We despair

Below is our blog post of early June. Since then, the High Street streetlamps have remained on continuously, as far as we can tell. So, in deep frustration, we’ve we’ve submitted another Freedom of Information Act enquiry to find out why.

You have to despair of local authorities that can’t even turn lights off. How on earth can they be trusted to do anything more demanding? How on earth can they expect our trust when their failure is so visible?

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Our first picture is an extract from the front page of the borough council’s website. Our second is of one of those nice new streetlamps in the High Street at mid-day last Wednesday. It, and all the other streetlamps, were shining brightly in the sun.

Are you thinking what we are thinking?

Deja Vu

Jennifer has sent us this photo of the pavement at the top of Lower Charles Street (that’s St Tarcisius Church in the middle of the picture).

You can see that the heavy rain has caused the tarmac to lift completely. But, if your memory goes back a year or so, you’ll probably say ‘Oh no, not again!’ Because it’s the not the first time this has happened. Below is a photo that the Eye took back in February last year, after the problem – which became apparent in mid 2019, or earlier – had been ‘fixed’….

UPDATE: Jennifer has told us that the area has now been ‘coned off’. No doubt one lane of the A30 will be closed at some point for a second ‘fix’ to be carried out…

Norwich House neat and tidy

You may well remember the unkempt bushes that used to be on two sides of Norwich House. But you probably don’t know that some rather insanitary activities used to go on behind them. However, the Eye does know, so we take pleasure in seeing the bushes replaced by some neat and tidy planting. ‘Neat and tidy’ might not be natural, but in this case it’s to be preferred.

Is our council completely broken? And is it the only one?

A point that we’ve made before is that the basic structure of a local authority is inefficient. In a properly-conducted business, meetings not only make decisions, but they check to make sure that previous decisions have been carried out.

But local authorities have no such discipline. Meetings of elected councillors make decisions, but that’s as far as they go.

And that brings us to the e-mail which we wrote to the council on 24th June:

“The ‘Minutes of a Meeting of the 15 June Executive’ state:

“”The Executive reviewed the reports which had been considered at the meeting following the exclusion of members of the press and public, as it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information.

“”RESOLVED that the decision at minute 24/E [Cambridge Square Refurbishment] be made public”`

“Please could you tell me where the decision referred to above can be found?

We’re quite interested in the refurbishment of Cambridge Square (!), so we’ve checked our Inbox and our Spam filter. But we can find no reply to our e-mail. Predictably, the agenda of the subsequent Executive meeting makes no mention of the decision. We strongly suspect that it hasn’t been implemented.

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Normally we would, just nudge the council for an answer. But we’ve come across the following very recent statement (Source – ‘The MJ’):

The local government ombudsman has warned about the erosion to the way complaints are being handled by councils.

An annual review of complaints by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman highlighted the ‘widening cracks’ in council complaints systems.

In 2020-21, the ombudsman upheld 67% of investigations, a greater proportion that ever before.

As a result, it made more than 3,000 recommendations to put things right for individuals and 1,488 recommendations for councils to improve their services for others.

Ombudsman Michael King said: ‘While the way local authorities dealt with the pressures of COVID-19 is still being played out in our casework, early indications suggest it is only widening the cracks that were already there and has deepened our concerns about the status of complaints services within councils.

‘These concerns are not new and cannot be wholly attributed to the trials of the pandemic.

‘I am concerned about the general erosion to the visibility, capacity and status of complaint functions within councils.’

No barrier – again

Various ways have been tried to stop the public from parking in the private St George’s Court car park. We remember that there used to be a rising bollard (which didn’t work for quite a while), and which is probably still there. More recently, there was a conventional barrier across the entrance. But we’re told that the barrier was vandalised by a couple of ‘youths’ at the weekend – perhaps they didn’t know that they were being recorded on CCTV while they apparently took selfies of themselves. Needless to say, the police would like to hear from them, or from anyone who knows them…

The wrecked barrier is no longer there.

Get it right the first time?

Our first photo was taken in early June.

Our second photo was taken just yesterday.

It looks as if scaffolding has been erected to reach work that’s already been carried out. Why?

Of course, we don’t know why. But the reason we took our first photo was that we were unimpressed by how the new cladding had been installed. The edges of the panels didn’t align with each other very well. You can see this in our third photo: a close-up. Our guess – and it is a complete guess – is that the scaffolding was erected so that the job could be done properly!