If any cynicism exists surrounding the unusual loaning of public money to the Wi-fi project the Conservative Administration should not be surprised. At Thursday April 31st Cabinet Meeting the Conservative Chairman Rod Bluh admitted the Wi-fi project was a Political decision. Also in spite of having months to invite the local Labour MPs to the Wi-fi launch the Conservatives pushed forward the Shadow Minister Caroline Spellman. The excuse given for this blatant political behaviour was that Ministers had been visiting Swindon? In other words block out the Party behind ‘broadband access for all’, Labour, and let’s have a publicity stunt for the Conservatives.
If anyone wonders why the Conservatives are in a mess over Wi-fi it’s because they sought Political advantage rather than Constitutional transparency. Embarrassingly whilst Anne Snelgrove has been trying to get transparency a member of the public pointed out the Conservative’s own Parliamentary Candidate for Swindon South is also critical of the Council’s Tories behaviour. The candidate described the ‘deal’ as ‘one done in private and it was not brought to the council’s cabinet for discussion or approval’.
Labour has pressed for this ‘deal’ to go to full council as it is a major decision. The Tories behaviour has also been challenged by some Conservative supporters and local businessmen. They want to know why a private ‘deal’ was done with Rikki Hunt. Why hasn’t the same deal been open to other broadband and system providers in the town?
The loan was authorised through a Town Centre regeneration approval note, this is a blatant misuse of authority. The money came from a budget intended for wider community use and not for a single person or project. When I pointed out this was not being used for regeneration work but for new works it was suggested that copper wire was being ripped up (not true) and replaced by wire free. The irony is that the copper wire systems are being ripped up and are being replaced by glass fibre systems.
The cynicism has been partly based on the errors of judgement. One was made at the Cabinet meeting when the Chair, Rod bluh, stated that Anne Snelgrove had not written to the Council on Wi-fi. Not only had Anne written it was the Chief Executive’s reply dated 28/1/2010 which was one of the sources’s that a Director was being appointed by the Council.
So after the continued dodging of a full council decision, the political connivance, the cover up of the ‘deal’ details, the unanswered questions from the public and council members is it any wonder that cynicism abounds.
As one apologetic Tory stated ‘a decision-making process that was open as possible at all stages of this proposal would have been the best way to deal with things’. Let’s have that open decision making process now, back the Labour Councillors request for a full council decision on Wi-fi.
Bob Wright, Councillor Central Ward