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Penny Wise & Pound Foolish Bluh Says: “I Will Not Apologise”

“I’m considerably holier-than-you’ seems to be the central theme for this lecture from Roderick Bluh -  leader of Swindon Borough Council, as he uses the his offical organ of communication, The Swindon Pravdatiser, to whitter about the various crises surrounding him:

“No one should underestimate the size of this problem. No one should go around thinking any public service can carry on with business as usual”

…Says the man who has systematically and almost single-handedly finagled his way around the rules to absolutely ‘carry on as usual’ in the pursuit of his own expensive-to-the-taxpayer  pet projects.  An unwholesome and politically embarrassing miasma surrounds Bluh, much amplified by his incompetent micro-managing of his Tabernacle-Debacle, his  Canal-Dreams,  ‘Radio Rod’s Big-Spend Weekend’ and now his  latest wheeze at our expense, The WiFiasco.

“Everyone needs to recognise that the bulk of the council’s work is in delivering care services to the most needy, whether they are elderly and young and not in providing the buildings, roads and other visible activities that would have been common in the 19th century.”

It’s a shame  that Bluh doesn’t practice what he preaches.  Nice enough words to have printed in the Pravdatiser but quietly blaming the elderly and the disabled for the problems their budget is undergoing is becoming more commonplace.  Funnily enough a West Swindon Tory Councillor was brave, (or stupid),  enough to mention this on his election leaflet earlier this year:  Shaw and Nine Elms Councillor Keith Williams said:

“A standstill budget was the target but rocketing costs for disabled children and adults has forced a modest rise of 1.9%”

No. An electorally ‘popular’ budget was the target.  Everything that could be done, was done, to keep the 2010 council tax increase down because Bluh was intent on doing the ‘right-thing’ for the conservative group and two Parliamentary candidates rather than doing what was best for the residents of the town.  Cllr Mark Edwards and Roderick Bluh rammed a reckless budget through council because it suited them politically.  Bluh mentioned his 2010 political/budget  intentions in his 2009 Christmas Speech, (privately delivered), to other Tory Councillors:

“By the time the Budget is put to bed we will have delivered the best Budget to-date with the lowest council tax to-date with the least frontline impact to-date.  I have always said that I wanted this to be so pre-Elections, particularly the General. We have both the local and general elections only a number of weeks away now and it is essential that we all work a one team to ensure the best possible outcome.  Our focus should be electoral success to deliver 2 Conservative MPs for Swindon, a Conservative Government and maintain a strong Conservative council.”

I’m not sure exactly how Bluh defines ‘best’ or ‘least front-line impact’  but as Swindon Wifi has just 13 paying customers after 6 months, and Bluh re-defined the performance criteria for Digital City to allow them to be recorded as successfully ‘Achieved’ ( in order to loan his mate Rikki another £350,000 of taxpayers money),  I suspect Bluh is pathologically incapable of recognising or admitting to failure….unless of course, he can pin the blame on someone else.  Perhaps everything is eternally ‘rosy’ on Planet Bluh but what Bluh did make abundantly clear last December was that his focus was ‘electoral success’ -  Not so much Tora!, Tora!,Tora! as Tory!, Tory!,Tory! eh?

The disabled community must really annoy Bluh & Co,  especially as they are constantly in his way, always upsetting his budget and hampering his political ambitions and it is no coincidence that they,  probably more than any other group in Swindon, will feel the cold dead hand of Bluh’s austerity measures first and hardest. It is no accident that Bluh launches pre-emptive political strikes at anyone daring to challenge his opinion, actions and his politic ‘will’.

“However, there are many vested interests or political opportunists who will oppose all change, who will seek to make capital of any issue regardless of whether they can offer an improvement or not. No doubt they had ancestors who opposed the invention of the wheel, too. The current misleading campaign over the Dial a Ride service is good example. First, let me be unequivocal: the council will commission a dial a ride service for residents”


It’s difficult, nigh on impossible in fact, to get an entirely objective opinion on what’s likely to happen to the charity currently providing the dial a ride service.  The terms ‘Commercially confidential’ and ‘Not In The Public Interest’ are being churned out by Bluhs administration on an almost daily basis, freedom of information requests are regularly ignored and denied and, perhaps not surprisingly, those best able to answer questions are too afraid to do so.   Why is that Roderick?  Anyone wishing to shed some light on this is invited to email the Swindon Lamplighters ‘Leakline’ at:  leaks@talkswindon.org   Your anonymity is guaranteed.

“Anyone who tries to frighten people for party political or other advantage by claiming the service will stop should be ashamed of themselves. There is no risk whatsoever that it will cease or be reduced.”

I wish I could believe Bluh, but based on his past record he often makes it up as he goes along or has no idea whatsoever whether his promises can be kept.  Like Tony Blair, he probably convinces himself that he means it at the time he says it and then doesn’t beat himself up when his actions don’t live up to his promises. Political expedience is a wonderful thing….if you’re a politician, and a dreadfully dissappointing thing if you’re not.

“I will not apologise for obeying the law. The independent legal opinion we received suggests that the current subsidy we give to a charity to provide a dial a ride service is illegal under European Law”

I’ve been told,  (off the record), that this particular legal opinion was sought, much in the same way that Tony Blair ‘sought’ a particular opinion when he wanted to invade Iraq.  That a particular opinion has been commissioned, paid for and accepted does not mean that it is the only opinion that exists, only that it is the preferred opinion of Bluhs micro-cabinet because it allows them to move along a political pathway of their own construction.  A nifty bit of policy-laundering if ever there was one and I bet Bluh will not publish the legal advice he commissioned on Dial-A-Ride, and will claim ‘commercial confidentiality’ or  that it’s ‘Not In The Public Interest’.  Knowing and understanding where and how our money is spent is always in our interest though….

“I will not apologise for Swindon being the first to act. This borough was the first to say no to speed cameras and it will be the first to have a full wi-fi mesh. What is wrong with being first?”

Nothing wrong with going first, provided you do everything to the best of your ability, are honest, transparent and are willing to be explain your reasons and have your efforts critiqued.  Bluh’s micro-cabinet are ‘none of the above’.

“We have to ‘ wake up and smell the coffee” as the Americans say. By doing things differently, whether through private companies or the voluntary sector, I am confident that we can offer residents more choices and better services.”

The Americans also say that they can taste the difference between “Shit and Shinola”.  So can we Rod….

“In these dire economic times changes is vital. The council has a duty to seek best value….”

Yes, change is vital because, to date,  I estimate Roderick Bluh has wasted nearly £2,000,000 of public money on his pet projects, or ‘Rodjects’ as I’ve come to think of them.  Bluh must change his habits if he is to finally start behaving like the public servant he is supposed to be,  rather than the pouting Prima Donna he has been so far.

This blog post has also been published on the Talkswindon Forum – Discussion and comments are both invited there :)

The Roderick Bluh Lectures - 'Best Value' 2010

Posted on
Monday, June 7th, 2010
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