While other places put out a modest press release announcing a ‘call for sites’ as part of their Neighbourhood Plans, Ledbury has commissioned consultants to do this at a cost of five thousand pounds.
As one Neighbourhood Plan ‘insider’ commented off the record, it’s money for old rope.
The call for sites is understood to be one of the 'tickbox' stages needed to complete a Neighbourhood Plan. Not a legal requirement, it gives local landowners the chance to have any parcels of ground they own considered for building development. This is not a complicated exercise. It might involve a press statement, a press advertisement, even a personal letter to landowners.
It requires no specialist expertise nor should it cost five thousand pounds.
While members of the community go to Ledbury Town Council cap in hand, and get put through the mill for a few hundred quid to support genuinely worthwhile projects, Mrs Sally Tagg and Co bask in civic munificence, money no object. How much are we paying her in total? Fifty, sixty thousand pounds?
It was a different story last September (2015) when the now disbanded Neighbourhood Plan team of community volunteers (at least three of whom were marketing professionals) sought ‘permission’ to produce a newsletter to publicise the project.
Then, under the pretence of cost-cutting and good management, town councillors shaved a miserable few hundred pounds off the newsletter budget. Instead of its being printed as an A3 tabloid newsletter, they stupidly decided it should be half that size, effectively rendering it illegible and from a marketing point of view, hardly fit for purpose.
The volunteers dug in and refused to have their names associated with such an exercise in incompetence. The designs went in the bin. It felt like a calculated act of sabotage. All those expressions of wanting ‘good value for council tax payers’ were hollow words.
When Mrs Tagg shakes her head and mutters dubiously, that’s not part of the original contract, we’ll need extra money for this or that, the shady powers that be in Ledbury Town Council sit up like a pack of well trained Jack Russells and say how much?
I ask once again: why is the Foxley Tagg Partnership being paid so much money for our Neighbourhood Plan?