I’m not standing for election. I don’t belong to any party. I see things, and I comment on them. Generally, the party in power get the brunt of my comments because they are in power and calling the shots, not because they are left or right. Often, they can’t see this.
I thought I’d put together a 10 point plan, my manifesto for Telford for the next five years. It’s not costed, because I don’t have access to the Finance guys at the Council, but if they wanted to cost it, they are very welcome. I think it balances out, but happy to take comments, thoughts and more ideas.
1) Council Tax
I’d freeze Council Tax. There are government grants for freezing council tax so there would be no reduction in services as a direct result. Council Tax is high enough as it is.
2) Adult Social Care & Childrens Services.
This is a big one. There are about £8m of cuts announced for Adult Social Care in Telford, and £3.6m in Childrens Services. This pays for carers to visit vulnerable folks and full care packages for some in residential homes. Childrens services cover things like kids in care, social workers and stuff. These really are the most in need. Total spend in these two areas are £134m. That’s a lot of money.
I’d ring-fence the budget. I’d also look into the use of technology to help people live better in their own homes, for those who can use it.
For those who can’t, a case by case review starting with the most costly, to make sure we’re doing the best for them, and getting best value for you. That’s about £11.6m I’ve got to find.
3) Pride in the Community
Why are we spending £21,000 to refurbish the toilets of a Private Members Social Club in Dawley? There are some worthy grants in the Pride project, and some I’m amazed got the green light. I’d say no more funds for private enterprises, and save £6m of the £13.8 million earmarked for this, let businesses be businesses and move the £6m to the more vulnerable in our town.
4) Planning & House Building
We need more houses. We don’t want large developments on our doorstep that make it more unpleasant to live in. Let’s develop brownfield sites first. We can be brave and consider old industrial estates like Tweedale & Hadley Park Road, Heath Hill, and other old warehousing and units that stood on their own in the 1960’s & 70’s but are now leaky dinosaurs that are often surrounded by housing. Time for some bold thinking.
Lightmoor has been let down badly by lack of stable broadband. There are sustainability tests when deciding to grant or decline planning applications. The question of broadband and mobile phone coverage should be taken into account when deciding planning requests on future development to stop this happening again.
The planning process is expensive for the council. Officers time, public meetings, site visits – do the charges made to developers adequately cover this? Lets make sure they do and put the fees up.
While we’re at it, lets insist on planners building 2 car parking spaces for each house. You with me?
Lets face it, some organisations are abusing apprentices. Using £3 an hour to get a 19 year old to do some filing or man a fryer is no way to prepare the workforce of the future. Lets have a campaign to recognise the employers who pay a living wage. Lets have a register of employers that keep apprentices on after the 12 months. Give them a sticker for their door and a badge for their website.
While we’re at it, there are some young people in Telford who are drifting. Not in training or emplyoment, they are given a label, NEETS. Some were disruptive at school, some had personal problems, some just kinda lost their way. I’d start a boot camp for these unmotivated people. Engage some local business owners to share their experiences with them. Show them what it means to get a job. Coach them in working with colleagues, taking instruction, being nice to customers. Some of these young people think that it’s cool to rebel but lets show them a better way.
There is £1.3m already set aside to help. That’s plenty.
6) Self Employment
Telford is a hot spot for new businesses. Some young people are pushed into self-employment without even having had a job at all. A start-up loan, a talk from a business guru, and hey presto they are off Job Seekers Allowance for a little while. Let’s stop kidding ourselves that this is good for the town or for the poor ‘entrepreneurs’ who are spat out at the end disillusioned, embarrassed, and back looking for a job. Let’s take better care of these people by not putting them through this.
7) Reduce Waste
You know it. I know it. Big organisations waste money. With a total spend of about £250m a year, I think we could find £2.5m or 1% through lots of little changes.
Mobile Phones – We’ve all got one, often with stupid amounts of calls & texts, so let’s say if you need one for work, we’ll give you £10 a month to cover a proportion. Imagine the bill checking and admin that would save. It’s not going to be millions, but you get the idea.
Renting Rooms – The council rents rooms for meeting all over the borough. Let’s say we don’t rent any for one week in each month. 25% saving.
Lets take a long hard look at some of the property we’ve got that is a pain in the ass. The Ski Slope might have been funky in 1974, but come on. When was the last time you used it? Lets call it a day, along with that avocado bathroom suite and CB Radio.
The Ice Rink is Telfords Biggest Youth Club. After a £4 million pound refit, it’s probably the world’s most expensive youth club. Why not lease it out and take a rent for it like we do with the Adventure Golf and Ropes Course in the Town Park? This will reduce direct employees, our energy costs and frees us from the ups and downs of running a business. If the company running it fails, we get it back and can find someone else to run it. We’ll still have an ice rink.
I’ve had enough. Lets have a 1 year moratorium on all non-essential repair work to our roads. Imagine that – hardly any roadworks. A year without more traffic lights on our islands and millions saved. This alone will cover the £6m needed for the Adult Social Care shortfall. Look after your nan properly or sit at more red temporary traffic lights. What’s it to be?
10) Princess Royal Hospital
We’ve got a hospital right on our doorstep. It’s handy. All politicians are insisting they want full, 24hr A&E cover to remain at our hospital. The Doctors who run local care say they can’t provide a good enough service at Telford AND Shrewsbury, so one major centre and a few satellite centres are what they are proposing.
We’d all like an A&E at the end of our road, but did you know that if you have a major road accident you’ll be carted off to Stoke because the outcomes are better at these specialist centres? I say, lets keep politics out of this. Let the Doctors decide on this one.
All in all, I’m for taking care of our vulnerable, I’m anti the council doing everything for us. I’m for a brighter future for Telford, and spending less of your money doing it.
What do you think?