Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bishopstone Buses It While Heenan Gives No Change

It interesting that when Swindon Borough Councillors don't take the lead with bus matters, things seem to work out better.

A Bishopstone bus plan involving work by Gary Sumner of Wanborough Parish Council, with the SBC transport department, looks likely to come to fruition.

Any story involving SBC councillors and bus services sees a number of predictable steps, these include, but are not limited to the following :

- Warn that SBC cannot continue to subsidise a poor-patronised service.

- In a blatant, or backhand way (depending on your mood that day) lay the blame for the loss of the service on the door of the bus operator, despite it being a service that will never commercially pay it's way (that's why you subsidise it).

- Let the now bus-less residents and bus companies know that you're 'open to suggestions' for possible alternatives, with a smaller pot of money for subsidy than before and suggest any possible bidders be 'creative' with their ideas.

- In conclusion, when the money runs out, blame the bus company for not being commercial enough and the residents for not using the bus enough, but, of course, don't take any blame or responsibility yourself.

Well, you are only the elected representative.

In this case, congratulations to Gary Sumner, Wanborough Parish Council and the SBC transport department for working hard and coming up with a plan.

Well done also to SBC councillors for not interfering... too much (well, one did pose for a photo, so it wasn't quite an A-star).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Will Someone Please Think of The Children (and Councillors)?

Councillor Kevin Parry seems surprised at finding needles used by drug users in a park in his patch.

It might surprise him further then to know that needles, dog mess, and litter is found in parks, fields and open spaces all over the Borough every day of the week.

What's more worrying, but not surprising, is that with the complete dismantling of Swindon Borough Council, more and more of these unsavoury things will be found by more and more residents and less and less by SBC staff in the formerly called Streetsmart department (street cleaning).

But that's okay, most of our councillors like to put in their election leaflets about how they spend their weekends picking up litter in their wards (like Councillor Pajak).

There seems to be little else for SBC councillors to do. Democratically elected, allowance-paid litter-pickers, now that's vibrant and efficient folks!

Two Steps Forward Swindon, Three Steps Back to Council?

The advertising by Swindon Borough Council for a Business Engagement Retention Officer sounds oddly like the work that SBC-owned regeneration company Forward Swindon is meant to do.

Even more oddly, the job description makes reference to the SBC team working with the Forward Swindon team.

So is SBC deciding to 'double-up' roles and build it's own empire to rival Forward Swindon, or does SBC have an intention to close Forward Swindon by default, by bring it's roles back in-house?

Whatever the truth, the fact that the Forward Swindon website has not been updated since June last year, their Twitter has been moribund since November last they appear to not have a marketing person on their team and there's been no press releases issued since then, things don't seem to be moving forward for Forward Swindon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Lib Dem League of 'Local' Gentleman

A rash of election leaflets demand a little more than a cursory glance if Councillor Stan Pajak's is anything to go by.

Councillor Pajak's leaflet uses the word 'local' a total of 8 times and even goes to the trouble of pointing out where he lives in relation to Eastcott ward. He rails against the 'faceless' Labour candidate who lives in Abbey Meads and writes 'you deserve a 'local councillor who cares because they live here too!'

Two minutes-worth of checking finds that Councillor Pajak doesn't actually live in Eastcott ward, but in Walcot and Park North ward.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bruce Street Bungle spells trouble

With Bruce Street Bridges apparently 'finished' (Swindoncentric and many others are really not sure on that one), work will soon move on to the rest of the Great Western Way project work.

In all the project literature that the team responsible have produced, leaflets and regular emails, one thing has consistently been wrong.

Newcombe Drive is spelt with a 'b', in case anyone in the Swindon Borough Council highways team wished to know.

Hopefully all future communication will be correct, otherwise you can look forward to Ranser Bridge, North Tar and Cockberry.

What a Cockleberry up.

Top Ten Things Overheard On Swindon's Buses Last Week ; 314

Click here for the original at this brilliant idea, here's our own version for Swindon's buses from last week.

10. Do you want some bread, we'll need to get off here to get some bread, we'll get off here.

9. I've got a routine for Snapchat, but I don't reveal it to anyone.

8. If you ask me, there's no excuse for it, whoever heard of a tanning bed?

7. You're not going to even notice, I'm going to be out the door, before you even wake up.

6. No, I've already seen that film, it wasn't worth it, but we had a good time afterwards.

5. Sharon expected to be nervous, but the whole of the team meeting was really pleased she'd be taking over.

4. He can swing for all I care, I've had it living with him, I deserve better than this.

3. Don't forget to smile.

2. She brought him a cup of tea, but it caused more harm than good.

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1.  I have to talk to you, can you make some excuse tomorrow and slip away?

Overheard something we've missed? Then let us know.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Same again, please?

The plan to demolish the Tented Market and replace it with a development of restaurant units and cafes is nothing new, a similar plan was mooted in 2007 and rejected in 2008 and it appears history is repeating itself, almost to the letter.

