A union chief has mocked a letter sent by Kirklees Council’s chief executive Adrian Lythgo to staff outlining his vision for a “new council.”
Kirklees, which has a staff of 15,000 and a population of almost 400,000, will look very different in 2018.
But a vision of the future set out by Mr Lythgo has been blasted as Enid Blyton-esque by Unison’s Kirklees branch secretary Paul Holmes.
In a document preparing for budget talks Mr Lythgo describes “The Kirklees Street”.
He writes: “Imagine a street in Kirklees, a younger neighbour is calling in to see an older neighbour and have a chat and a cup of tea.
“The Cabinet member has found external funding for an innovative shared recycling centre linked to a combined heat and power plant that brings the price of everyone’s heating down.
“The grit bin is the responsibility of one young neighbour who grits the street and pavement for everyone. In return he gets the use of lawn movers (sic), drills and ladders from all the other neighbours throughout the year.
“Two of the neighbours have allotments and they swap some food for baby-sitting and other stuff they need.
“One family had some problems so with the help of the local councillor the residents have talked together with the family (dad is long gone) and helped the eldest son find work in the new start-up business spin-out from university.
“And mum is now involved with Auntie Pam’s (an advice service for young mums) and is soon to enrol for a midwifery course. The other children now travel to school in a walking bus.
“Another neighbour collects clothes and other stuff people no longer need and takes them to One Good Turn (a community-run Facebook swap group).”
Mr Holmes said the story was more suited to Jackanory and admitted he didn’t know what to make of it.
“Whether it’s Cameron’s Big Society or some commune from 1970s California we’re not sure but it’s not real life,” he said.
“It could be life in a slum in Victorian England where communities are abandoned by the state and left to fend for themselves Or perhaps Enid Blyton wrote it.
“No one can seriously expect Kirklees Council, the largest urban council in England with a population of nearly 400,000, a budget of more than £350 million and 15,000 staff, to operate like this.
“Who is responsible for the gritting if it’s not done or it’s done wrong? Who fills the grit bin if the younger neighbour’s not around?
“Who collects, funds and manages the shared recycling centre? In short who is responsible for particular public services? This could be called Jackanory 2 if it wasn’t so serious.”
Mr Holmes said the Kirklees Street “denigrates” and under-values public sector workers and was “naive and childish.”
Council leader David Sheard said the union was entitled to its view but backed the sentiment behind the vision.
“If people don’t do more for themselves things won’t happen,” he said.