The record of the local authority and its deniable 'voluntary sector' patsy, Ascham Homes at looking after the housing stock for which they are responsible is not a fine one.
Ascham Homes, with a £7.1million budget to get a mere 233 homes up to a basic standard of decency has completed only 149, but managed to shell out £6.5million in the process. Most people who think about these things have concerns not just about the self evident incompetence of the organisation (being unable to do their jobs and relying on consultants was their official defence recently in a court case), but the stench of corruption that surrounds it. More than half of the borough’s social housing is still officially classed as “non-decent”.
The council, known to have corruption problems, generally tries through its massive propaganda department to give the impression that although some of them are bent, at least they are competent and well-meaning. To be fair, I know of several parts of the council which do in fact provide a good service, and some which are staffed by genuinely impressive people working to their utmost to make life better for people in our borough: people such as the receptionists at the one stop shop at the top of the High Street, who I watched a few weeks ago, patiently giving help and advice to all comers on a Saturday morning.
Such efforts are sadly let down unfortunately by others who have handled the development of the still empty and blighted arcade site over the road, or neglected other public assets, like the council owned fast food restaurant in the High Street between French Kiss and Fish Brothers, condemned to further months, possibly years, of disuse now the council leader is trying to get selected as Parliamentary candidate for Northampton on the back of an anti-cheap food platform.
Such stupidity and waste might be explained away with some policy-wonkery about the council wanting to combat child poverty and improve childrens' diets. We are told that 31,000 children are living either in workless families or families on working tax credit, though the exact figures are questionable as the council actually has no clue at all how many people live in the borough. A discussion of the sincerity of these efforts at combating child poverty shall await another time, leading as it does to the applicability of the Theft Act, because the theme of this post is actually that despite the crusading stances, well-intentioned or otherwise, an image of clownishness has come more and more to the fore where the council is concerned.
The latest example is how the council dealt with a property left vacant by its owner with items including cardboard boxes, chairs and other furniture filling the garden. The eyesore eventually became recognised as the public nuisance it is and enforcement action ensued. A notice was pinned to the door of the house informing the owner they were required to remove the waste from the front garden and if they failed to do so, they faced possible prosecution and a maximum fine of £2,500. The small problem is that the owner is the council itself, and the anti-social rubbish was put there, deliberately by its own staff at a time when the public is facing increasingly gung-ho enforcement actions for littering.
'The council threatens to fine itself' no doubt had the local headline writers at the Waltham Forest Guardian high fiving themselves, and it does make for a bit of a chuckle down the pub, but I have to work hard for the money that pays these jokers' salaries and I am fed up with them making a great place into a place where people feel ashamed to live.