Avery dim view
PUBLISHED: 11:18 09 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:39 06 May 2010
SIR, — I note the proposal by the Conservatives at their annual conference to freeze council tax for two years. The suggestion will no doubt be greeted with outrage by local authorities whose spending plans would in consequence have to be reviewed — in
SIR, - I note the proposal by the Conservatives at their annual conference to "freeze" council tax for two years. The suggestion will no doubt be greeted with outrage by local authorities whose spending plans would in consequence have to be reviewed - in other words cut back. But if it compels local authorities in this area to look again at their expenditure, with the aim of using council taxpayers' money more efficiently, then it can only be a good thing.
A worthwhile case study, as a means of identifying potential savings, would be the programme to replace the street lighting in parts of Harpenden. The way it has been implemented is worthy of Fred Karno's Army. A more modern allusion would be to say that if Frank Spencer, of "Some Mothers Do Have 'Em" fame, was put in charge, the work would have been done a lot more efficiently.
As an example of the chaotic organisation of the street lighting renewal programme, workmen arrived and erected new lamp-posts, each one adjacent to an existing lamp standard which to all appearances was perfectly adequate. In some cases the new lamp standards have been positioned further from the kerb than before - an apparent safety measure in the event of a swerving vehicle mounting the pavement. But at other sites in the same road the new lamp-posts are nearer to the kerb than before and, as such, constituting more of a hazard than before.
If the scheme had been properly organised, the same gang of men who erected each new lamp standard would have connected its electricity supply and removed the old post - all in one smooth operation on the same day. But oh no, that would have been too easy. It's what would have happened in a country like Sweden, Germany or Japan where the cost-effectiveness of public-utility projects means something.
Instead, the new lamp-post is installed and, almost unbelievably, a neat rectangle of tarmac is laid around its base, the tarmac also surrounding the old post. On those sites where the old posts have been removed - typically and inexplicably weeks or months after the new posts have been erected - the resulting hole in the new tarmac is filled with a small unsightly circle of hand-tamped tarmac dispensed from a bucket.
A whole series of other questions about the street-light replacement programme need to be put to the local authority:
1.) Why is it necessary at all? The existing lights did a perfectly-adequate job.
2.) Why are the easy-on-the-eye, virtually shadowless, softly-illuminating yellow sodium lamps being replaced with glaring white lamps where some (but not all) of them need side-shields to protect adjacent houses from their unnecessary brightness?
3.) Why, in a Harpenden road like Roundwood Lane, have some lamps, at the time of writing, been replaced and others not, leaving a mixture of yellow and white lighting as you walk or drive along the road at night?
4.) Perhaps most critically, how much is this disgracefully-wasteful and unwanted programme costing us council taxpayers?
Ridgewood Drive, Harpenden.
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