Basildon is hoping to inject a touch of
Hollywood magic to Essex, with the recent erection of a 5ft tall sign spelling
out the name of the town (the US counterpart has letters nine times the height
But lacking Hollywood's hills, the new
"BASILDON" sign will welcome visitors from the side of the A127 which
links London and glamorous Southend.
The sign is part of a
£400,000 project commissioned by Basildon District Council to boost the local
economy (no that’s not £50,000 per letter, apparently they are using some of
the money to buy lights to illuminate the sign, and other bits and bobs).
The money for the project
came from the Thames Gateway programme, a
Local Development Corporation (it’s basically a quango). I scoffed when I heard about this, not just
because it’s a silly idea, but because some nitwit somewhere has actually agreed
to spend thousands on a load of big white letters. This is exactly the kind of spending that
needs to be cut at a time when we face a mounting national debt, and ordinary
people are struggling to get by as they face pay-freezes, redundancies and rising
prices for food and fuel. The enthusiasm
to spend taxpayers’ money on promotions, advertising and stunts like this should
be curbed, because it’s sucking up millions of pounds of our money every year,
and simply isn’t a priority. I’m willing
to bet that if you ask taxpayers in Basildon if they’d rather have a Hollywood-style
sign spelling out the name of their town, or a bit of tax back, they’d take the
money in a heartbeat.
I don’t want anyone to
think I’m raining on Basildon’s parade but the simple fact is that this is a
pricey and pointless PR campaign.
Basildon is not going to become more glamorous because it has a rubbish
version of an iconic sign, tenuously linking it to film, fame, fortune and some
of the most recognizable celebrities in the world. Angelina Jolie is not about to relocate to
Essex, the town is not about to become a magnet for money and worldwide
attention. If local businesses in the
town really wanted this because they feel it would give the economy a boost
then they should dip into their own pockets to pay for it, I bet it suddenly
doesn’t seem like such a sensible way to spend £400,000 when you put it that
The cost far outweighs
the benefit of this sign, and it probably won’t be long before some drunk
students try and make off with one of the letters (you can’t do that with the
Hollywood sign as the letters are a whopping 45 feet tall), or rearrange them
so it ends up reading ‘A SLOB’, or possibly worse.