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Disintegration of frontline services at WC - Osborn hits back

September 12, 2014 11:17 AM

Trowbridge councillor Jeff Osborn has written the following letter to the media:

"A few weeks back, becoming concerned at delays in getting action from Wiltshire Council departments on behalf of my residents, I wrote a general letter to the local press. In this I cited that often when I raised a matter needing attention, the reply would be that unfortunately there was a "capacity issue". Basically this meant that there was not sufficient staff to attend to all demands from councillors and public. This can be explained by the rolling series of redundancies, with more to come.

The letter was published in at least three local papers. It produced responses from past and present staff, saying how they welcomed and agreed with my analysis. Understandably only a few gave me their names - there is something of a climate of fear at County Hall.

This week, in the Melksham paper and the Chippenham/Devizes one, there were two responses from senior Conservative councillors at County Hall. As was to be expected they were critical of my comments; saying that I was just a "maverick" and always moaning.

However what was really enlightening was the fact that these two letters - one from Councillor Stuart Wheeler, the other from Councillor Jonathan Seed - were largely identical; word for word, paragraph for paragraph. There were repeated mentions of "maverick" and "moaning", plus how successful the Conservative administration was in everything it did. There was one slight difference. Jonathan Seed's letter combined the attack upon me with a similar one on Councillor Terry Chivers - another maverick moaner.

I think that I detect the hand of Wiltshire Council's public relations department in this. My original "capacity issue" seems to have touched a raw nerve at County Hall. As for being labelled mavericks, this is something that Councillor Chivers and I proudly welcome. Maverick means independent and not afraid to speak out. "Moaning" we see as actively representing our residents and not falling for public relations spin. We would far rather be mavericks, than political hacks or clones; repeating word for word, paragraph for paragraph, a prepared corporate party line.

Regards

Jeff Osborn

Independent Wiltshire Councillor.

.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................

And here's Jeff's original letter which provoked the County Hall backlash:

"A particularly dangerous malady appears to have taken hold at County Hall. Whenever, as local councillor, I contact a Wiltshire Council department on behalf of my residents, say with regard to Highways or Planning. I now seem to get the same response.

It goes on these lines: "I am sorry councillor, we would like to be able to assist you, but unfortunately in the department we are currently experiencing a capacity issue." To explain to readers; "capacity issue" is management speak for a lack of staff. Or to put it another way, the department concerned lack sufficient staff to adequately fulfil its functions.

This, of course, relates back to the waves of redundancies that have swept over County Hall. Redundancies dictated by 30% cuts in central government funding for local government.

So what happens is that when staff go, those who remain have to do more; their old job plus at least one other. At first nothing much seems to change. The work goes on as before, but gradually things get left, or ignored; a backlog builds up. Then when councillors, and members of the public ring in and ask why something has not been done - for example, parking or planning enforcement - we are now regularly told there is a capacity issue.

Don't be fooled. Behind all the management speak; the reality is that the normal routine, day to day, functioning of a vital county wide organisation with considerable responsibilities - many of them statutory - is gradually but inevitably slowing down in all manner of little, yet significant ways.

Don't say you weren't warned."