Not content with spending thousands of pounds a month on publicity and hiring a new PR exec on a bumper salary, Stoke-On-Trent City Council have outdone themselves again by blowing almost three quarters of a million on refurbishing their offices.
The Sentinel reports that many have questioned whether £729,000 of taxpayers’ money should have been spent on revamping the civic centre with new carpets, furniture, lighting, pictures, cabling and partitions, particularly in view of recent redundancies and other cut-backs, including a £500,000 cut in the funding the council gives to museums and libraries.
A substantial £475,000 of the money will come from local quango, Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership. According to the newspaper this is an umbrella organisation that encompasses the city council, Renew North Staffordshire and the North Staffordshire Regeneration Zone, who presumably couldn’t communicate with one another without it…
Worst of all, many have said that the civic centre does not need refurbishing at all, and mountains of perfectly good furniture have been disposed of and replaced at the expense of the taxpayer.
The redundancies of over 250 staff in 2006/7 resulted in a £4.5million pay out from the council who hope that this will produce net savings of over £41million over the next five years, so why can’t this belt-tightening extend to all areas of council spending?
Aside from being counter-productive, this indulgent move gives out the wrong messages to both council staff and residents of Stoke who would surely rather see this money go towards services or a tax cut? Cutting back in order to fritter any money saved on things like this, that are of no tangible benefit to the taxpayer, only serves to make the public wary of cutbacks. From the outside it looks like they are ridding themselves of bureaucrats, only to make the ones that stay more comfortable.
Stoke Council really should be commended for attempting to make big savings by letting unnecessary workers go, but they should be looking to pass on these saving to the taxpayer rather than channelling thousands into spin and refurbishments.
Cutbacks and savings could be the positive publicity that the council needs, but when accompanied by frivolous spending like this when services aren’t improving, local residents will continue to believe that they are losing out, and stumping up their tax money for less and less in return.