It's taken me a while to calm down about the article shown aside. I was so incandescent with rage that I have been unable to put fingers to keyboard and articulate how I feel about this. Until now.
Councillor Mike Bird is the leader of our council. It's his third crack at this job having twice previously in the last ten years been ousted from the role by his own party; the Tories. If ever David Cameron wanted an example of how differently his cultivated image of the national party is to the reality of a local image and how corrupt and bereft of ideas a local party can be, then he could find no better exmple than the Tories of Walsall. Councillor Bird hits the headlines regularly due to his chronic foot in mouth disease. Back in July it struck when he tried to defend the system of councillor allowances in Walsall that give him an amount of £29,000 per annum. Apparently he's worth every penny because if he was in charge of a 750 million pound budget in the private sector he would be pulling in salary in excess of £100K a year, which rather conveniently ignores the fact that as in common with other local councils, Walsall has a Chief Executive on a salary of £180K per annum!
Councillor Bird also defended these grossly inflated allowances for what is supposed to be a public service and an honour by saying that he works so many hours for Walsall Council that his hourly equivalent is £1.64. This is where it's best to keep the local population ignorant and uneducated otherwise they might calculate that £29K, £1.64 per hour mean he works 345 hours a week. Perhaps Walsall Council did a Napoleon and changed the way we calculate and look at time here because much as I try I still can only find 168 hours in a week!
Walsall has managed to pull itself up to the lofty heights of 130th in the pupils gaining five GCSE league tables, that means there are only 20 local authorities with worse results and might be why local schools are enforcing choices at Year 8 for a three year GCSE course, see my blog here. However Walsall has been busy casting aside and losing any cultural identity it did have for many years. You only have to look at how the birthplace of its most famous son, author Jerome K Jerome has been treated as a good example. Still close the libraries and even less locals will have heard of him and therefore it really will not matter!
Another reason for keeping the locals ignorant is you wouldn't possibly want them to know about another literary figure; Big Brother. Back in May this year, it was revealed that Tory Walsall Council were the third most likely to spy on you council in the country and our hero and gracious leader said 'I'm proud that we do this.When I'd heard that we'd come third, I was disappointed. I wish we'd come first. Now we've got something to aim at next year'! He was also proud of the fact that Walsall Council do not tell innocent residents that they have been subject to covert surveillance, sometimes for weeks and months. And this man represents these people!
I have digressed long enough. Walsall Council has some pretty diverse wards. Some are leafy, middle class and a pleasure to live in. Others are some of the most deprived areas of England. In the west of the borough life expectancy is some eight years less than in the east. Whichever way you look at it, in terms of education, health and employment, Walsall figures in the bottom 25% of the country. This does not seem to concern Councillor Bird however who thinks 'People can download books, we don't have to have bricks and mortar to give people access to reading materials any more'. This conveniently ignores that many people he represents do not have access to i-pads and kindles or broadband internet even in the relatively well off ward that I live in. My local library is two minutes walk from house. I use it regularly as do my children. We don't use it for the internet facilities, although they are useful when there for trying to track down books and articles. We use it to borrow books and maps and study materials that we cannot afford to buy. My one observation of our local library is that it doesn't matter what time of the day you visit, it is always busy and the computer terminals always packed; older people during the day and students in the afternoons and early evenings.
Hitler and his Nazi's burnt books. Looks like Councillor Bird and his colleagues are about to join their illustrious company. Unless of course Cameron does take a look at this disgrace of a local party and how it has mismanaged Walsall Council over the last decade or so (making national headlines in several occasions) and that those who are within at a local level take a good, long look at themselves as well and perhaps come up with some other money saving exercises that would mean that this most loved and needed of public services is retained. Personally I would start with allowances for local councillors and the Chief Executives salary. I also sincerely hope that the local electorate do the decent thing next May. However because of the way the wards of the council are made up, it is unlikely that anyone but the Tories could ever gain control of the council.