READER'S LETTER: Forge Island project should never have got off the ground

THERE were two articles in the March 21 paper that deserve comment and a response. The first on the front page concerns the Forge Island development and the second, “How do the police do more but with less?” from the retiring PCC. I get the impression reading this diatribe that our PCC has a problem with the private sector, he thinks they are there as a milk cow, allowing him to raise taxes at every opportunity. It’s easy and he can.
FORGE ISLAND: Must work and quicklyFORGE ISLAND: Must work and quickly
FORGE ISLAND: Must work and quickly

Reading the front page the whole Forge Island development and its future depend on the success of the cinema and, if it fails, the whole lot fails. The developers have been clear that this development came close to being mothballed had RMBC not stepped in to provide the full amount of funding with public money. Money provided through council tax for public services not private developments and not without a solid business case and evidence of success.

Glib soundbites from the council leader such as "Actually, I think this is the first roll of the dice” simply won’t do. They merely serve to put his lack of real life experience on display. Reading the whole article we learn that not only did the current developers walk away from the investment, though they tell us there have been some interesting engineering challenges, the whole private funding sector walked away; so what does that ell us?

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In my view, that this is just another finger in the air project without a sound business case or sensitivity analysis to support it. If it is a success, it will be good luck not sound investment judgement and, if it fails we, the public, will be left with another bill to pay. This would never be allowed to get off the ground in the real world without a business case and pay back analysis based on real data and evidence of success. If the councillor had any real experience he would be aware of such things. He says he will need two years to know if it is a success, if it is not a success in 18 months, it should never have got off the ground. No matter for the councillor, he will simply walk away into another well paid public sector role.

The PCC article is no better. After ten years in the role he remains less significant than an ant on an elephant’s bottom. Who is he, what has he done for policing in this area? I have stood outside my local shops and asked residents if they are aware of the PCC, who is he, what does he do, what is his name? Only one in ten knew he existed, far fewer knew his name and even less were aware of what he is supposed to do. This after ten years in the role!

They were aware that the police precept had risen year on year in the council tax, but not aware who was increasing the tax, blaming the LA and the police directly for raising the tax and poor policing. Reading on, it’s clear the PCC thinks productivity improvements are purely for the private sector and not relevant to the public sector. He refers to cuts in policing but not to his own irrelevant role. He refers to AI, not that he is an expert that’s clear, and to the need for investments before savings are made. Well PCC how do you think these things work in the real world? The maxim is that you need to invest a bit to make a bit? Not use residents as your milk cow to bail you out. He remains world class at apologising for raising taxes but goes ahead anyway, but not apologising for the poor service he planned.

This role will now pass to the metro mayor, adding to the pointless bureaucracy that now pervades local government. Unnecessary or he would have more authority than just transport. Let’s be rid of both roles, at least we might save money for hard pressed tax payers.

Allen Cowles

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