Oxford is, as we know, twinned with the cold and remote French town of Grenoble, where everything is shut on Mondays, the worthy German city of Bonn, and the town of Leon in Nicaragua. So from time to time our City councillors get trips to these destinations, all-expenses-paid. But curiously enough last year there were no visits or events and they still managed to spend £47,452.
This is the same city council that is so strapped for cash that they say they cannot afford to keep the swimming pool open in Temple Cowley. They make us pay for garden waste disposal on top of what we already pay for household rubbish collection and recycling.
I wrote to Oxford City Council asking what they had spent this money on. They wrote back to me explaining that there is a part-time council employee who works 18 hours per week and handles all matters connected with town twinning. But why does it take someone even 18 hours per week to organize no events and no visits? Where has that money gone? Most people would regard £47,452 as a very generous salary for full-time work, let alone 18 hours per week doing nothing. (The employee also gets National Insurance payments, so they will get a nice pension for organising nil events too). What exactly did they do - perhaps contribute a few thousand to hacking down all the trees in Bonn or Leon to match their wanton destruction here in Oxford?
The City Council also managed to spend £30,496 on "social inclusion" and £429,262 on a scheme called "Positive Futures". The latter defines itself as a "Youth Ambition Programme for Oxford City". The City Council tells me that this includes £138k for a Holiday Activities Programme and £244k for a Youth Ambition Programme in supposedly "deprived areas of the city". This Youth Ambition programme consists of nothing more than running youth-clubs and sporting activities. In other words, leisure activities and sweeteners for the council estates where they want to ensure Labour votes. That's on top of the millions spent on a swanky new swimming pool in Blackbird Leys.
Somebody I know who worked as a volunteer in one of these youth clubs enquired why they did not inform the police of illegal drug use although they knew it was going on, and why they gave underage girls advice on getting abortions without informing their parents. He was told that his "attitudes" i.e. ethics, were inappropriate and was dropped as a volunteer.
>>>In response to my Freedom of Information request, the City council now informs me that this twinning post is vacant. So they managed to spend £47,000 without employing anyone to do anything,
Do you think that is good value?
Dear Ms Gasper
Further to the acknowledgement below, I can now respond to your email of 24th April 2015.
With regard to the town twinning officer, the post is currently vacant, although a recruitment process is currently underway. The officer’s role is to co-ordinate events and visits that are linked to Oxford’s twin towns. The budget is not just for the officer’s salary and employment on costs, but also includes supplies and services costs related to the co-ordination work.
Information in respect of the social research and consultation functions can be found on the Council’s web site via the following respective links:
Corporate Secretariat Manager
Corporate Secretariat Manager
Chief Executive’s Office
St Aldate’s Chambers