Northampton In Bloom – You Couldn’t Make It Up – Part 1
Earlier in the summer I wrote in a blog that the standard of services across Northampton being provided under the environment contract run by the Borough Council and Enterprise had unquestionably fallen in the past 12 months and that it shouldn’t and couldn’t be blamed on the weather.
Now forgive me for pointing out that England is not that big and if places all around Northampton from St Albans and Chesham to the South, Market Harborough and Leicester to the North, Coventry and Leamington Spa in the West and Bedford to the East have managed throughout the spring and summer of 2012 to keep their grass verges and open spaces maintained to a very high standard then why hasn’t Northampton?
Unless of course Northampton has a microclimate all of its own!!!!
In 2010 and 2011 Northampton had achieved a Gold Medal in the East Midlands in Bloom Awards, the Gold Award being given for accumulating points against a set criteria of standards across areas such as ‘horticultural expertise’, ‘the maintenance of the local environment’ and the ‘involvement of all sectors of the community’.
This year Northampton has been awarded a Silver Award an indication that somewhere within the judging categories something has failed.
There is absolutely no question that the Northampton Town Centre Business Improvement District has once again delivered a fantastic Town Centre display and that Communities such as the St Crispins Extra Care Village in Duston who have been awarded silver in the ‘Best Small Village’ category have quite rightly had their hard work recognised.
We will have to wait and see what it was that has let Northampton down in achieving a Gold Award when the report from the judges presented to the Borough Council is released.
It is ironic that the Silver Award for Northampton is in the “City” category when the Northampton Borough Council Conservative administration has banned any reference to the word ‘City’ from all Borough Council documentation, and heaven help any Conservative Councillor who mentions the “C” word.
The whole issue of the environmental services has descended from being disorganised and chaotic into a complete farce with the Cabinet Member and Leader of the Council responsible for the services seemingly unable to remember what they have said and what their position is on the whole issue.
On the 23rd April in response to a question from me ” whether he was happy with the Enterprise contract and with the savings achieved so far that”, Cllr Caswell (Conservative Duston) supported by the Leader of the Council said
“He was happy with the arrangements so far” and alongside that they pointed to the Borough Councils Performance Outturn for last year which clearly states, despite targets not being achieved that
‘Overall, cleanliness standards remain good’
Within a month of making the statement we then had a reversal and that following pressure from Labour and the public a full review of the environment contract was going to be carried out and that Enterprise had been effectively fined £250,000 for failing to meet their targets.
In the past month we have heard from Cllr Caswell that “they (Enterprise) don’t like us getting on to them but if they are failing they will be got on to”.
Which makes the statement from Cllr Caswell made at last Mondays Council meeting in what was a techy response to being asked if he considers that the Enterprise Contract had been a success, that
“Things that should have been put in place haven’t been put in place so we’re doing it now”,
then to be followed when asked how he thinks the review is going and the contract is performing to say
“We believe we are doing well with the contract”
strange to say the least.
The problem of course is that we have seen through the failure of the front line waste collection and environment services, especially in the last nine months, that there has been seen a Borough wide increase in the reduction of standards with increased litter and an uncared for looking town and neighbourhoods and especially the highway verges that come under the auspices of the Northamptonshire County Council.
Which brings me back to the recent and proud announcement from the Northampton Borough Council Conservatives that ‘Northampton fended off the challenge from a host of other entrants to be named top of the class’ against it appears a class of ONE, in other words against no-one else?
I can’t help wondering if the Leader of the Council Cllr David Mackintosh knew that there hadn’t been any other entry’s when he proudly announced the ‘success’ at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday (12th September) and it reminds me of when the Liberal Democrats turned up in 2010 with an award for being the ‘Most Improved Council’ that turned out to have been awarded to them by the Liberal Democrats.
(Oh how we laughed and ridiculed their announcement)
No-one would disagree with the statement from the Borough Council Cabinet member for the environment, that “It is great to see all of the hard work that people have put in this year has been rewarded” and of course the people and businesses who have contributed and their work should be recognised.
But for Cllr Caswell to the go on to say that “once again Northampton stands head and shoulders above the competition – and we can all be very pleased with ourselves”, when there wasn’t any competition is ludicrous.
Sadly all the self-congratulation and mutual admiration attitude will do is just bring increased criticism and ridicule down on the Borough Council Conservative administration that their only interest is PR spin.
What shouldn’t be allowed to happen is, and let’s face it in a strange way quite amusing following on from the great summer of sport when achievement was so hard-fought for and earned that the, “we’re great, we’ve came first in a one horse race but only got the points to get a silver medal” spin shouldn’t overshadow and devalue the excellent work from individuals and communities who have deservedly been recognised for their commitment to Northampton.
If the complacent and clearly out of touch Borough Conservatives are really serious about supporting and rewarding those individuals and communities they will along with their Conservative County Council colleagues sort out the Enterprise contract and really get to grip with the highways and grass verges across the whole of Northampton.
This is where I’ll stick my neck out and predict that the report and failure to achieve Gold this year will be down to a failure to do just that.