The Plastic Hippo

June 13, 2010

Pickled Bird

Filed under: Politics,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 8:42 pm

“Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle!
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle.
Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
As black as a tar-barrel!
Which frightened both the heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel.”

As austerity descends upon us like a monstrous crow, our masters talk of tough decisions and changes to our way of life. There will be no winners but, like the results of unforced goalkeeping errors, some will loose more than others.

The hippo is indebted to a reader of this blog, “Observer”, who commented on a recent post reminding us of how the Walsall council leadership justified setting a service cutting budget whilst simultaneously increasing council tax. In those pre-coalition days, our smug cabinet members blamed everything on the sitting Labour government and Walsall`s finest refused to accept any responsibility for their own ineptitude and financial mismanagement. Game over, end of story, nothing to do with us.

The bovine bleating was led by our bellicose philosopher king Mike Bird who cited the parlous state of the global economy and a cut in funding from central government. No mention, though, of the causes of the financial calamity or the fact that Walsall still received more government funding than any other local authority in the region yet still sets the highest council tax. After the election which nobody won, the knives, axes and other blunter instruments are out again and it will be interesting to hear who Councillor Bird and his cronies attempt to blame this time.

At one of his first appearances at the dispatch box, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles announced a £3million cut in grant funding for Walsall. This further body blow to the populous came just a day after the cabinet axemen confirmed their long standing intent to close Willenhall Leisure Centre and Bryntysilio. No mention this time of the global economy or perfidious central government. Had the rotund, plain-speaking minister announced this from a Labour administration, our rotund, plain-speaking council leader would have been screaming blue, bloody murder. Instead, a shrug and a further sharpening of the axe.

Given the mess that the Conservatives and their silent Liberal Democrat partners have inherited, cuts in public spending are inevitable and we will all feel the consequences. But the “savings” being made by Walsall council and the additional rug-pulling by Pickles have cynically targeted those most in need and those with the smallest voice; the old, the young, the unemployed and people with disabilities. Their needs are secondary to the shareholder dividends required by Serco, Tesco and Tarmac in these recessionary times and a care home or four is obviously less of a priority than a £1million refurbishment of the Civic Centre.

With Tweedledee in charge of local government and Tweedledum running Walsall, a bleak future just got bleaker.


  1. NIce post – but you forget Amey (the owner of WMBC lamp posts) from your list. The greater the volume of ‘outsourcing’ the less the scope for cust other than on the most vulnerable. This was realised by WMBC a couple of years ago – shame that it took £1.7 spent on non-contract with Fujitsu before this was realised.

    Comment by Observer — June 14, 2010 @ 10:29 am | Reply

  2. And you have to ask a few questions about the imminent WHG headquarters building.
    If the council is so short of cash how and why did they sell the land to WHG for so little?
    Of course, you have to wonder where WHG is getting its £7m from; wouldn’t that money be better spent on new homes for residents or repair/refurbishment of exisitng homes?
    Presumably WHG has operated happily enough from it’s current buildings so why the hurry to move?
    Finally, you have to wonder if Walsall actually needs any more office space, for WHG or anyone else.
    At least if WHG stayed where they are we would only have a patch of land to look at; if they move into shiny, new offices we will have all the old, empty buildings to watch fall into disrepair

    Comment by martin — June 17, 2010 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

  3. But that is regeneration and we are pleased about that. After all, what is wrong with building new offices that are not needed to replace old offices that won’t be used because funding for the third sector has been cut. It is far better than supermarket driven development – although that seems to be the only way that Brownhills will get anything new. However, before any one agrees to build anything have a look at Shepton Mallet. Tesco has killed the High Street.

    Comment by Observer — June 18, 2010 @ 8:20 am | Reply

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