Sunday, 12 October 2008

Street Scene under the spotlight

After insisting for a couple of years that the Street Scene revolution, based around creating "generalists" in the workforce and downgrading the importance placed on specialist horticultural skills, was working well and that the town was benefitting from the new regime, it appears that the Labour leadership has finally admitted what we've been telling them all this time: Street Scene isn't doing the job; residents are fed up and the town looks dirty, uncared for and unloved.

Walk through the town centre any day and see the sad floral displays, the overflowing waste bins, the rubbish and fag ends blowing about. Visit residential areas and see the unkempt flower beds and grassed areas.

Sure, Street Scene is pretty good when it comes to responding to problems. But being good at putting out fires is not much help when incendiary devices are exploding all over the Borough.

In walks around North Road ward I have often been able to chat to Street Scene workers. There's no doubt they feel undervalued and de-motivated.

The problem lies not with the staff, but with the Labour leadership who pushed the generalist philosophy through as a cost-cutting exercise.

Now the Leader has announced that a review of Street Scene will be conducted at the highest level in Council. Neatly, and with political astuteness, this review has been announced just as the Neighbourhood Scrutiny Committee has started its review of Street Scene. By the time Scrutiny gets round to reporting, the Leader's review will be long finished and (hopefully) improvements in Street Scene will have been implemented. Scrutiny's work will be out-of-date.

Realising this, the chair of the Neighbourhood Scrutiny Committee, Conservative Councillor Doris Jones, offered to merge the two reviews into one, an offer rejected by the Leader at Cabinet last week. "She's cute, Doris, I'll give her that", said Cllr Williams.
Whatever changes to Street Scene the Leader's Review recommends, Scrutiny's work will be a minor historical footnote, unless its review is delayed and amended to take account of these changes.

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