Readers’ letters - March 10

High cost of job cuts

ANY hope that Horsham district councillors safeguard taxpayers’ interests surely vanished on reading the February 17 County Times account of how half a million pounds was looted from our reserves to fund a handful of redundancy payments.

HDC officers effortlessly bounced our full council into approving this colossal sum for the redundancy of just three part-timers and an assistant. All done without providing any supporting paperwork, with no itemised explanation, and far in excess of other councils’ comparable awards.

Try this in a commercial board meeting and you’ll be told to go away and not come back until you’ve circulated a comprehensive justification. Yet HDC’s councillors dutifully handed over our cash.

Where was the close scrutiny and incisive analysis needed to ensure value for taxpayers’ money? What does this episode tell us about councillors’ ability to bear down on costs? If HDC’s officers can run rings around our elected representatives, then who safeguards the interests of hard-pressed council tax payers who must pick up the bill?

A sum equal to the entire annual HDC council tax precept for 3,000 Horsham band D households will be needed to fund our councillors’ largesse.

By private sector standards the sums involved are huge. A million private sector workers have lost their jobs in this recession, many on statutory redundancy awards of a week’s pay for every year worked. The Office of National Statistics says the median weekly pay for a full-time private sector worker is just £473.

These workers would never get the gigantic settlements so casually gifted by HDC, even if they had worked for centuries. It’s a certainty that many of these unfortunate people will be taxed to fund HDC’s generosity.

If these enormous HDC awards were contractual then the council should review its contracts. If these settlements were negotiated then councillors should learn to negotiate.

J. MANN

Warnham Road, Horsham

Big Society solution

I AM grateful to David Hide for raising Horsham’s Old Town Hall saga in terms of the Big Society (letters February 24).

Alan Harris’ Old Town Hall Advisory Group was certainly ahead of its time in 2006 with a practical incarnation of the initiative.

What a shame for Horsham that councillor Harris’ advice was resisted by his fellow cabinet members on Horsham District Council.

It seems that four years later, the council currently has no real choice but to relent on the Old Town Hall.

Not to do so, would be a severe embarrassment to Horsham’s MP and Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude. However in my view, there are two ways things can progress.

The first option is to implement the Blue Flash Music Trust plan for the Old Town Hall as approved and recommended by the advisory group.

This project preserves community use, but also creates a centre for tourism based on Horsham’s unique arts and heritage.

In the latter respect I would also like to acknowledge the input of Locum Destination Consulting Ltd which was commissioned by the council to write the Tourism Strategy for Horsham District report.

This detailed plan for the Old Town Hall would be professionally implemented and managed by the trust which has a track record of delivery on previous projects in partnership with HDC.

Perhaps the second option is for the council to choose another ‘higher risk’ community option for the building, one that does not deliver the same benefits to the local economy and is overseen by a relatively untested organisation.

Thus there will remain a risk of failure for the community option and an ongoing ‘I told you so’ opportunity for the cabinet. I think it would be a shame if the people of Horsham were to allow this move.

In my opinion, the Big Society is not about councils or cabinets picking and choosing who they want to be involved in the community; and irrationally excluding any potentially valuable contribution from those individuals and organisations which simply disagree with them on particular issues for good, well stated reasons.

Such a centralist and intolerant approach would appear to defeat the whole idea.

ROBERT MAYFIELD

Treasurer, Blue Flash Music Trust

PO Box 616

Horsham

RH12 1YW

Dramatic reduction?

FURTHER to the County Times article of March 3, I think the Acorn Plus scheme is excellent, and despite the teething problems, it will prove to be a great success.

However, I have a query: it doesn’t necessarily follow that an increase in the recycling rate will lead to a decrease in the landfill amount.

It depends on the overall volume of waste. In addition, almost all the recycled ‘green’ waste would not have been sent to landfill in the past.

Perhaps Ian Jopling, head of operational services at Horsham District Council, could advise us of the amount sent to landfill in each of the past few years so that we can revel in the ‘dramatic reduction’ that has taken place.

BILL WHITE

Nuthurst Road, Maplehurst