Regular readers of this blog (or people who paid attention to my by-election campaign) will know that I am seriously concerned about the state of the libraries in Wokingham Borough. For those new to this issue, the Council are planning to privatise the library services across the borough, putting the whole thing at risk.
The petition against privatisation was recently handed into the council, and has forced a debate on the issue on November 17th. I’d urge everyone who is bothered by the impending privatisation to write to their local councillor to express that concern, and if possible attend the meeting.
But something that has happened today has got me thinking. Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and [insert far too obvious joke here], has announced that he will be launching a £250million fund to “persuade” councils to collect rubbish weekly, rather than fortnightly. I don’t want to focus on how this is the abandonment of the government’s localism policy, or what else the £250 million could be spent on, or even how this is a shameless bout of Daily Mail headline chasing ahead of the Tory party conference. If you want that, you can amusingly go and read the comments on Conservative Home, where Pickles get’s taken apart over the policy.
Wokingham Borough Council had already retained weekly rubbish collections (admittedly with an entirely arbitrary 80 bags per year per household limit). I don’t really have much opinion on this, surprisingly, though if the limit was less arbitrary, I’d be much obliged. I’m sure the Green Party will fill your ears with objections, if you ask nicely.
But here’s what I’m thinking: Eric Pickles wants to bribe councils to hold weekly collections. Fine. So why doesn’t Wokingham change its mind and adopt fortnightly collections, and then take Pickles’ bribe in order to bump up the frequency to weekly, and plug the money saved into saving…I don’t know, the libraries?
I realise that it’s a hugely cynical use of central government funds, but honestly it’s a hugely cynical fund in the first place. If Pickles wants to scrap localism, then it’s the duty of local authorities to try to twist what they’re given into what’s best for their residents.
I’m sure plenty of people have reasons why this is a bad idea or won’t work, so feel free to post them, but you can see where I’m coming from. I plan to write to both of my councillors with this, so I guess we’ll see what Cllrs Halsaal and Pitts have to say about it.
Your move, Pickles.