Thursday, 11 October 2007

Before and After in Priory Park - What's changed?

Priory Park, Old Lenton, 11 October 2007 = After

Priory Park, Old Lenton, 27 September 2007 = Before

'Work began clearing all the internal rubbish at (Priory Park, Old Lenton) on Thursday 4th October. The two walls in the park area were taken down on Friday 5th October. I have just completed an inspection of the site and found that the vast majority of the rubble has been cleared away. The steel top to the well has been replaced and welded shut to prevent further damage'. Part of an email dated 5 October 2007 from a Nottingham City Council officer to a city councillor.

My 27 September blog hinted at problems with the condition of the Priory (Pocket) Park in Old Lenton when I commented on its terrible condition, especially when compared to a similar sized park on Nottingham University's main campus about half-a-mile away. I said I wanted to write about the park after 'a happy ending'. Silly me.

Priory Park is less than a ten minute gentle stroll from Lenton Recreation Ground and it has been in a sorry state for some time. At the last Park Consultative Group meeting for Lenton Rec on 15 August, concern was expressed about two other parks in Dunkirk and Lenton ward, including Priory Park. Our local councillors saw it for themselves on 8 September 2007 and started the ball rolling soon after that. On 27 September I found the park locked, but easy to get into and no notices at the two entrances explaining why the park was closed. It was a high-level health and safety risk on a number of fronts and I sent photographs to my local city councillor and was later contacted by the Head of the Parks Department, who was about to go on holiday, but was putting things in hand. Knowing the people I spoke to I had every confidence that by now I would be writing a 'good news' story about Priory Park.

On my way to Beeston today, I decided to walk past Priory Park and see it after it had been made safe, the rubble removed and its 'winter maintenance' had been brought forward to this week. What did I find? I think the above pictures speak for themselves! If this is what it looks like after '
the vast majority of the rubble has been cleared away', then the before picture is not of a shed (a one-time pigeon loft), it is of a tardis (Dr Who fans will know what I mean). The gates are still locked and there are still no notices explaining why the park is closed. The large hole may have a welded lid, but it is still a health and safety hazard and there are other hazards which have had no attention.

Perhaps I would be more understanding if this was the only problem there is when it comes to 'service delivery' and the council, but there others, but I don't have the time now to go into them (I will return to this topic before too long). I tell my councillors and, apart from doing the job themselves, I don't know what else they can do. Time and again it comes back to service delivery and that is the responsibility of paid staff. Another complication is the fact that the Parks Department is one step removed from the action because, as I understand it, the actual work is carried out by the council's Neighbourhood Services department.

There is a saying about how 'life imitates art'. It's a bit like that with Nottingham City Council, except it tries to imitate big business. In this the council is no different to what happens in local and central government as a whole, such is the grip that Thatcherism and corporate capitalism has on the minds of those who govern and manage us. The trouble is public service and capitalism ain't the same thing. I have no doubt that there are many top managers in government who see the democratic element as an irritant in what they regard as a post-democratic age. They believe democracy hinders good government if capitalism is to be truly successful. The trouble is that many of those we elect to govern us are of the same mind. How else do you explain the speed with which some ex-ministers and even serving MPs get their noses in the corporate trough of greed and take on lucrative directorships and 'consultancies'?

There are alternatives to all this. Democratic Socialism and Co-operation for a start. Winston Churchill said something like 'Democracy is cumbersome and long winded but, compared to the alternatives, it's heaven'.

Local people know this, which is we why continue to elect the same Labour councillors election after election. Voters do have the commonsense to separate those who make the policies from those who are meant to implement them. I will keep you posted on what happens next at Priory Park in Old Lenton. It can't get any worse. Can it?

The cost of cleaning up 20 of Britain's nuclear power stations now stands at £73billion according to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Greenpeace put the cost at nearer £100billion.

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