Is £50,000 of public money about to be wasted?(February 08, 2009)
TOWN councillors will be asked to spend a further £13,000 of local taxpayers’ money on supporting the next step of the town plan - to which they have already pledged £5,000.
The cost of this stage of the plan will be £50,000 all of it funded out of the public purse in some shape or form.
Most of the money will end up in the pockets of highly paid outside consultants who will produce a similar type of plan to all the others they have produced in other towns - only more detailed than the picture book that was produced last year.
The consultants’ plan will be full of the buzz-word type of nonsensical local government speak, meaningless to most people and what in the end will it achieve?
“This type of approach is typical of that encouraged since the arrival of nuLabour into government and it results in huge sums being spent and little achieved,” said former county councillor Steve Dancey.
“Everything is talked about in ever decreasing circles, chewed over by umpteen committees involving people who, very often, haven’t been elected or are publicly accountable and then handed on to the South West Regional Development Agency (SWERDA) to spend years sitting in the in-tray of this useless out of touch quango.
“All that SWERDA is good for is producing press releases and wasting taxpayers’ money – I know because I’ve watched them at it for the past decade in Wiltshire and elsewhere.
“What is needed is a return to democracy where those who stand for election offer a coherent and holistic programme for the whole of the town and will move heaven and earth to get it going.
Below are some examples of press releases issued by SWERDA - and what really happened.
Warminster Receives Economic Boost 07 April 2006
New life is being breathed into Warminster's town centre thanks to major investment from the South West of England Regional Development Agency.
The South West RDA has paid £5.6 million for 36.53 acres (14.78 hectares) of land currently used as a vehicle repair depot by the Ministry of Defence (MOD).
The site will provide valuable new employment land that will give Warminster an opportunity to diversify its economy and become less dependent on the local MOD presence.
Working with partners, the South West RDA will now masterplan the future redevelopment of the site.
Steve Richards, head of operations for Wiltshire & Swindon at the South West RDA, says: "The property has excellent credentials as a sustainable employment site and we are confident that within the next seven years we can bring forward redevelopment to offer a much broader range of accommodation to meet modern business needs. There is certainly the potential to create new business accommodation to support over 1,000 jobs."
The acquisition of the site, which is occupied by ABRO, will not have a direct impact on ABRO staff levels. The South West RDA will lease part of the site back to ABRO to meet the organisation's business requirements for the next two years.
Steve Richards continues: "This is a good example of a Regional Development Agency helping other public bodies to make the best use of their property assets. Working closely with ABRO and other partners, we hope to minimise the longer-term impacts of the reduction in defence related jobs in a town heavily dependent upon a military presence."
The South West RDA will work very closely with local partners, including both West Wiltshire District Council and Wiltshire County Council.
Ian Gallin, director at West Wiltshire District Council, says: "We are confident that this partnership approach will deliver real benefits for Warminster and ultimately West Wiltshire as a whole. This is a regeneration project that will bring new life to a major brownfield site."
Alistair Cunningham, head of economic development for Wiltshire County Council, added: "The site characteristics and location make it ideal for a wide mix of uses which will broaden the economic base of the town and offer the potential to generate a greater number of employment opportunities. This initiative will be of major significance to the future economic development of Warminster.'
The South West RDA will also work with The West Wiltshire Economic Partnership, which has been set up to enhance the economic, social and physical infrastructure of the West Wiltshire economy. Len Turner, partnership manager, says: "There are a number of issues challenging the local economy and this development will play a key role in providing opportunities which will not only increase job opportunities but also expand the skills base of the region."
SOUTH WEST RDA £3 MILLION SITE BOOST FOR TIDWORTH AREA 27 April 2001
The South West of England Regional Development Agency has acquired a 13.4 hectare (33 acre) site from the Ministry of Defence adjoining the A3026 Tidworth Road to the west of Ludgershall for the development of a major new business park. It is expected the South West RDA will ultimately have invested up to £3 million in bringing the site forward to development and it is hoped significant new employment opportunities will result for people in Tidworth/Ludgershall over the next 5/10 years.
Ian Knight, Area Manager for the South West RDA in Wiltshire said, 'This is the culmination of extensive partnership working with Kennet District Council, the Ministry of Defence and Wiltshire County Council to consider the issues facing Tidworth as a town which is almost totally reliant on the defence sector. These proposals will help to create many new jobs and will link to other proposals which we hope will help to improve services and facilities in Tidworth and Ludgershall. It will also have a positive impact on the smaller communities of Perham Down, Collingbourne Ducis, Shipton Bellinger and Bulford Camp. The RDA will now concentrate on progressing towards submitting planning applications to open up the site with roads and services in order to be able to market development plots to private companies.'
The South West RDA is working closely with Kennet District Council and Jerry Willmott, leader of Kennet District Council, is confident that new jobs can be attracted to the site very quickly. He commented, 'Obviously there are a number of detailed planning issues which will need to be resolved, but we have already received a number of serious enquiries from major companies which we are keen to pursue. The South West RDA are very anxious to provide something of real quality here and with a number of partners working together we believe we can deliver a real boost for Tidworth and Ludgershall.'
Colonel GHR Tilney, MBE, Garrison Commander at Tidworth emphasised the strong partnership working between the Army, the Local Authorities and the Regional Development Agency:
'The partnership forged during the last few years between the Army and Local Authorities in particular has led directly to the completion of many valuable projects within Tidworth. Some examples of these are the provision of improved street lighting, car parking and pavement layout in Station Road, the availability of comprehensive career and employment counselling to all parts of the community, much improved amenities and most significantly, the opening of the superb leisure centre jointly provided and run by the Army and Kennet District Council.
A new study has been commissioned to examine ideas and opportunities for further partnership developments to be taken forward over the next few years. I am delighted that the South West RDA is now a permanent member of my Tidworth Steering Group and that it has successfully acquired this site. It will certainly offer exciting and very welcome future employment opportunities for service dependants in the area, particularly in the context of the increased number of troops coming to the area under the Project Allenby proposals.'
It is expected that 750 to 1050 new non-military jobs will be created for Luggershall/Tidworth over the ten year time frame of the project with an emphasis on job opportunities for partners of army personnel.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED : Eight years on the site has created no jobs at all although there are a few small, unoccupied units which need some remedial work on a tiny fragment of the site. Note the touching faith expressed by the councillor that jobs can be ‘brought on quickly’.
These two examples are from Wiltshire but there are plenty of others - take a look at the Morlands site in Glastonbury.