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The battle for Sandwell

When Ed Miliband launched Labour's local election campaign he singled out Sandwell Council for praise, for being a model of efficiency. A council we should lot to as an example of "reducing waste."

I wonder if he had missed this charge sheet from the West Midlands Taxpayers Alliance. It's main item is The Public gallery in West Bromwich, "a project Sandwell had already poured millions into over many years in spite of endless disasters and local opposition."

It adds:

Even now the £72m failure could well be mothballed (again!) and bosses are currently approaching the Arts Council with a begging bowl. It’s difficult to know the full extent of the council’s ‘investment’ in this white elephant  –  which has quite clearly been destined to fail from the outset –  but it’s fair to say it’d make a decent dent in the £67m they want save. As it stands the council are still setting aside £1.5m per year in running costs. It’s a just shame it’s taken so long for them to consider pulling the shutters down on this financial blackhole.

Then some more examples are offered:

- Their scheme to give free golf tuition to course vandals, much to the chagrin of respectable local golfers
- A gimmicky project that sent characters such as the ‘Rapping Robot’ and ‘Eco Girl’ into schools to teach them about recycling and the environment
- The unbelievable decision to send their then Chief Executive, Allison Fraser, on a Scientology-inspired ‘self-awareness course’ at a luxury resort in Florida
- The bizarre, misguided and badly executed ‘Sandwell Faith Trail’
- The now notorious ‘Gipsy & Traveller History Month’ for local schools
- A Simpson’s-style cartoon called ‘The Savewells’ intended to patronise/give advice to local residents on how to save money (the irony is not lost)
- No less than £14k spent on a two-day course led by a ‘motivational speaker’ specialising in ‘whole braining training’

The Council has used its website to make political attacks on the Government and spend lots of money on legal challenges.

Remember this is a Council the Labour leader feels deserving of praise specifically for its motivation in terms of "reducing waste."  The same council which spends a staggering £29.5 million a year on the interest bill for its £609 million of debt accumulated over years of Socialist extravagance.

That is not to say that these will be easy elections for the Conservatives. They have been hit by splits and defections and a breakaway group are fielding a couple of their own candidates. At present there are 57 Labour councillors, 11 Conservatives and four Lib Dems.

But if Miliband believes Sandwell represents the best Labour has to offer that is the most staggering indictment of municipal Socialism.


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