While the scale of the crisis at Wolverhampton Council has been a shock the fact that the local authority was in deep financial distress has been known for many months.
From the start, the local authority has blamed the Government for slashing its budget, but if it is to sustain this argument then it is time for evidence.
Simple mud-slinging is no good for the people of Wolverhampton or the local authority employees now facing the loss of their jobs. Wolverhampton Council needs to open its books and show how it has come to be the hardest hit authority in the country.
If it can do this, then David Cameron and the Coalition government will have some serious questions to answer. On the other hand, if this crisis has been allowed to develop because of entrenched and out-of-date ideas and attitudes at a high level within the council, among those in authority, then they too must face hard questions. Without a doubt, the loss of the Summer Row shopping development was a major blow for the council and the city’s hopes of regeneration. But many argue that a lack of dynamism and a dearth of fresh ideas have played a significant role in Wolverhampton’s failure to move forward.
These have been difficult times, but we have to ask whether some of those figures presiding over the current debacle have done all they could to have lessened the impact of the financial state we are now in? There is a growing belief that the council has been hog-tied by out-moded ideas from decades past, that if a local authority overspent then central government would, however unwillingly, bail them out. Sharper minds would have realised that our current Coalition government is both unwilling and financially unable to rescue local authorities from what it sees as their own financial mismanagement. Despite fingers pointing at Westminster, there is a growing feeling that this crisis was made in Wolverhampton, and the sooner those involved realise that, suspend their political in-fighting and get on with the job in hand, the better. In the meantime, like the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, our hearts at this time must go out to the hard working council employees now facing the loss of their jobs.
Concerns over police prejudice
Nobody likes to think of someone listening in to their private conversations, hearing unguarded comments with the potential to cause maximum embarrassment.
But in the alleged case of two West Midlands police officers, their overheard exchange carries the potential for deep and abiding concern about the attitudes that may exist among some members of the force.
A suspected domestic violence victim is understood to have heard the comments when they were accidentally recorded on her answering machine. Riddled with expletives, the conversation exhibits a distinctly unsympathetic attitude to a potential victim – indeed the sort of comments that one might have expected in the 1970s but certainly not in the current day and age.
West Midlands Police is now investigating while the officers said to be involved are now on restricted duties in ‘a non-public facing role’.
The real concern is that, for too many people, this incident will just confirm their prejudices about the police. It is also a reminder that, even in private, it is sometimes wise to keep some thoughts and opinions to ourselves.