Swindon Borough Council top pay

Some research by the BBC has revealed the remuneration of the highest paid across the public sector, those paid over £100,000. The figures for Swindon Borough Council are interesting not so much for the figures themselves, but for the apparent coyness of the council, in several places giving neither name nor post of the person in receipt of this largess.

Name Job Description Total remuneration
No name supplied   £177,500
No name supplied   £142,500
No name supplied Group Director Environment & Regeneration £140,352
Gavin Jones Chief Executive £138,525
No name supplied Group Director Childrens’ Services £138,370
No name supplied   £137,500
No name supplied Group Director Business Transformation £130,112
No name supplied   £127,500
No name supplied Director of Housing and Leisure £114,066
No name supplied   £112,500
No name supplied   £112,500
No name supplied Director of Finance £100,678

One can only hope that their achievements are rather less anonymous than their identities.

Rodbourne Community History Group

Hiding behind ladies lingerie. Photo © komadoriIt’s amazing what you can find hiding in ladies lingerie. Today was spent in the company of Rodbourne Community History Group. As part of the GWR 175 celebrations they were running tours of the Swindon Designer Outlet and surrounding Even Swindon area. Unfortunately this had received very little publicity with only a handful of people on each tour and most of them seemingly already known to the guides. Despite the small numbers, the guides — and occasional heckling from passers-by and unrestrained dogs — the guides did an excellent job of describing the past of Even Swindon and the railway works and their recollections and reminiscences of them. And the connection with ladies lingerie? Well, the three giant steam cylinders that powered the GWR works hooters that commanded the workers to and from work are now hidden almost out of sight behind the lingerie department of Marks & Spencer in Swindon Designer Outlet.
A day with Rodbourne Community History Group. Photo © komadori

Obstructions

This week has not been a good one for the remaining street traders in Swindon town centre. Following Swindon Borough Council’s refusal to renew their trading licences for their current pitches, it is now taking five of them to court. They are accused, apparently, of obstruction. Seemingly seats by a mobile stall are an obstruction; seats outside a coffee shop are not, even when that shop is in a busier street.
Obstruction?Not an obstruction?
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the council’s planning officers have now waded in with a policy that contradicts what the traders might have once have been lead to believe by the head of licensing, Mr Starling. Back then, they were lead to believe that the council didn’t mind fast food stalls, just not in their present location.

The land in front of the old post office site in Fleming Way adjoins an area which has been cleared in anticipation of major redevelopment works. It enjoys a temporary ‘vacant’ status and does not suffer from conflicts of use. Short-term use of that space is desirable and street trading could fill that void…. Fast food trading may not be the ideal use for the site but the area has been plagued by drug dealers and street drinkers in the past and a strategically located fast food van could help to prevent their return. There are good reasons for rejecting hot food trading in the core of the town centre but this location offers a possible alternative location for use of that kind.

The planning officers take a different view.

Street Trading Pitches for the sale of hot food have a potential to have an impact on surrounding uses in terms of noise, smell, pollution. Unlike shop units it is difficult to provide adequate ventilation and filtration systems to mitigate these issues…. Associated litter and antisocial behaviour can also be a problem.
Therefore [hot food] pavement traders operating from mobile units and temporary stalls will not be supported within the Town Centre and Old Town area’s (sic) as defined within the adopted Swindon Central Area Action Plan (2009) (or as amended), unless part of an organised Market. They will also not be supported in Local or District Centres.

It’s increasingly looking as though the main aim of these policy changes is to put the stallholders permanently out of business.

The 7 versus the 600

I could almost have some sympathy for longstanding residents of Okus. Once upon a time, a large part of Okus was occupied by the Princess Margaret Hospital. As a major — and indeed first — large general hospital built by the NHS, bus services to it were plentiful. Then, in 2002, the hospital closed, replaced by a new PFI upstart at Commonhead. Bus services were reduced to once every half hour, subsidised by Swindon Borough Council.

Now, with the council’s coffers empty, the service has been reduced to hourly. In response, a couple have started a petition. It already has 600 signatures… in support of a service that Thamesdown Transport claim carried on average 7 passengers each journey.

How many of those 600 might be passengers on the partially withdrawn service 23? The bus ran every half hour for eleven hours a day, six days a week. That’s a total of 22 return journeys each day, 132 a week. Even if every passenger only made one return journey per week, taking the Thamesdown average of 7 only gives a total of 792 people. Unless Ms Matthews has been extremely thorough in extracting signatures from former passengers, the likelihood is that most of the signatures on her petition are from people that did not use the service — maybe do not even use any bus services at all.

Even if one were cynical and thought that the bus company was underestimating the number of passengers, the figures are still very low, and in reality an average of 7 corresponds to a few buses in the rush hour carrying many more passengers, and most of the rest carrying far fewer. On the few occasions I’ve observed a number 23 bus in Okus, it never had more than three passengers — less than a taxi-full.

If people were as willing to use bus services as they are to sign petitions complaining of their demise, public transport in this country would be in a far better state.

The efficient approach to building restoration

In these economically tightened times, how do you go about restoring a building in the most efficient way possible? Don’t know? Never mind, let Swindon Commercial Services be your guide.

First, get some banners specially made, that’ll only be of use for this one job.
Nice new banners. Photo © komadori
Next, give someone that most strenuous of tasks: being the ’elf ’n’ safety guard who stops pedestrians blundering into the path of passing buses, ’cos the pavement has been cordoned off.
Tiring work. Photo © komadori

Then hide those specially prepared signs with big wooden hoardings.
Where’d that sign go? Photo © komadori
Finally, as noted by Swindon Centric, paint the hoardings white. It’s nice to know that the newly pseudo-independent SCS is spending our money so carefully.

Update, Tuesday, 27 July 2010: As expected, the hoardings have now been fully painted in traditional white, ready for the graffiti taggers to do their worst.
Now in white. Photo © komadori

Ready for the Children

Ready for the children. Photo © komadori.
A little reminder that the Children’s Fete in Faringdon Road Park has just begun, with the grand opening and crowd photo at 1 pm. It runs until 10 pm.

What expenditure isn’t protected?

With the local blue councillors claiming first that expenditure on big arts events is not ‘not a priority’ and then that the programme of upgrades to play areas will be protected, I’m beginning to wonder whether there’s any scheme that — when challenged — they won’t claim is protected, despite their impending emergency budget.

But then, if that accounting genius, Mr Bluh, can claim that ‘the value is not related to money’ we really shouldn’t be surprised that Swindon Borough Council’s budget is in such a mess.

Repairing the Mechanics

Repairing the Mechanics. © komadoriToday I noticed preparatory work has commenced around the Mechanics Institution. Barriers have gone up and a bus stop temporarily moved out of the way along Bristol Street. It’s taken rather a long time to get here, but that Swindon Borough Council is finally taking action to repair the crumbling Mechanics Institution has to be a good thing. If they can then claw back the costs from the owner who has allowed it to fall into such disrepair, so much the better. If they can’t and they have to sell it on to a more conscientious owner, even better still.

Update: It seems it may take a little longer yet, as the site was locked. The matter will now go to court for a warrant to give the council access.