FOI refers to 7th paragrapgh for Local Land Charges Awards for Excellence.
Louise McKinlay: Points of View Brentwood Gazette, January 29th 2014
“Lowering Council Tax – raising ambition (where’s the link between lowering council tax and raising ambition? Whose ambition? How, by which mechanism, does lowering council tax do this?)
Following a December which saw my family celebrate our son’s first Christmas, (convenient “persona” tweety birds / little babies cosy cynical PR stuff) January has already been a busy month.
We are in the final stages of the budget preparations and I am proud (never miss an opportunity to be “proud” it’s good positive sounding PR) that Brentwood is one of the few local authorities in the entire country that is pledging to reduce council tax. (Pledge – a good positive PR word. It means a promise or commitment. Will this actually happen? Promises can be broken, and often are by politicians. What about the sacked Brentwood council staff, the Brentwood council tenants hit by Bedroom TAX and benefit cap, the shrunken Brentwood local services ... ? The focus is entirely on council tax here, nothing else. Why are so few local councils doing this? Now that is THE question. Possibly because it means cruel cuts for certain groups of local people? ) This is despite the last few years being challenging times (challenging times – same old tired Tory PR buzzword, and for whom are these “challenging times”? The people who will most benefit from a council tax reduction? Plus, WHO caused those “challenging times”?) for the council as we aspire (“aspire” – another great PR word! Wow a buzzword a minute!) to meet the rightful expectations of residents (have you asked Brentwood people what these expectations are? Isn’t this a convenient assumption that you have their permission? Rightful? What do you mean? Rightful is yet another good PR buzzword. You have “proven” (another of the buzzwords used in this piece, that you do not care about council tenants, and in fact appear to use, stigmatise, scapegoat, and distain them) to deliver good, quality services and value for money (this is debateable isn’t it? Services have arguably been cut to the bone and staff sacked, and re value for money – erm ... William Hunter Way development contracts ... I hate to remind you of your shortcomings!) while faced with reductions in government grants of nearly 40 per cent (this is your very own Tory masters doing! Ask your good chum and confidant Eric Pickles why the need for this – political ideology and manoeuvrings, no thought to consequences, no thought to effect on real, often vulnerable groups of people).
I know it is possible to do more with less if you have enough ambition, make sound decisions based on what is important to residents while being prudent and streamlining services. (Wow you have packed a lot in here, made some assumptions & tenuous links – all in one meaningless sentence! Blimey, well done! What do you actually mean and where is the evidence? Ambition – good PR word, meaningless here. How does this help you do more with less? Conjuring tricks now! Witchcraft and wizardry? Sound decisions ... having a laugh now are we? That’s not fact or evidence is it? That’s subjective statement to imply competence and trustworthiness. What is important to residents ... which ones and how can you possibly know if consultations are “sat on” for a year, or fake or sops. While being prudent ... exactly who in Brentwood Council has been prudent and where is the evidence? Streamlining services – sacking staff, reducing services ... )
We have proven (good PR buzzword, where IS the evidence?) that we can still invest in the borough and cut Council Tax at the same time (what investments, and who will these benefit, how and where is this proven, and who says how sound they are? What has been the affect on some Brentwood people of the cuts? Prove it please!) A budget setting Council meeting is taking place on March 5th when I will be presenting the Council Tax proposals along with the rest of the details. (Will the opposition get a chance to see these details before this meeting? Or does this mean we all get a horrible shock and feeling of “fait accomplish” - as usual? Good PR use of “I” to show control and determination! People might be impressed at the idea of a special meeting – sounds businesslike, considered, and “in order”. I wonder how this will be orchestrated / conducted ... based on past manipulated meetings? Can’t wait to view the web cam!)