The 2007 plan was to demolish the Tented Market and replace it with a building housing 4 restaurants or cafes and one coffee shop. The proposal was recommended for approval by the council officers for planning but this was ignored and the proposal was rejected by the councillors on the Planning Committee. The main reason for the rejection then was the objections raised by the developers for Regent Circus and for Granville Street (the Granville Street development plan subsequently collapsed and work at Regent Circus did not start for a further four years) that the area would be saturated with food and drink businesses (just like the objections lodged by the traders at the Tented Market today). A smaller reason for objection was that the design was not 'landmark enough' as a replacement for the Tented Market building.

Skip forward to 2016 and it seems nothing has changed, at all.

Objections have been raised by the traders for the town centre being saturated by food and drink businesses, both at Regent Circus and soon at the Brunel Centre. It seems our appetite for a bite to eat is never-ending, with all cafes and restaurants in town appearing to stick around for a lot longer than the shops. 

The last version of the 2007 plan (there were a few), that was presented to SBC and rejected was called a 'pavilion' of 4 restaurants and one shop unit. 

The current plan is for 5 restaurant units in a building that is on the identical footprint of the 2007 proposed 'pavilion' and the elevations look very similar, with a little more glass and not as boxy a roof.

In short, Swindon has been presented in 2016 with a plan for a building almost identical in appearance to one it rejected allowing to be built in 2008.

8 years later, will SBC follow their own precedent and reject the proposal a second time? 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Top Town Thamesdown Return after Bruce Street Bungle?

Say it quietly, quickly and with a spoonful of healthy doubt - the work on Swindon's Bruce Street Bridges appears to have been completed.

The less said about the 'give way the wrong way junction' junction and the vast amount of bleak tarmac that's a massively wide footpath (why didn't they just put in more bushes and greenery?), the multiple overruns and the countless time and money wasted with residents stuck in queues, the better.

Can we soon look forward to Thamesdown Transport's service 13 and 14 now returning to their original routing via Commercial Road and Regent Circus for daytime weekdays?

As Thamesdown's chief said last August, the services had been rerouted via Station Road to allow a quicker service recovery due to the long queues at Bruce Street Bridges whilst the work overran, and overran and and overran.

The project was also announced as 'substantially complete', twice. Here and here. Great job there Councillor Dale Heenan, the councillor in charge. Interestingly, Councillor Heenan was quite happy to get his face in the paper for the new Stratton Green Bridge opening, but Swindoncentric doubts he'll perform a grand ribbon-cutting at Bruce Street Bridges.

So when will passengers from Haydon Wick and Moredon on the 13 and 14 be able to enjoy direct service back to the usual routing?

Top Ten Things Overheard On Swindon's Buses Last Week ; 313

Click here for the original at this brilliant idea, here's our own version for Swindon's buses from last week.

10. I know restaurants in that neighbourhood, you'll find no Chinese there my fine friend.

9. Is it possible to make being lazy into an art form?

8. It's taken long enough, but they've finally sacked her.

7. In the right light, it looks like a scary Ken Livingstone.

6. How is it possible though for people to just get away with stuff like that?

5. But is this town ready for this amount of Beyonce sass, I say yes.

4. The buses are going to be all over the place come the shutdown.

3. If this weather would just get a little bit warmer, my legs would be thankful.

2. I try as best I can to avoid going through fences and walls.

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1.  I heard it had been decided to dispense with the roundabout all together and install a sign saying 'good luck'.

Overheard something we've missed? Then let us know.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Unambition Unworthy of Brunel

The objections by the owners of the Brunel Centre to the Oasis redevelopment plan (and also the plans for Cribs Causeway) smack of someone in a boat that's slowly sinking blaming everyone round them for the seaworthiness of the craft they're bobbing about in.

The Brunel don't like the Oasis plan because it will include retail space which they feel will unfairly compete with the Brunel. The Oasis plan says that retail would be related to the sports activities, so you can bet one of them, at least, will be a shop selling snowboards. Not exactly something the Brunel has cornered the market in, or ever will or would want to.

It also complains about the empty units in the town centre and the lack of demand for them. It claims this would be made worse by the Oasis plan, yet the Brunel has figured out how to deal with it's long-term empty units as it's about to turn a large number into a food court, which it seems confident of letting. Also getting in on the leisure game, the Brunel has applied to turn units that have never been let since the Brunel Arcade was refurbished in the 1990s, into a gym.

The Brunel deserve strong praise for the number of events and higher-profile branding they've committed to in the last few years, this has brought more people in and shows that when an organisations spends the time and money, they can get things right.

So why whinge and moan about the Oasis and Cribs Causeway? Take a bit of spirit from the statue you're about to turn around of the engineer and make yourself the destination. Complaining about other developments makes it seem like you've left your ambition in an empty shop unit.

Give us a Brunel that can compete and see the crowds flock in*

*That goes for you too Forward Swindon. Raise your game, and while you're at it, your website doesn't seem to have been updated since June, hardly a vibrant shop window for a vibrant town is it?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

We're going to take this previously council-tax-paid-for service and make it an evergreen payer

The annual story about signing-up for the Swindon Borough Council green waste collection has reared it's ugly head like a weed sprouting forth following a sudden burst of warm weather.

