Wednesday, 13 July 2011

New district signs - the true cost

A couple of days ago I wrote about the new signs adorning the district highlighting the fact that motorists were now entering 'North West Leicestershire'.

I queried that whether in these tough economic times (when cuts are the norm) had taxpayer money been used on frivolities rather than essential services?

I now have the truth.

The total cost of our admittedly eyecatching signs was £16,718.40 (inc. VAT).

It's true that a contribution of £3,097.20 was made from the National Forest.

But once one takes into account the authorities VAT exemption our District Council have spent £10,834.80 of Council Taxpayer money on signs.

To put that into perspective that equates to the total Council Tax paid by more than 100 homes to North West Leicestershire* this year.

My question therefore is this:

Did we really need signs so badly that when essential services are being cut we had to spend the equivalent of more than 100 hard working, and in many cases struggling, families Council Tax to buy them?

I will be asking the Conservative  administration to answer this one simple question.

*Based on a Band A property

Monday, 11 July 2011

New district signs - but what are the costs?

I don't know if you have seen our new roadsigns yet when you enter North West Leicestershire but if you have missed them they are very nice.

The signs have been installed at some of the 'key entrances' to the District and establish in the words of Councillor Alison Smith 'a clear identity for North West Leicestershire'.

Clearly this is done by telling us (for example) that Ibstock has been making bricks for absolutely years - as it says on one sign.

Whilst this is great I am not sure that anyone living in the district would be unaware of the fact and furthermore I'm not absolutely certain that a sign would help to promote tourism or encourage new business, unless of course there is a passing delegation of brick enthusiasts...

Despite my slightly facetious comments it does not bother me that we have new signs.

What does strongly concern me is how much have they cost at a time when services are being cut and we are all facing a period of austerity?

Can we honestly say that these signs are needed when people are losing their jobs?

Have our Conservative administration at Whitwick Road spent money on frivolities when that same money is needed for essential services?

The official press release for the new signs says:

'The District Council is proud to be working in partnership with the National Forest Company, whose support has helped us to install and finance our new signs.'

Whilst it appears that the NFC have assisted financing the signs the fact that the word 'helped' is used implies that there has been a direct cost to the taxpayers of the district.

I am currently trying to ascertain the true cost of these signs and will feedback as soon as I have further information...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Why we must be careful with the future of journalism

Undoubtedly the single most important news story of the past week has been that centering around the News of the World and the deplorable actions of some of its staff.

There can be no excuse for the alleged intrusions that have taken place in the lives of victims of crime and tragedies such as the families of Milly Dowler and those who lost loved ones on 7/7.

Those who are responsible, including those who are vicariously responsible, should be brought to book with the full force of the law and yes, those who finance News International in any way, including advertisers, newsagents and customers should consider whether they wish to do so.

It is of course correct that an inquiry takes place which looks thoroughly at the actions of the press in this case and whether similar techniques of intrusion have been used more widely by the media.

However, I believe that we are at a fork in the metaphorical road and we must be careful that we take the right track.

Some members of the journalistic profession have been guilty of serious wrongdoing, however, many have the highest standards of integrity and a deeply held personal belief that we, the public, have the right to truth.

There is a long tradition of investigative journalists revealing major wrongdoings in the public interest, whether that be the Washington Post in respect of Watergate or the Daily Telegraph revealing the parliamentary expenses scandal.

We must be careful that in addressing the current News of the World scandal we do not give way to those who may wish to limit valid investigation.

We must remember that for every Glenn Mulcaire there is a Woodward or Bernstein, who the public owes a real debt (or at least thanks) to.

It is a truism that bad cases make for bad law. There is no case worse than this current debacle and therefore we must be careful that we do not take kneejerk reactions which may hamstring the journalistic profession and detrimentally affect our right to the truth for years to come.