Home > Coalition government, Housing, Public sector reform, UK Politics > Grant Shapps v Britain’s worst Council?

Grant Shapps v Britain’s worst Council?

Grant Shapps, Jon Collins

Grant Shapps and Jon Collins. Fighting talk

Grant Shapps, the Tory Party’s answer to the young Tony Blair in looks and mannerisms has got in to a war of words with the Leader of Nottingham City Council, who is refusing to publish spending over £500.

Councillor Jon Collins claimed that publishing expenditure over £500 was “playing to the tabloid gallery”. Probably because the local paper found that the Council had wasted money on

  • An undisclosed sum to hire a cherry-picker to remove conkers from a tree because officials saw them as a health and safety hazard.
  • £600,000 on publishing and distributing free magazine Nottingham Arrow to 113,000 households
  • £200,000 on a “Proud of Nottingham” campaign with signs, banners and posters
  • A trip to Cannes, on the Cote d’Azur, taken by six council officials including the chief executive Jane Todd in 2009, costing over £30,000

There is however more to this waste than those headline figures and what gets ignored in his story is the disgraceful way that Nottingham treats its poorest residents and its staff. If a Council had been run as badly as Nottingham in London, we would have never have stopped hearing about it. As it is safely out of the way few know that it can very easily be called the worst Local Authority in Britain.

Councillor Jon Collins is foolish to bring this failing City to the attention of the national media.

This is not a question of Labour v Tory, it is simply a Council that has been allowed to foster a culture of personal fiefdom that runs throughout the Council. From the Leader down to all too many of the lowliest Team Leam Leaders. More often than not no regard is given to the law.

Law – in Nottingham for somewhere else. It is not for nothing that Nottingham earned the name Shottingham, the crime capital of the UK. The Council is far from being the best example of being the upholder of legislation.

Nottingham is a Council that cross-checked every resident who claims a single person discount against credit reference agency records. That by itself is of questionable legality. They compounded this by then over claiming money from the Department of Work and Pensions.

Where a claimant is flagged by their “cross check”, the Council then bills the DWP, through Council Tax Benefit for the full Council Tax (without any discounts), – even if the very same Revenues & Benefit Service have for the purposes of much stricter benefit laws verified that the claimant is single.

Want to know how long it will take you to get a claim paid if you are on low-income and need Housing Benefit? Don’t ask Nottingham. To hide the real scale of the backlog they built up staff are instructed to record outstanding work on MS Outlook diaries. They are told not to leave the work outstanding on their document management system. As a result, the level of work outstanding is massively understated. Auditors have told TheBigotBasher that many claims for Housing Benefit take well over a year to pay, some took a number of years to pay. The target to pay a claim is 14 days.

Staff who were moved to the “new” library Customer services facilities have been provided with desks so small that they can barely fit their computer keyboard and mouse on them. For a Council that spent fortunes removing conkers from tress, health and safety for staff is a secondary issue. The photocopier has been given more floor space than the staff. If this was one of the fleeing employers of Nottingham, the Council would be coming down on them with a ton of bricks for the way the staff are treated.

The Council spent £millions on a new building. Already toilet facilities smell and are deteriorating. When a member of staff reported the problem they were told “Well what did you expect, we’re not at Loxley now, no luxuries”. As if decent toilet facilities, in a supposedly modern air-conditioned building are a luxury.

Ministers may be wondering what Nottingham has to hide with their refusal to publish expenditure details. The answer – a lot. Send the auditors in.

  1. Elliott
    January 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Hi and thanks for trying to describe the terminlogy for the newbies!

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