Thursday, 22 November 2007

Lenton Recreation Ground Ltd

My picture shows Dave, our Park groundsman, with members of the Park Consultative Group after yesterday's Group meeting in the Pavilion when he led a tour of the Park. At this point on the tour of the park they were looking at the site of the planned Nottingham Peace Garden and whether this was the best location. This is the garden's third location within the park since the idea was first mooted. Any of the locations would have been OK by me. This site is by the Park's Derby Road entrance and whilst it will be a little noisier because of its proximity to the main road, it may well mean more visitors. Hopefully, by this time next year it will all be in place.

The Park Consultative Group meeting was well attended and most of time we were in agreement about things. The most worrying thing for me is the political culture which seems to exist within the Parks Department that says Nottingham's parks have to be run like a business and see nothing wrong with using low-paid contract workers instead of employing more grounds staff directly. They see it as a way of saving money. The permanent staff are more likely to be managers or admin, who have job security and a decent pension to look forward to.

The city council makes great play of its logo and slogan 'Nottingham Pride' or something like that. I like the logo and the idea behind it, but what disappoints is the lack of commitment to those who carry out what they perceive to be the more lowly tasks like street cleaning and looking after our parks. They can be on low pay and short-term contracts, probably paid by private contractors or agencies the city council pays to do what it couldn't get away with — ie. paying those who keep our city looking good less than they deserve!

The individuals from the council who come along to meetings and talk up the contract culture are misguided and probably don't even realise just how political they are. As I say, they have job security and pensions, but appear to have no concern for the lack of security or pensions for the contract workers they so enthusiastically claim are doing a better job than many of the grounds staff employed directly by the city council. The implication being that all grounds staff should be contract workers.

If you accept their arguments, then we will soon have Lenton Recreation Ground Ltd and turnstiles at the gates. Of course parks and bowling greens don't make money, so let's sell the Park and build houses on it. That way Lenton Recreation Ground will finally make a profit and provide those who advocate running local government like a business will have something to be happy about.

It's good practice in the transport business, so they say, to overbook what capacity you have because you will always have customers who don't turn up. If they all turn up, then you give a discounted ticket to a few gullible customers to wait for next flight or train. It was this kind of sharp business practice that saw 'customers' at Norwich Hospital being treated outside in ambulances by paramedics because all the hospital beds were full a couple of nights ago! When the NHS cocks its up like this it still tries to huff and puff its way out of trouble, although I suspect it won't be too long before they start offering the families of those who die in such circumstances discounted funerals! If you protest then you are portrayed as someone who doesn't understand what good management is!

This week also saw two large water companies get into trouble for falsifying their statistics. There are are plenty of other examples. Remember Yorkshire Water? Privatisation of public assets leads to fat profits for the managers and shareholders and a decline in services for the poor old customer. But, hey, our parks would be better if we got in more private contractors. These people have to be challenged if we are to improve the quality and standing of our parks in Nottingham. At some point soon I will write a few words about Nottingham City Council's Breathing Space policy statement about the city's parks and open spaces until 2017.

What people without any real knowledge of history seem to understand is that municipal socialism was invented by Tories and Liberals before the Labour Party even existed. How they must hate those of us who still believe in good old fashioned public service and I'm not just talking about old lefties and Socialists like me.

Benefits Agency told National Audit Office it was too expensive to remove personal details of 25m people from files that were later lost.

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