Friday, April 15, 2011

A victory for Suffolk anti-cuts campaigners, or an exercise in self-preservation?

In what might appear, on the face of it, to be an astonishingly cynical piece of politics, Suffolk County Council has announced that, following feedback from Suffolk residents, the planned closure of six of the county’s Household Waste Recycling Centres in May 2011 will be delayed.

The centres will now remain open until 31 July 2011 – during which time the council will be working with the district and borough councils as its partners, and Suffolk communities to develop long-term solutions to the closures. It also happens to push the closures off until after next month's District council elections.

Following the announcement to close the sites, Suffolk County Council has received 8,000 letters and opinions from Suffolk residents, district and parish councils giving their views on the proposals. 2000 people have attended public meetings. I don't imagine that they were there to give thanks for the closures.

County Councillor Lisa Chambers, Portfolio Holder for Waste, said; “We have made this decision in direct response to the views of Suffolk residents. I have personally attended 14 community meetings and the feedback has been very clear. People are telling me they are very willing to look at paying for the service rather than lose their site and would like more time to come up with new ways of working. District, parish and town councils have also asked for more time to look at alternative funding opportunities.

“I believe it is important that we listen to feedback from communities and when possible act on that feedback. In this case that is what we have done.” Or, perhaps, Conservative candidates across the county are being given a hard time for the actions of their County colleagues.

Now, don't get me wrong, I approve of the decision to allow more time to see what might be done to save these facilities. However, if Conservative county councillors don't understand the meaning of proper consultation (or managed transition, for that matter), and require eight thousand people to explain why they are necessary, it hardly demonstrates that listening is at the forefront of their thinking. They are, therefore, likely to make the same mistake over and over again.

And it looks cynical, too. Council tax bills for 2011-12 have gone out, and budgets set accordingly. The idea that, under such circumstances, parishes or districts could find funds and make arrangements by 31 July seems, how can I put it, optimistic.

So, a few months bought, at a cost of £170,000 from the transition fund, which leaves less money for libraries. Cynical old world, isn't it?...

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