Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tonbridge Gateway....

Now I'm not one to just have a moan for the sake of it but.... You always know there's a big BUT on the way when someone opens a sentence like that. But I have just had a nose in the new Castle offices and tourist information and can tell you that they must have spent a pretty penny on the whole thing. Actually I'd like to know just how much. It seems particularly galling that the council, and by this I think I mean both our borough council, TMBC, and our county council, KCC, are spending this amount of council tax payers money on seemingly lavish new designs and desks, which no doubt they call "customer interface positions" just at a time when most people are cutting back severely or having the real threat of job losses hanging over them. This is what it says on the Kent County Council's web site about this new concept they are calling "Gateway" which they plan to roll out across the whole of Kent by the look of it:
"Gateway draws selected retail concepts into its vision for improving access to public services.
Today's innovative retail spaces deliver both an holistic customer experience and community ethos, not simply measured by 'consumer choice' or 'sales'. We aim to make Gateway a model that delivers public services, alongside any other transactions customers may wish to make...."
Retail concepts! And here's me thinking that the council were suppoosed to serve us the tax payer, it now seems that they want to improve their "retail" environment in order, presumably to extract even more of our hard earned cash out of us. I don't think I'd feel any better or worse about going to pay my council tax bill or parking fine in a spanking new office with a state of the art lift or the old oak pannelled one, I'm going in to pay a bill for goodness sake! One of the retail concepts that they site as justification for their revamped brand image is the banks spending of £100 million on branch refurbishments to which has been proven to lead to higher performance. This must have been written before the recent collapse of the banking system otherwise no one could have been paid to write this utter drivel. Another example they quote as having inspired the change is the Discovery Channel Store in Washington DC as having "breathed new life into museums." It beggars belief that they think that people want this kind of experience for our museums, let alone our council offices. Why stop there why not use the Disney Channel stores as further proof that the concept will work. What next? shall we replace statues of Winston Churchill with Mickey Mouse?! It's worth reading what they actually say on this:
"Discovery Channel Store in Washington DC creates a powerful social and educational experience. This 'social retail' revolution has breathed new life into museums making them accessible to wider communities around the world."
They have erected new signs everywhere around the castle and built a new extention to the thousand year old structure which, admittedly, looks nice but you have to say rather out of place with it's modernist architecture. The tourist information, apart from the new desks I've already mentioned seems smaller and devoid of, well, tourist information apart from a few leaflets on the wall like they already had before this multi million pound face lift. I think I've told you what TonbridgeBlog feels about all this and I'm sure that in an easier economic climate they could have got away with it unscathed, but surely I'm not the only one who feels that this revamp is totally over the top, totally badly timed, totally ill advised and a total waste of our money....


The Tomahawk Kid said...

I think you are right to have a moan. It does not sound like an efficient use of our money. Not only did the project probably cost a few quid, but they probably also paid some marketing/pr idiot to come up with the banal blurb you quote! The sad thing is that the person who wrote this (and presumably the Council) probably think it's clever.

Rather annoyingly I can't even have a say by voting against the current Council, because although I have a business in Tonbridge, and pay several thousand in business rates, I live just outside the area. As someone who pays business rates you would have thought it reasonable that you had a vote at election time!

Do you think these people think of themselves as public servants, spending our money? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

You can find the costs or rather the estimates from a TMBC cabinet report 1 april 2009. At least £618,000.

With 12 district in Kent that must total quite a few millions. In Tunbridge Wells it must have cost plenty more.

To quote
"1.1.1 The Capital costs remain broadly as previously reported to Members of the Customer Services Improvement Advisory Board on 20 November 2008. In summary the total Capital cost of the scheme was reported as £600,000. The latest projection is £608,000 but this includes some items that are still only estimates. KCC are contributing £250,000 with the remainder being funded from the Council’s Capital Plan provision with a contribution from the Building Repairs Expenditure Plan for appropriate elements. The cost plan is being reviewed on a regular basis by both the Gateway officer study group and Management Team."

Anonymous said...

It seems odd that the council offices originally at the castle were closed some years ago and farmed out to Kings Hill which is not really convenient for most people who need advice about Countil Tax, Housing Benefit etc, only to be replaced by a similar service in a swanky new building with a not very friendly atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

thats all u do tonbridge blogger is moan about stupid things!!!! u spend all your time moaning about tonbridge. i bet it is really quiet in that shop of yours if you spend all day moaning on this blog.

plese reply

Paul Bailey said...

I think that both councils (TMBC & KCC) have totally lost sight of their primary function, which is to serve the people they represent. Instead they are caught up in their own marketing rhetoric. Were local residents consulted before their har earned council taxes were spent in this way? I very much doubt it.

You are quite right Tonbridge Blogger to point out this gross mis-use of public funds. Unfortunately local government is not particularly accountable in this country, and these jokers end up getting away with it. You wait, come next Spring, the council will be pleading poverty agaim, and we will see another, in excess of the rate of inflation in our council taxes!

Anonymous said...

P.B. raises a good point here. My two favorite complete waste of money projects from KCC are £2,000,000 spent on Kent TV in just over two years and £300,000 p.a. spent on Kent Health watch. How many tonbridge people know about these KCC pet project let alone benefit from them. Both are duplicating services that are available for free like VisitKent web site and PALS hospital services. What do the local KCC councilors think or do they toe the party line?