Friday, August 20, 2010

The hidden "Forward Plan" finally revealed

Forward Plan V3.pdf - Google Docs

I've recently received a copy of Version 3 of the Town Council Forward Plan. I had to ask for it as it hasn't been publicised in "Priorities" - the non Town Council publication or anywhere else. This Forward Plan - there is no published Version 2 - makes interesting reading for what it has missed out rather than what it actually says. Lets go through the less interesting information first.

Page 1. - The introduction by Cllr Thorpe, Town Mayor. In this piece we are informed the Forward Plan has "Council's plans and aspirations...". He goes onto inform us of "Much has been accomplished in the past three years". The Town Mayor goes onto say: "Your views are valued..."

Pages 5, 6 and 7 - The title of this section changes all the way through It starts off with: Objective enablers for 2010/11. Then goes onto Objective enablers for 2009/10. Seeing this was passed in March 2010 the "Forward Plan" can hardly be about 2009/10.

Page 6. - We are informed the ECC will become self supporting. I don't understand what this means. I can only take this to mean that the ECC will not now cost the Town Council anything.

Page 7. - Expansion of the Town Boundaries and working with, now defunct Parish Councils, is utterly meaningless.

Future Projects - Pages 9 to 10. Where is the swimming pool project? This is likely to be on Town Council land.

Consultation - Page 18 - We are informed by The Town Council that:
The Town Council goes onto say: ".. and to encourage residents to participate in the consultation process, the Council is:"

Placing the Forward Plan on the Town Council's website - No they didn't!
Making copies available to residents at Council Offices - I didn't see any!
Attending the Annual Town Meeting - The Forward Plan wasn't even mentioned at the Annual Town Meeting!

This is a "Catch 22" situation. You can comment on the Forward Plan. But the Forward Plan isn't available to the public. So how can residents comment on a Forward Plan?

What is missing?

There are three main sections that have been missed out of this "Forward Plan". The first section missed is a look at the previous Plan and what was and wasn't achieved. Some of what wasn't achieved is listed below:

New Cemetery to be developed and acquired by Autumn 2009.
Eatons Community Centre completed and open in Spring 2009.
Acquire land for new allotments by Spring 2009.
Relaunch the Youth Town Council.
Grant Aid increasing by inflation.
Town Plan cover 10 years.
One Stop Shop.
Town Lottery.
Town Wardens.
Support our Staff by achieving Investors in People by Summer 2009.

Some of the above was eventually achieved in a different form such as the Cemetery extension. The ECC was delayed. Others such as NOT supporting the staff by achieving Investors in People (indeed not knowing about this objective at the last Annual Town Meeting) or the Town Plan need explanations as to why these were not achieved.

The second missing section is the forward financial projections. The fundamental problem with the first Forward Plan was many of the promises were not included in the forward financial projections. This meant that decisions were being taken on the budget which looked good on paper but, in reality, were unable to be financed without large increases in Council Tax. The Liberal Democrats baulked at this prospect and slashed projects.

The third missing section is looking to the future. For a Forward Plan there is little in it about the forward direction the Town Council is taking and substantial plans rather the wishful aspirations. 

This Forward Plan just shows the Liberal Democrats have lost their way over the Town Council. Unable or unwilling to publicise this Forward Plan just tells me Liberal Democrats are jsut plain embarrassed by this document. Instead the Town Council is reduced to doing petty things, such as The Mayor's Robes, this Town Council is leaderless and rudderless. And that is down to the party that is currently in charge!

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