for shelter. Ashford Borough Council now intend to provide a permanent canopy. The design is to reflect the town’s railway history. Nothing wrong with that idea in itself – until they reveal that this new powder-coated metal structure will cost taxpayers a whopping £65,000.
Meanwhile down on the coast at Folkestone, Shepway District and Folkestone Town Councils between them spent a controversial amount of public money on the Step Short War Memorial Arch as part of the First World War commemorations. I spoke out against the amount of unsecured public funding at the time – it cost in total the better part of half a million, though not all public funds. That does not imply any criticism of commemorating and honouring the war dead. However, it needs pointing out that Folkestone already had several other (neglected) war memorials. It now transpires that we may not have got good value for money – after just six months rust has appeared on the upper surfaces of the arch – the steel was supposed not to rust. Bolts used to screw the structure together have been blamed. It would be reasonable to expect something that cost that much to remain in better condition six months after completion.
Staying with Shepway District Council, last year their Head of Administration, Peter Wignall left with redundancy in a deal that cost the taxpayer over £185,000 (£34,000 redundancy plus pension payments totalling £151,000). One year later, the council has rehired him as Head of Democratic Services on a short-term basis. They claim their reorganisation will save money in the long run and his rehiring costs will be recouped in four years. One cannot help but wonder how widespread these practices are.
Ian Taylor: East Kent Co-ordinator