Letters, April 14, 20011, part four

PUBLISHED: 11:03 14 April 2011

Cuts in all the wrong places

SIR – Many of us saw the cuts in local government coming, as the titles of jobs advertised seemed to become more incomprehensible by the week and what they did even more mystifying.

Now those cuts are happening and many are arguing that that the wrong jobs are being lost and the wrong services being cut. I too must join that number with all the passion I can muster, regarding some of the jobs cut at St Albans District Council.

In the last few weeks I have gradually learnt with growing alarm where some of these cuts have fallen, some have left before being pushed, some are going within weeks.

To name but a few; the head of museums gone, two conservation officers going and gone, one senior planning development control officer going, two engineers going, head of environmental health going.

The value of the local knowledge that goes with them is incalculable; succession planning is an unknown concept it seems within our council.

What do all those above have in common, apart from having recognisable titles? They were the deliverers; the professionals with academic and practical skills and abilities that served the residents and the historic fabric of the city and district as best as they were allowed to do by their political masters.

What we seem to have been left is a burgeoning ‘Policy and Partnerships’ department whose remit covers and I quote, “communications, corporate policy, strategy and development, community strategy and LSP, consultation, equalities, performance management, service and corporate planning, health, health promotion, climate change and sustainability, risk management, inclusion, deprivation and community development, community safety, safeguarding, anti-social behaviour, emergency planning, economic development and CCTV”.

A few of these functions seem reasonable if public money is plentiful, but it is not. I feel most are covered by other publicly funded bodies. It seems our council will produce policies and communicate what those policies are, but with no coalface officers left to deliver them!

More expensive consultants are therefore being called in, to perform functions many of these officers fulfilled. The first requirement of any consultant is local knowledge and that is something the council have foolishly and expensively discarded.

Who took these ludicrous spendthrift decisions? Once again unsurprising, our Lib Dem cabinet step forward. It seems they adore having consultants and project managers around them; after all they have already spent £1.5m on consultants on Westminster Bodge, so why stop there!

In their April Fools’ letter published as few weeks ago regarding Westminster Bodge, full of inaccuracies, two cabinet members boasted their so-called “achievements”.

What they didn’t divulge was to pay for their vanity project and other wasteful dalliances we will pay a heavy price in years to come.

I will do all I can to lobby that valuable services to residents and the heritage we are so privileged to be custodians of will be reinstated; so that quality services that should be offered by the council speaks for itself rather than needing a whole unnecessary and expensive department!

Turning to something of which we can be justly proud is our council’s mayoralty. Mr Goodwin recently wrote of the role and heritage of this position and its apolitical nature.

The fact that signing the contract for Westminster Bodge fell to the current Mayor seems to have been the trigger for his letter.

In my view the Mayor was merely carrying out her duty and I have nothing but admiration for the work she and her deputy have carried out in their year in office.

I was recently reminded, when the present Mayor delightfully recognised the previous incumbent’s contributions by awarding badges, of how valuable this office is to the life of St Albans and its residents.

I was able to meet once again one former Mayor and Mayoress, who had personally touched mine and my husband’s life 30 years ago.

Therefore whilst I am heartily proud of the council’s mayoralty, I am equally strongly ashamed and appalled, that in these days of austerity, the Lib Dem cabinet choose to cut coalface staff whilst hanging on to a bloated policy and partnership department.

VANESSA GREGORY

Tennyson Road, St Albans

More homes will destroy our city

SIR – Your report about two school sites having been earmarked for new houses (Herts Advertiser, April 7) makes me wonder if council planners know anything about the area concerned.

Their proposal is to build lots of new houses adjacent to Nicholas Breakspear and Beaumont schools. But already queues of traffic waiting to join Hatfield Road from Colney Heath Lane are so long that, on occasions, they stretch back beyond Nicholas Breakspear school. And Hatfield Road is totally log-jammed at times.

Both these proposals will bring a lot of extra cars onto both Hatfield Road and Colney Heath Lane, and create even longer delays for people struggling to get to work or into the town centre.

Can’t planners see that by cramming ever more houses into areas where the infrastructure is already hugely overloaded, they are destroying St Albans and turning it into a thoroughly unpleasant place in which to live and work?

If new houses are needed, surely it would be better to build separate new villages or towns with their own infrastructure that can cope with the traffic. It’s not rocket science, just plain common sense!

DAVID KILPATRICK

Boissy Close, St Albans


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