Not so much a ‘vision’, more a nightmare

This is a guest post by a Swindon Council employee who has been given a ‘vision’…

A couple of weeks ago I went to an event for all SBC employees.  It was called On Track To A Vision For Swindon.  It was designed to present the ‘vision’ of the leader of the council, as represented in 4 ‘priorities’ and exemplified in 30 ‘pledges’.  Staff were being asked to think about what their contribution to the vision would be.

The event took place at STEAM.  Each pledge was set up in the form of a custom-made stand and they all lined both sides of a walkway, the floor of which was designed to look like a piece of railway track.  The staff involved in creating and staffing the event wore orange t-shirts with logos specific to the event and there were several tables with orange gazebos above them.  I can only imagine this was in order to create a feeling of coherence about the whole vision thing.  I describe it in detail because of my amazement at what must have been spent on it at a time when we are being told to reduce the cost of virtually everything.

Having walked between the pledges to read them, we sat to listen to a talk from the council leader and then another from the director of resources, ie finance.  Try as I might – and I listened very carefully – I could not understand what was new or different.  Or maybe I should say what would happen to my job and me as a result of what I was hearing.  There seemed to be very little substance in what was being said.   Sceptically (I’ve worked for the council for a very long time) I suspected that we were being told to work even harder for even less, or to put it another way, we were being told to expect more cuts in our various departments, but it was all too woolly to know for sure.  Questions were invited but I don’t remember anybody asking one.  My guess is that others were feeling much the same as me.

The group I was in was later in the day and the same speeches had been given several times to earlier groups.  After the talks we were given cardboard pouches called ‘My Journey’ and invited to collect cards from the tables set out to explain the part to be played  by various strands of the council.  More expense.

One point on the Finance and Change card says; “Stream-lined services to become more efficient.”  Since my department has been pretty much streamlined until the pips squeak, I’m not sure how much more we can offer, without ceasing to offer a comprehensive service at all.

The penny dropped when I came to understand that in four years from now there would be no central government grant to support SBC (with a reduction in the current grant each year between now and then) which means the borough will have to be completely self-supporting.   And in the meantime will have to manage.  Perhaps now the cabinet will take their courage in both hands and raise council tax.  Services have to be paid for or cut.  For so many years now it has been the latter.

At the very end we were given a cardboard ‘brick’ to write on and place into a cardboard ‘wall’ so that we could express what we saw as our contribution to the vision.  More expense.  I’m looking forward to hearing/seeing the end results of this.  We were promised it would be shared.

I suppose I wouldn’t have minded a pep talk – it’s good to feel acknowledged occasionally – but I feel so resentful about the amount of money that must have been spent on the materials and staff-time for this day that my primary thought about the whole event is to wonder what else those resources could have been used for.

This article refers to the vision – see if you can make more out of it:


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