Nigel Thornton:Return of the consultants?

Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton -
Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton -
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So now we know, Peterborough City Council is going to hit us with a four per cent hike in council tax while lumbering the children of the city with a pile of future debt.

And that’s just the headlines, I’m sure the real devil is in the detail. And I think I noticed a particularly nasty looking demon lurking at the bottom of last week’s PT budget report.

It concerns the unfathomable Front Door Project.

I say unfathomable but having looked at it, it doesn’t appear to consist of much more than stopping sending residents on form-filling, wild goose chases when they contact the council. But what is truly unfathomable is why does it cost £2million of investment to set up?

The Front Door Project is part of the Customer Experience Programme (are you still with me, jargon fans? No I thought not!) and the council reckons it will deliver huge savings. If it does, the council will deserve our praise.But lurking in the small print of a spokesman’s comment was a phrase that sent chills down my austerity battered spine.

He said: “This project requires an initial investment in order to generate these long term savings and improve services. Therefore, over the next two years we will be bringing in external expertise (my italics) to work alongside council officers to help to deliver these changes.’’

The city council got itself in a bit of a pickle a few years back with what some thought was extravagant spending on consultants which was in danger of getting out of control. That spending was reined in, but I hope this isn’t a sign the consultants are making a comeback.

Perhaps the “external expertise’’ will come in the shape of the army of volunteers the council is hoping to recruit to do its jobs.

Perhaps not.

Cash-strapped council should set an example

It will take a while for us all to tyre of the row about replacing the Mayor’s Jaguar with a new leased version at an eye-watering £6,500 a year. I’m not sure I want to see our First Citizen bombing about in a Smart car but you could buy a fair few meals on wheels for six grand. But I think everyone’s missing the point – what cash-strapped Peterborough City Council should be doing is flogging off the number plate EG1. At a conservative estimate it could bring in up to £300,000. One example (did you see what I did there?) of how that cash could be used is it’s the equivalent of the council emptying my brown bin for the next 7,692 years.

Sausage fact

I’ve not sure if I’m an inner or an outer when it comes to Europe. I think the theory’s fine, but the practice is sanglante terrible or blutigen schrecklich if you prefer.I am sure I don’t always agree with Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson but not for the first time I’m impressed at his readiness to speak plainly and publically and stand up for what he believes in.

His reaction to Prime Minister David Cameron’s draft agreement on the EU was classic Jackson.

“Baloney’’ was his verdict in his PT column last week.

Interestingly it is Europe we have to thank for the word ‘baloney’ as it derives from the Italian sausage bologna.

These sausages must now be exactly 28 cms long with a circumference of 6.3cms as per EU directive 99/1645(c) ii/EC... but they are allowed to cross borders freely.

Doesn’t add up

There’s nothing more likely to get my eyes rolling than a set of crime figures. In the latest ones we’ve seen a massive rise in violent crime in Peterborough.

The city’s top cop Supt Melanie Dales warns us to expect even more increases in the future. She said: “We are getting better at crime recording but there’s still some way to go. Violent crime we are still under-recording so we are likely to see an increase in the figures while we do that.”

I’m saying nothing, but my eyes are rolling.

Football crazy

I’m not a big fan of women’s football not least because of the BBC’s attempt to ram it down our throats. I’ve no problem with women playing the beautiful game, just let’s be realistic about the standards. That said I was genuinely delighted that Peterborough Northern Star Ladies captain Jodie Bartle became the first woman to win Footballer Of The Year in the Peterborough Telegraph Sports Awards.

And (before you say it) I’m sure she’s a better player than I was even in the distant days of what I laughingly like to refer to as my prime.

Diary Of A Bad Dad

Almost from the first moment Toddler T entered this world kicking and screaming I have been dreading the day she announces she has a boyfriend.

I can picture him already – floppy fringed with a permanent expression of innocent insolence and clothes that don’t quite fit properly.

In my mind I’ve already rehearsed how my relationship with this imagined interloper will go. It never ends well.

But I console myself with the fact that these dark days are a long way off.

Or maybe not. It seems Toddler T has struck up a warm rapport with a little lad from her nursery. Like her mum she’s gone for the older man, alth0ugh in her case it’s only a matter of months.

I’m not sure whether I find it cute or creepy that she’s even dressing to impress him.

“He loves it, when I wear bows,’’ she explained, proudly patting the bow on her dress.

She’s had a play date with him. “Do we have to call it a date,’’ I moaned to Mrs T who gave me one of her “get a grip’’ looks.

But the final straw was when I was driving Toddler T to nursery the other day and she said. “***** is my dream boy.’’

She’s been locked up in the tower ever since.