No mention is ever made of this service for several years being previously provided under the council tax rate every household pays. That service then stopped, but there was no reduction in council tax to reflect this, then in 2014 a separate pay-for service was introduced at £40 a year for fortnightly collections during the warm months. 

The unpopularity of the scheme was reflected in the increase in flytipping in the months following introduction.

Witness over the next few months those who can afford it, with the large drives of the nice houses in the wealthy areas of town, will have their bins out every fortnight. 

Whereas in the poorer areas of town, they'll be conspicuous by their absence. 

One SBC doorstep service for the well-off gardener, and one queue at the municipal recycling centre for the poor other.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The great Swindon everything-must-go sale - It's child's play!

Swindon Borough Council continues daily to dispose itself of assets as the great Swindon sell-off continues.

Not being sold, but given a long-lease, are all the SBC playgrounds currently in an area that is also covered by a parish council. Hence the above list from the Adver from last week of playgrounds being leased off to Stratton St Margaret, Blunsdon, Wroughton and Haydon Wick.

Of course, no front page story about this, but it did make it in the paper, on a page with the classifieds, but SBC are probably hoping no-one noticed.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Top Ten Things Overheard On Swindon's Buses Last Week ; 312

Click here for the original at this brilliant idea, here's our own version for Swindon's buses from last week.

10. Keep it in perspective when you're thinking about what to wear.

9. I'll be watching you my girl.

8. No, the bridge is going to go, where to, I have no idea.

7. He got on this same bus yesterday and said the same daft thing to the driver.

6. The escort is meant to meet her at the door, he was sat outside in the van, it took her 15 minutes to get outside.

5. Let's remember how we got to this point though, you chose to ignore everything I said.

4. You're going to go through with leaving him then?

3. You get so excited about things like that when you want to make a point.

2. It just looks all glowing the food at McDonalds, that must be the vitamins it contains.

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1. What did you think my reaction was going to be if you started off by blaming me for everything?

Overheard something we've missed? Then let us know.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Walcot's Fantastic Fiction Section

Councillor Ex-Councillor Mallinson has once again flown the flag for 'his' hardworking volunteers at the Walcot Library after I.T. problems recently.

Once again councillor ex-councillor Mr Mallinson has said how amazing 'his' volunteers are, while twisting the knife into the libraries and blaming them for the I.T. problems. As anyone who has gone near Swindon Borough Council in the last 9 years will know (such as councillors ex-councillors), SBC signed a massive contract with Capita back in 2007 (signed by SBC while councillor ex-councillor Mallinson was a councillor), which included I.T. provision and support. The fact the I.T. has just come back in-house will give you an idea why 'Crapita' was a frequent word uttered around SBC regarding the quality of service, especially around I.T. 

Councillor Ex-councillor Mallinson also blames the libraries for lack of support for 'his' volunteers (despite the brand-new building that the library and charity shop 'he' runs now exists in as part of the Sussex Square rebuilding). A new building is certainly anything but a lack of support. He also makes no mention of the SBC library staffed hours that Walcot is provided with during some of it's opening hours. 

The views of Councillor ex-councillor Mallinson regarding 'his' volunteers taking over fully at Walcot, which he clearly wants in the future as he sees the library service as an inconvenience in the current discussion, is interesting when seen in relation to Old Town Library. The campaigners for Old Town Library have made it very clear they want to retain their library with paid staff in it, despite Councillor ex-councillor Mallinson extolling the virtues of volunteers back in 2010.

Even more interesting, is that Old Town Library costs the least per hour of operation compared to any other Swindon library (as can be seen for each library here, appendix 1 to be specific).

So a combination of staff and volunteers at Walcot library (open 19 hours a week), costs more per hour open, than Old Town library (open 36 hours a week) which is fully staffed all the time.

And back in 2010, Councillor ex-councillor Mallinson didn't seem too bothered about cutting his own library's opening hours when he didn't have enough volunteers to man it. 

Be interesting what the few regulars at Walcot made of finding that it was shut because no-one turned up to open it.

Rest assured that if our town's libraries do end up being fully volunteer run (which Swindoncentric finds not only insulting to the idea of building the town's knowledge, intellect and confidence, but also a scary dismantling of civic infrastructure), then at least those volunteers will be at the same level of skill as Swindon's councillors (and ex-councillors)... untrained and unskilled.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Top Ten Things Overheard On Swindon's Buses Last Week ; 311

Click here for the original at this brilliant idea, here's our own version for Swindon's buses from last week.

10. I want you to grow up just a bit and realise it's not appropriate.

9. I have a rather attractive nose.

8. You'd be working from home, which is not much different to now.

7. You missed the earlier one, I saw you run passed.

6. Keep your hands off her until you're sure that her husband is back inside.

5. They say that she was suspended after the petty cash went missing.

4. I never use the market anyway.

3. In that case, I'm going to reconsider the whole situation.

2. What a surprise to see you out of work.

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1. I'd rather be honest than an absolute twat that people roll their eyes at.

Overheard something we've missed? Then let us know.