Mad as Hell

Becoming Howard Beale

I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad.

So, I want you to get up now.

I want all of you to get up out of your chairs.

I want you to get up right now and go to the window.

Open it, and stick your head out, and yell:


Howard Beale Network

Three things that made me mad at scrutiny last night

One – The Vision 2031 thing

What is this thing called Vision 2031? When did it become a thing? Why is it cited in every council report? Who is the author of 2031? Where is the 2031 documentation?

The council has never actually adopted Vision 2031, it’s a Trafford Partnership statement. The partnership is Trafford’s equivalent of the House of Lords, its Privy Council or its imperial court. It’s very white, and very Altrincham/Hale.

Whatever the partnership’s role, there’s no Vision 2031 document, just a page in its last annual report, yet it seems to have become a ubiquitous royal seal.

Last night’s first mention was in the ‘Leisure Strategy Update’:

An update on progress so far with the Leisure Strategy as a fundamental pillar of the Vision for 2031 and how it enables greater levels of physical activity. It covers progress on:

  • Physical Activity Strategy
  • Playing Pitch Strategy
  • Leisure Centre Investment
  • Trafford Leisure’s Physical Activity Referral Scheme

Normally this would not have been a controversial item but given the council’s capacity to mislead and inflame tensions over a whole series of recent sports related issues, it was never going to be an easy ride.

  • Flixton Green Belt – William Wroe Municipal Golf
  • George Carnall Sports Centre
  • Stretford Sports Centre UA92
  • Turn Moss

If you really wanted to undermine Trafford’s ability to support the wellbeing of its citizens, you’d look for the common thread in all these controversies and try to bottle it for reuse.

Two – Trafford can’t do the consultation thing

The Council’s leadership has unerring ability to turn its consultations into a dog’s breakfast

It takes a special sort of talent to attend a consultation event and suggest that people ought to be grateful. It takes a special array of talents to refuse a locality meeting to consider business and community opportunities for Old Trafford/Gorse Hill arising out of the UA92 campus on Talbot Road; and then publicise the chief executive’s presence in Cannes promoting a New Old Trafford.

The odd communication failure might be overlooked, but regardless of whether the thing being consulted upon is universally applauded or indescribably contemptible, Trafford always seems to manage to screw up the consultation in one way or another.

The fact that Vision 2031 talks about co-design and co-production is a joke when you look at the original Stretford Masterplan’s delivery of Edge Lane/Chester Road improvements for walking/cycling. We’ve just received plans for improvements to Davyhulme Road East/Chester Road less than a week before work is to commence. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s highways, social services or education, there really has to be an adherence and a commitment to effective consultation.

Three – Problems with the One Trafford Partnership are bringing the Council into disrepute

Twelve months ago, Scrutiny recommended that the quarterly key performance indicators be reported to the executive along with exceptions. We also recommended that problems the reporting system be rectified as a matter of urgency. Twelve months on and we’ve seen no progress.

  • Twelve months ago you could report an overflowing litter bin, but the system would set something like a 21 day clearance target rather the 2 hr target specified in the contract. Today you can’t even report an overflowing litter bin via the Trafford online portal.
  • In terms of waste collections, there’s no target for emptying your bin on the correct day but there is a target for emptying bins by noon on the next working day. This means that Gorse Hill’s Friday collection often gets missed, the bins left out and by Monday contaminated. There seems to have been no understanding of how the KPIs work in practice despite waste collection having been outsourced for a number of years
  • Similarly, the council has constructed a contract that gives no incentive to Traffic Management Engineers to do very much apart from respond to planning applications. At a time when pretty much every agency is encouraging walking and cycling, there’s nothing in the KPIs to incentivise this. The fact that Moss Road Spar was able to install a parking bay utilising a pedestrian crossing with impunity (photo below) and for it still to be there a year later, just brings on my Howard Beale.

The council will have to implement the changes that were agreed with scrutiny at some point. This cannot go on for ever. Most people I speak to seem to think this will show the One Trafford Partnership as underperforming. I suspect that they’re wrong about underperformance, but right to believe the streets and parks have deteriorated beyond an acceptable level. It’s hard to fail a contract designed out of ideological dogma rather than in meeting the needs of the customer (us).

At that point I think we will all be opening our windows, looking down on our litter strewn streets and yelling at the top of our voices “WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”






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