On repeat: You’re closing day centres, yeah? But you had enough money for a new logo

harimageIT’S not just in Labour dominated Camden where a spot of internal unrest has bubbled to the surface. In Labour dominated Haringey, they may not be on the brink of a leadership contest, but the group has  suspended one of its councillors. Gideon Bull, with 15 years service as a councillor, lost the whip after speaking out at a cabinet meeting against the council’s closure of dementia care and day centres.

“I’m deeply saddened and I don’t think this punishment reflects the democratic society we live in,” he says. “There’s no point being in politics if you can’t stand up for the people who can’t stand up for themselves.”

Those who supported his suspension say if he wants to take that line, he must also explain why he voted for the Labour budget, which included the proposed closures, alongside the rest of the group. They claim Cllr Bull changed direction when he felt the heat from ward constituents on the issue, but as all councillors are getting it in the neck over spending cuts pretty much all of the time, he should stand with them rather than against them.

Which version is correct? I don’t know, but in a way it doesn’t really matter because if you pop into public meetings in Haringey, talk to people who live there or catch the odd debate, the thing you will find that so often now clouds rational discussion on how the council uses its money is an underlying obsession with last year’s £80,000 spend on a new logo

Seriously, you hear that call-back time and again over there: They are shutting down day centres but they can afford a new logo. They can’t do this but they can afford a new logo. They’re cutting that but they can afford a new logo. 

It doesn’t matter that in the grand scheme of multi-million pound council budgets, £80,000 may not be such a huge sum, and wouldn’t have been enough to save the day centres. But in spending money on something easily branded as frivolous, Haringey Council has unwittingly invited its own residents to robotically refer to it every time it makes a cut. Sensible, rational people seem to think, or at least act like, the black hole in local authority finances could all have been fixed if only Haringey Council hadn’t bought that bloody new logo.

In Camden, Labour councillors may explain their local cuts by shifting the blame onto government orders. In Haringey, they’ve surrendered this simple get-out line, because every time they blame the government, some bod will stand up at the back of the community centre and say to cheers and yelps… yeah, but you had enough money for a new logo.

The intentions behind the rebrand may have been worthy – even if to many it looks like a young child could have done better – but what a time to do it. On a local level, you could say it’s bit like Liam Byrne’s ‘no money left’ note, which the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition were able to reach for whenever they felt like they were losing the argument. But at least Byrne didn’t have to see his note plastered up on every passing bin lorry.

4 Comments on On repeat: You’re closing day centres, yeah? But you had enough money for a new logo

  1. Chris Knight // February 4, 2016 at 12:14 pm // Reply

    Firstly Cllr Bull is there to hear what users of Council services have to say, and in this case he has, about time his colleagues gave it a try!

    The thought of £80k being spent on a “two bob” logo is nothing more than ridiculous, any amateur could have produced this in moments, if thats all they got for £80k a fraud investigation would not come amiss.

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  2. Spending on brand is always going to be controversial if you just dub things ‘logos’ and put a price tag next to it. Camden spent a fraction of this (£6k) on a well-designed, successful video to explain the budget to people, and you couldn’t walk down the street for commentators getting on their high horse about it (especially from the BBC, who had just undergone a £2m rebrand). Previously there was a ‘Love Camden’ campaign on high streets in 2008. I think I objected to that at the time when Labour was in opposition, because it was easy to – thus proving my insincerity as a politician – but in the end promotion was the right thing to do when our high streets were being clobbered. (I think you should always be wary of spending here – like giving cash to celebs to open stuff).

    There is a reason why brand is important – it can have all sorts of other benefits, which is why the UK has a big advertising industry (if people didn’t think it created value, there wouldn’t be an industry). So then the question is whether brand is needed by councils: after all they don’t sell things like companies do? But there again there are lots of examples of places seeking to make themselves more attractive for a number of reasons: to encourage greater outside investment, for example to signal change or a break from the past or to promote a greater espirit de corps with staff for better recruitment.

    Comparing this to cuts in revenue expenditure for care services is a false choice (the rebrand is one-off money the other is ongoing) the government cuts are so severe every year that you won’t be able to restore the service next year in any case: you can’t spend the same money over and over again.

    So this can all too easily be criticised as cosmetic, but it has to be seen in the round.

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    • Richard Osley // February 4, 2016 at 3:39 pm // Reply

      Are you laying the ground for a Camden rebrand, Cllr B?

      Your comment probably covers some of the same ideas. A rebrand may well be worthy, well-intended and have some use, even if Haringey ended up making a real mess of the designs here. Come on, it looks like red tape… not a great look for a council.

      But the trouble is the timing and with local authorities pleading poverty, It’s as you say, it all makes it easy to criticise as cosmetic (even if that’s not borne out in the sums – as I said £80k doesn’t save Cllr Bull’s day centres).

      To every cut, the public just shouts back: Well, you had enough money for a logo. And the council has invited this easy heckle on itself.

      The Ally Pally radar star emblem really wasn’t so bad.

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  3. It would be great to spend money as Theo Blackwell says on better recruitment as the Camden “brand” would benefit from improvement.. Concern for Camden? Come to Camden’s Aid? Save Camden? Who Cares about Camden? Camden- Lovin’ The Localism? As he says £6k isn’t very much at all for such an important strategy (and there is probably an underspent budget for it) but the redundancies needed to make way for better staff would probably be quite costly. It is unlikely this administration will bite the bullet and Camden’s performance will wane ever further.

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