Friday, July 15, 2005

Dithering idiots

Meanwhile, the Post gives a critical review to Mike Whitby's first year as Leader (less than 12 months to go, Mike) and follows it up with a pretty devastating attack on the Tory/Liberal Democrat administration's dithering over a number of major projects. Terry Grimley is very critical of Whitby and spots that they found it easy to criticise Labour over the plans for the Eastside library and promise to scrap it, but had no idea of what to do in its place.

Update the existing concrete monstrosity? That was the first idea, but the costs seem to be prohibitive, so that's been dropped.

Use Baskerville House instead? As Grimley points out, the City would have to spend a small fortune buying it back and reconverting it from office space - something that could swiftly end up costing more than the Eastside plans. Plus, they would need another building anyway to house the rest of the collection, but some variant of this scheme seems likely, leading to increased ongoing staff costs and inconvenience for users who might want to visit the lending and reference libraries at the same time.

So, after accusing Labour of dragging its feet over the progress of the library project, the Tories have actually put the whole thing further back. This is not dissimilar to their own foot-dragging over the Birmingham Metro/Underground farce, where the Tories reckoned that they could provide the city with an underground mass transit system for the bargain price of £200 million. The expensive feasibility study seems to show that they were a little out in their estimates by a factor of ten, so the feasibility study has yet to be published.

Ironically, one of Whitby's chief advisors on redevelopment is the man behind the Arena Central scheme - one of the three projects criticised by the Tories when they came to power. Oddly, this was the project that was entirely in the hands of the private sector and fell victim, to a backlash against tall buildings since 9/11, according to Terry Grimley.

A rather disturbing line from the Whitby article (written by one of John H's tame journalists) is
'other senior officers appointed by the previous Labour regime are considering their positions. If they do not go voluntarily, they will be pushed.'
Which is an interesting comment from the point of view of employment law and says an awful lot about the petty politics that infects the Tory administration and their simplistic view that anything Labour proposed must, ipso facto, be a bad idea. No amount of 'reviews' will change that view, because it is the the truth. I just hope that Labour can redress the balance next May and kick this bunch of fools out of office. Birmingham deserves better.

It would be petty of me to ask why Mike needed to go to Spain to 'experience the new range of Jaguar diesel engines' (doubtless the bill was picked up by Ford and the jolly fact-finding trip will be reported to the council in the appropriate manner).

The article does spot that the council is run by a bunch of politicians that can't believe their luck - throughout, the Tories and Liberal Democrats have floundered and suffered from a lack of practical policies, as neither group seriously expected to be in power after May 2004. As Mike himself put it
'We want ideas and proposals that come from outside the charmed circle'
Was that a genuine appeal for ideas or just a desperate cry for help? The lacklustre performance of the council leadership would indicate that the second answer is closer to the truth.

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