Trip to Northern Rail Depot at Newton Heath. The depot is one of the oldest in the country and together with their depot in Allerton (Liverpool) is responsible for keeping the fleet on the rails. Northern Rail inherited its fleet when it won the franchise in 2004. The trains were recognised as some of the worst on the network. The contract specification suggested that no growth in passenger numbers was anticipated.
In reality we’ve seen a huge growth in rail use nationally and particularly in the North. Whilst the fleet is still very much made up of hand-me-downs, there’s been an extremely impressive improvement in reliability of the rolling stock. This has largely been down to a huge team effort and modern management at Newton Heath. The figures are striking, because they’re still having to run the same Pacer trains they inherited but the amount of miles they’re getting out of those trains is considerably higher. It was well worth the visit.
Executive Meeting for Draft Budget
Suffice to say, the overwhelming mood is horror at the depth of the cuts. We’re now at the point where Councils are withdrawing from providing anything more than minimal services to our towns. We’re about to lose the last of our youth centres. How are we going to keep our parks and the last remaining libraries? Some of these may be kept going for a year, maybe two, but the cuts are relentless. The sheer brutality of these attacks betray a pathological loathing at the heart of this Conservative Government for our provincial cities.
It’s too easy to personalise the condemnation upon Eric Pickles, but Cameron and Clegg have given him free rein to protect the leafy shire counties whilst taking it out on the very cities we need to turn the economy round. It’s a hateful and perverse policy from an intensely shabby government.
Afternoon Meeting with Member Development Group. The schoolboy in me wishes they’d call the group Councillor Development because the name always raises a smirk.
Or may be we should call it the Marmite Group because some of us love the idea of changed roles for councillors, and others detest the very notion that there is anything new to learn.
In reality the community of councillors is no different from any other organisation. You’ll find the same resistances to change in any organisational group, be it a large corporate entity or the local bowling club. I guess I’m more receptive to change than most, perhaps too receptive, but it’s my nature.
Nevertheless, whatever one thinks of austerity, it’s clear that councils are simply not going to get the amounts of money they used to receive from Government any-time soon. The caricature of a councillor putting his thumbs into his braces and negotiating a youth club in return for political acquiescence is a long gone stereotype. What remains is a genuine desire to their best for the community in which they live and represent. The change to which all councillors have to adapt is about how we go about delivering those improvements we all want. This afternoon’s meeting was about finalising training sessions for the next stage in our programme of Asset Based Community Development related training delivery.
I’m really energised by the notion of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) and its ideas of empowering communities to do what they can do better than the state. I’ve heard the criticism that it’s just doing the Conservatives’ job for them but I see it very very differently. In fact I see elements of ABCD as a return to a very traditional model of socialism. The Labour Party grew out of a vast movement of voluntary collectivism, trade unions, co-operatives, reading circles; people empowered to deliver collectively a better tomorrow. The criticism of New Labour and indeed modern Labour is that we pulled up the drawbridge, became addicted to a fetish for gimmicks constructed in Westminster and pulled out of the hat on budget day, with little notion of what was really needed or relevant beyond the Westminster Village. We’re heading for a general election in which an estimated 7million citizens will not even register to vote. We have to make ourselves relevant again. We have to roll up our sleeves and get involved or get left behind.
What is ABCD?
Briefing on visits to Trafford’s Childrens Homes
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