Thursday, 2 June 2011

The City State of Reading

City status. I remember voting against it in a council meeting last year and given exactly the same circumstances I would do the same again. That may surprise people given that I also back the Lib Dems change of mind about supporting the bid but it shouldn't. The simple reason is that the facts have changed and people who refuse to change their opinion in the light of new information are fools.

The basic heart of the matter a year ago was what would the council get from city status? At the time it was an increased stationary invoice and an unquantifiable bill for council tax payers. 

The minority Labour administration had shown itself incapable of sticking to a budget and exhibited a penchant for pissing other people's money up the wall on grand schemes like their ridiculous WOMAD replacement (which I subsequently discovered they had kept details from me when I was vice-chair of the Culture and Sport Scrutiny Panel and they lost tens of thousands of council tax payers monies in the process).

Simply put, at the time of the Council motion there was no reason to think Labour wouldn't have done exactly the same left in charge of any bid.

A year on and those reasons are no longer valid. What happened in between was that the Lib Dems were in joint control of the Council so any idea that public money would be wasted in any quantity was clearly not going to happen.

Reading CIC ran with it and did a magnificent job at putting to gether their bid so whilst there is still a cost to the council it has proved to be marginal and under those conditions the only reason to not support it would be a desire to throw a childish tantrum.

But then we know for some that is their raison d'ĂȘtre. Their only goal is to be against something simply for the sake of it. I blame it on a sixth form debating society view of politics where it doesn't matter what the argument is, the aim is to take a contrary point of view, regardless of merit.

I'm more than happy to admit when I'm wrong, PCSOs for example, but in this case it is simply that facts have changed and I'm happy to change my mind accordingly. I'm still not convinced that city status will make much of a difference without the inclusion of the Greater Reading area but I have no intention of raining on anyone's parade and I wish the bid all the best.

It's all very well playing Don Quixote charging around on a quest to slay imaginary giants but that's the mark of a political pygmy. Reading has enough of those in the Cabinet.

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