Uncommercial

It seems that Mr Bluh does not understand what the role of a local council is. Primarily councils exist to provide services, such as social services and education. At their core are services taken over by councils as the Poor Laws were reformed, then abolished and replaced by the welfare state, plus a few other tasks inherited from the courts.

One thing that has never been at the heart of council business is commercial speculation. Mr Bluh seems to be unaware of this.

This is a commercial decision, in the new world in which we all live more and more commercial decisions will be made. An opportunity was put to us, and we were asked if we wanted to invest…. Had we not done it the way we did, the deal would not have gone through.

Had Swindon Borough Council made the decision to invest £450,000 of our money in a wi-fi venture in a more open way, it may well have been found that it was perfectly right and proper for the deal not to go through. Unfortunately, very few seem to have been asked for an opinion.

We don’t do anything without considering the implications. But we would not have done this had it not been in accordance with council policy.

I don’t recall gambling on start-up companies being a council policy.

This is a commercial venture that will bring commercial return. The only affects on capital budgets will be if this loan does not get repaid in full.

Has Mr Bluh not noticed that the economy is in rather a mess? That defaults on loans are much more commonplace than they were a couple of years ago? This is a commercial venture that may bring commercial return, but could equally bring losses. To remind him of something he said very recently.

To get a reasonable level of council tax and to go forward we have been required to find savings and efficiencies. We are doing everything that is humanly possible to keep this ship afloat.

Speculating almost £½M on a commercial venture in an already very crowded and competitive market does not look like ‘doing everything that is humanly possible’ to me.

If I wanted to speculate on commercial ventures, I’d buy some shares. With those shares comes the right to vote to remove the executive. And if others didn’t agree with me I could sell the shares and take my money elsewhere. None of those options are available when it comes to a council. The council takes my money in council tax regardless of whether I agree with what it does: there is no option to sell out.

I expect the council to provide services, not to indulge in commercial speculation. Whatever Mr Bluh may think, the council is not a business, it’s a council, and it is not subject to the commercial rigours that business is. If I want to invest my money, I’ll chose where to invest it myself thank you. I don’t expect some has-been lawyer and a bunch of bureaucrats to speculate with my money without asking first.