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Our Council’s secret priorities

Oh dear… the Council that represents us and works for us is refusing to tell us what they’re doing. It’s a kind of nanny-dictator state. 

Canterbury City Council has produced a league table of its 71 service areas in order of importance, but is refusing to reveal how it has ranked them. The Gazette has learned that the Marlowe Theatre is fifth in the league table while bin collections – a service delivered to every home in the district is 29th.

Senior officers and councillors spent hours in meetings scoring the service areas according to the council’s priorities and rated each one against its 10-pledge corporate plan.

Colin Carmichael, the chief executive of the Conservative-controlled council, says he is determined to keep the league table a secret until the next budget is published later in the year.

“This is the first time that we have actually taken a step back and asked questions about everything that we do. But I can’t let people see it because we are only half through.”

The league table was compiled as the council assesses the way it will run its services in future. lt is steeling itself for a 50% drop in income by 2017.

Members of the ruling executive injected their political priorities into the rankings which could be used to cut some council services completely as the drive to save money intensifies in the coming years.

Asked why the Marlowe scored so much higher than bin collections, Mr Carmichael said the theatre “ticked several boxes” on the corporate plan pledges.  He said:

“Refuse collection, for example, scores mid-range at 29th on the priority list as it scores highly against only two of the 10 pledges, but it is a top political priority and it is a statutory service. The Marlowe can be seen to fulfil more pledges. It is important economically for us as we didn’t want that end of the city to lose out with the building of the Whitefriars shopping area.”

Lib Dem group leader Alex Perkins is furious at the decision to keep the league table secret.

“Presumably, they’ll only show people when they’ve made all their decisions.  Here we are yet again with the council taking decisions with public money on the basis of its own political agenda and refusing the public the right to know how it is ranking services. If that’s not a sign of how the council is going to hell in a handcart, then I don’t know what is.

HB Gazette 10th October 2013

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