After months of restraint Sandwell Council have buckled and decided resume collecting nice new shiny things with our money. This time it’s not a garish arcade masquerading as an arts centre or a four star US holiday for their chief exec but it is similar in its relative uselessness.
Now we might assume that the usual way around is, you make a place nice and then you welcome people to the nice place with a nice sign. Not in Sandwell where the tolerant residents are rather used to feeling sidelined in favour of the council’s attention grabbing, short-lived ideas and monuments that might superficially make the borough look better (well, at least in the opinion of the councillors, and perhaps Elton John...) without addressing the true needs of the locals.
That’s right, this time the authority have spent someone’s salary on a 36ft long, 12ft high ‘Welcome to Sandwell’ sign.
According to the Express & Star:
“It is being created at Malthouse Engineering, in Hainge Road, Oldbury, where managing director Roy Taylor said: “This is about a wow factor.
“It’s about telling people we are Sandwell, we make steel and we are very good at it. We are solid people and the salt of the earth”.
The £30,000 sign will act as an unnecessarily costly cherry on the top of the astonishingly expensive Birchley Island cake. This ‘gateway’ was overhauled at a cost of £450,000 in, according to the paper, “a bid to make the borough appear more welcoming”.
And unfortunately it is about appearances and, as one Express & Star commenter puts it, papering over the cracks. These are the finishing touches to a job that hasn’t been done, made worse by the fact that the borough has been hit by recession and all local authorities are struggling for cash and making redundancies.
Sandwell have always been the compulsive spenders of all the West Midlands regional authorities, but it’s things like this that really put the noses of hard-pressed local ratepayers out of joint.