This evening (Thursday), the democratically elected representatives of the people of Walsall gather for a meeting of the full council. Our civic leaders will convene in solemn conference to decide the fate of the Empire. Sadly, the drones of Walsall are in no position to strike back.
In a packed agenda, questions will be asked about improvements to Ravens Court in Brownhills, the Walsall coroner service, the bedroom tax, covert selection of pupils in Academies, the Walsall North area profile and mortality rates at the Manor Hospital. Councillors will also enjoy a report on Treasury Management policy, will elect a new Deputy Mayor, hear about transition in public health and cringe as portfolio holder for Children`s Services, Councillor Rachel Andrew, proves that being completely incompetent is no barrier to a cabinet allowance. But the Death Star hovering over the High Jedi Council is item eight on the agenda; Corporate Budget Plan and Treasury Management and Investment Strategy 2013/14. It is likely that the budget will be approved faster than the Millennium Falcon making the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.
Having to obey the orders of the Galactic High Command in Westminster, the higher beings of Walsall`s cabinet have unsheathed their scissors, knives, axes and light sabres to “save” £13million in the next financial year. Having already cut to the bone, there is a danger that one of those light sabres will have somebody`s arm off. Undeterred, the Walsall Jedi continued to use the force and fulfilled their statutory duty to “consult” with the populous regarding the budget proposals. In a comprehensive, wide-ranging, in-depth and thorough consultation process with the 270,000 inhabitants of Planet Walsall, the mind scans elicited 487 responses. Common droids were asked for opinions on “savings” rather than “cuts”. The price of school meals, school music provision, green spaces, garden waste collection, public toilets, property expenditure, council tax and social care commissioning came under the implacable scrutiny of the sentient and non-sentient entities that actually pay for the services. The “savings” and increased revenue offered came to the staggeringly enormous sum of 1,987,695 of your earth pounds. Two million quid if you ignore the cabinet`s drink cabinet. So where, space cadets might ask, is the other 11 million quid coming from? We will never know because that is dark matter that we lower forms will never be able to comprehend.
Thus spake the 487 and some stuff was dropped allowing the controllers to say that they had listened and acted. In the style of a horse dealer outside the loading bay at Tesco or Findus asking 50 quid for a five pound knackered horse, 100 grand came off the cut to green spaces. It`s still a cut of £300,000 to green spaces which was probably originally intended to be £200,000. Clever, huh? The results of the public consultation have been published in clear and open view. For those that might have missed this vital interaction with the electorate, the data is freely available on the council`s wonderfully accessible web site.
Once you have found the web site, click on Council and Democracy in the top left Service Information panel.
Then click on Timetable of Meetings in the Most Popular panel on the top right of the page.
Then click on Committees in the top left just under the council logo.
Then click on Cabinet, three down on the left hand side list.
Then on the right hand side in the Meetings panel, click on 23/01/13.
Then on the right hand side under Meeting Documents, click Corporate Budget plan and treasury management and investment strategy 2013/14. It`s item 09 if that`s a help.
Once the document is open, you will find the open, transparent and democratic results of the public consultation in Annex 9 on page 99. Is that clear? Oh, and beware of the leopard.
This bogus budget that will harm people will pass because those that were elected to represent the people it will harm will not oppose it; apart, perhaps, for one. The Conservatives will do what they are told, the increasingly irrelevant Liberal Democrats will do what they are told and the Labour Group, already promising to abstain, will do as they are told. God knows what is going on in the circuitry of the Independents but Pete Smith, who stood as an Independent but is really Democratic Labour, is the only councillor who has publicly said he will vote against and in the spirit of the Judean Popular Front exchanges insults with the Popular Front for Judea. Labour has thrown in the towel, the Liberal Democrats have accepted the fate of Princess Leia chained at the rump of Jabba the Hutt and the Indies are, well, a bit odd. If this passes for democracy, the only people laughing are the Jedi cabinet.
The cabinet have rewarded themselves for failure and mismanagement. The Labour Group did nothing to stop this. Walsall is dying and when the leader of council is forced to respond to a report that the town is second bottom in a table of empty shops, he spouts celebration at the opening of a Primark. The deputy leader issues an incoherent and rambling attack on the evidence. Take a walk on the streets, councillors; this town needs more than bluster and an £8million refurbishment of the Civic Centre or, in the small print of the current budget, 600 grand for the maintenance of a building that has just had £8million spent on it. Labour will do nothing to stop this.
As Yoda might say: “Walsall, sadly no aspiration, it has. Politicians at heart, only self-interest have. Not fit for purpose say Jedi Council.”
This has done the rounds locally, but this is worth promoting again. Every councillor and every senior member of the council directorate should be compelled to watch this at least twice a day.