Monday, June 26, 2006

Banking on the library?

It's summer and the time is right for dancing in the streets as the annual debate over the Birmingham Library comes round again.

Just when you thought it had all been sorted out, the arch-ditherers at Birmingham City Council have found another way to pull defeat from the jaws of incompetence. To recap - last summer, Whitless caused a storm over a daft decision to split the Birmingham Central Library into two sites - with a lending section on Centenary Square and the archives in a container down on Eastside. You will remember that this stemmed from their hatred of anything hanging over from the Labour administration in 2004, so a well-advanced plan was scrapped in favour of this half-baked, back-of-an-envelope scheme, which inexplicably failed to win PFI credits in the 2005 round. You may also recall that Alistair Dow, one of the spineless LibDems, demonstrated the lack of vision that typifies this admininstration by adding that
'We should not be interested in prestige. We don't want iconic buildings.'

Paul Dale writes that the council couldn't afford the original, Richard Rogers design and this conclusion was reached 'after an exhaustive assessment process.' Actually the truth is that the first consultants' report argued that the Rogers library was the most likely to get PFI funding and offered the best opportunity for regeneration in Eastside, but that wasn't palatable to the Tories and the Lickspittle Democrats, so they had another report produced and more or less forced the consultants to reach the approved answer. There was even a scrutiny committe report which was damning in its criticism of the project management, planning and overall decision-making around the whole thing. But at least there was a plan.

But the leadership have never had an idea that they can't make worse and somebody gave Whitless a new envelope, so he's written out the first things to spill forth from his addled mind and the latest plan is to put the archives into a Grade II listed building on Broad Street - currently on the site of the proposed Arena Central development. If the Scrutiny Committee thought Whitless' first plan was half-baked, this one hasn't even been shown the oven. This new idea has the feel of the Tories grasping at straws - they know that they can't afford the new build for the archive centre and still come in under the cost of the original plan, so they've dreamed up this latest plot.

All of this is adding to the delay - we've had two more years of dithering and we're no nearer getting a library fit to replace the current building. Meanwhile, those valuable archives remain at risk of being flooded by sewage. Another normal day in the World of Whitless.

Will no-one rid us of this truculent pillock?

1 comment:

TonyF said...

I think he's suffering from the Alden 'Where shall I put the statue' syndrome.