As well as budget planning, Community Funding Bids were awarded to nine local organisations and groups to help local people (to rescue them from the effect of widespread and draconian central and local government cuts? Local people shouldn’t need your condescending “help”. They should have proper services by right, available to those that need them, not randomly selected, condescending, look-good PR handouts. What criteria were used to decide who gets what? What happens to those hit by central government cut backs that didn’t get any funding? The word “Community” sounds splendid though! Cynical sops and distractions? )
The Council has been shortlisted twice (over what period of years? How many in the shortlist?) in the national Local Land Charges Awards for Excellence (but has never won, and what is this organisation? Who in Brentwood will have ever heard of this obscure body? On what criteria are awards made?) in both the best performing and most improved categories. (Who benefits, what’s improved? Whose land? Please supply details of this award, and Brentwood Councils application for this. This is an official FoI request.
Mnetioning “best performing” is positive PR merely by association. Well done!) And finally, the national consumer group Which? Named Brentwood as the best in Essex and second in the UK when it comes to food hygiene reinforcement. This should give all of us confidence in eating out locally. (Only if you can afford to eat out in Brentwood. Not many people can afford this now, under the Tory government. Plus unless you are my daughter who had an anaphylactic shock and required an emergency ambulance after eating out in a Brentwood restaurant, even after she’d asked if the food contained nuts, a couple of years ago. Does Brentwood Council operate these inspections? What were the criteria used by Which??)
Finally, can I take this opportunity (sadly and tiresomely for us, we have no choice, as you are going to say it anyway. No “please” in there either, which might have been more polite and respectful to Gazette readers. A captive audience, because you get your own regular PR column) to remind everyone who lives or visits Brentwood to have their say on what they would like to see at the market that takes place in the High Street every Saturday. (And then you will sit on the results of this consultation just as Brentwood Council sat on the Rollason Way Residents Survey, for a year? Or like the Tenancy Strategy Consultation that was conducted over Xmas in a less than honest way? We have no faith in Brentwood Council’s “consultations”. This is just a cynical PR exercise, as usual. The word “consultation” is thus utterly devalued, meaningless. Still those residents that don’t realise this will see it as Brentwood Council involving them, listening to them. Good ... good!) A consultation was launched last month to try to find out whether the market is currently meeting demand. (Apart from the fact that I’m a veggie anyway - I didn’t fancy the sausages that were sat out uncovered all day in the hot sun last summer. It would be nice to be able to drive to the market without encountering potholes, and walk over the Brentwood High Street paving without tripping up to get to it. It would be nice to be able to afford the goods on display, after government cuts to wages, redundancies, benefit cuts or “bedroom subsidy” withdrawal etc. I wonder who is left to use the market? Can sacked Brentwood Council staff now afford to use it? I’m sure the Leader and Chief Executive can, on their exorbitant out-of-al- proportion, eye-watering salaries. Help yourselves won’t you, to those exposed and warm, sweating, bacteria-nourishing sausages!) Friday is the last chance to get your ideas in, (do you have a target as to HOW MANY responses you get rather than one of time limit? How will you ensure people’s views get heard / listened to? How many responses do you deem enough to be representative?) and you can do that online (what about older people or poor people who can’t do that online?) on the Council’s website. (Then it will be ignored? HUGE DISAPPOINTED SIGH. More of the same. Nothing new. Nothing believable. Nothing inspiring. Just Tory PR waffle and spin.)
“The Council has been shortlisted twice (over what period of years? How many in the shortlist?) in the national Local Land Charges Awards for Excellence (but has never won, and what is this organisation? Who in Brentwood will have ever heard of this obscure body? On what criteria are awards made?) in both the best performing and most improved categories. (Who benefits, what's improved? Whose land? Please supply details of this award, and Brentwood Councils application for this”.
The awards are a awarded annually and are in their 7th year, the 2 categories that Brentwood have been nominated in, have 10 shortlisted in each category. The awards are organised by Land Data, the National Local and Information Service (NLIS) regulator. Details of the 2 categories that Brentwood have been nominated in and further information can be viewed in the attached document.