I am a regular reader of the Herald newspaper and in particular I enjoy the 'Your say' page which has letters discussing all sorts of issues concerning Plymouth. Recently I have enjoyed David Luckham's letters written with a slight tongue in cheek attitude but really addressing some of Plymouth's most pressing problems.
On Wednesday I read Plymouth City Council leader Vivien Pengelly's rather feeble response to David's valid points, I say feeble response as it wasn't really a direct response to any of David's questions about lack of infrastructure, a poor tourism drive and a general failure of the council to spend money on the right priorities. It was merely more of the usual rubbish we are fed by P.C.C to cover up the dissatisfaction of the electorate.
I knew that Vivien would use the Life Centre in her argument, this £65 million pound white elephant has already cost the taxpayer a fortune, most people won't be able to afford to use it, it threatens local businesses and community groups by offering direct competition to their activities and it is a complete eyesore. I know that some, including Vivien, are harping on about the fact that the centre will be used by teams visiting the Olympics but the Olympics are hardly a regular event. While it might be nice for Plymouth Divers to have an Olympic pool they have already achieved gold medals without it and diving in Plymouth is carried out by a very small minority.
My biggest problem with Vivien's response is her attitude that we should be over-grateful for the things we have already paid for even if, like the Life Centre or the World Cup Bid, we didn't ask for. Imagine if plans had gone ahead for a bigger Argyle Stadium, we can't even fill the stadium we have and if things don improve we won't have a football team to play in it either.
Vivien points out that the council is putting more money into roads, well isn't that the council's job anyway? I am fed up with seeing expensive signs on our roads stating 'Congratulations, you've been upgraded'. As taxpayers we have already paid for these works and would prefer a sign with an apology from the council for taking so long to do the job in the first place. I can take one small mercy from the fact that Plymouth has stopped plastering its website and stationary (at great expense) with the word's 'Best achieving council'. Perhaps I should follow suit and give myself a medal each time I manage to turn up for work?
Vivien may see us Plymothians as whingers and cynics but I think we have every reason to be so, I can see why Vivien is so motivated and optimistic as she has a generous salary to give her piece of mind and she has apparently opted to keep her salary, and that of Barry Keel, generous despite advise from home secretary Eric Pickles to take a 20% pay cut. Vivien has repeatedly denied claims that any senior council members have received pay increases but looking at the latest pre-audit figures from the council it now appears that the gravy train is still alive and well.
Don't get me wrong I am very proud of Plymouth just not proud of our council.