Thanks for all the emails! For obvious reasons, I can’t print them un-edited, but rest assured a good number of the stories you’ve sent so far will feature in the book. Oh dear Southampton. Oh dear…
Rank corruption, mining all within, infects unseen
Last night I took part in a debate at the University of Greenwich with the title: Bleak Towns: Does Reputation Matter? I gave a quick talk about Morecambe, its long decline and its more recent attempts to turn things around. Meanwhile, while Owen Hatherley, author of A New Kind Of Bleak, spoke about various colossal planning funk-ups around the nation. It was all tremendously interesting – but I shan’t bore you with the details. (You kind of had to be there).
There was one fascinating point from the evening to bring up, however. During the Question and Answer session I stated (what I thought was) the uncontroversial opinion that lots of councils over the years have been inept and corrupt.
To my surprise, someone* stood up to challenge this position. I can’t remember his exact words, but the implication was that councils aren’t corrupt and even suggesting that they are is outrageous. “You need evidence to back up that kind of statement,” he said.
I was temporarily floored, but began to reel off a few rotten boroughs – at which point I was interrupted and we moved onto other things.
Later on twitter, however, more local councillors stepped in, suggesting that I was “blinkered” and really need to “Define corruption.”
Of course, I don’t want to make any libellous suggestions about the good people of North Greenwich, but I’m still shocked that anyone would want to pretend our local authorities are free of sin or graft. I’m also particularly horrified that these people should be councillors themselves, since if anyone should be aware of graft, and on the alert for venality it should be them.
Naturally, as is the way with these things, I’ve thought of a thousand decent replies to the purer than pure councillor now that the time to actually say something has passed. And hallelujah, thanks to the marvels of the internet, I have the power and can bang them down now!
The shortest, and probably best answer is simply: What the fuck?
The slightly longer reply is: Thanks for that Tesco we didn’t want, dickheads.
The slightly longer still reply is: Lambeth, Doncaster, Hull, Wandsworth, Westminster, Hackney. corruption was so endemic in Hackney that even their fraud department investigated.
But the very best reply will be a colossal list of dirty deeds and rotten boroughs from around the country. I’ll be compiling a great many stories for the next edition of Crap Towns, and I thought it would be very interesting to hear from readers around the country – as well as cribbing from Private Eye.
So I’m putting the call out. If anyone has any stories of backhanders, dodgy planning deals, contracts awarded to friends and family, obstacles mysteriously placed in the way of projects, and mysteriously moved from others, of councillors turning up to work in surprisingly nice cars, of graft, of sin, of mendacity, of petty bureaucratic shit-kickery, do get in touch.Place a comment, a hint, an idea, a path to follow somewhere on the site. Or send me an email. Do it anonymously or publicly. Let’s nail the bastards.
**EDIT I’ve since been told that this was: David Gardner, a senior bod at KPMG, chair of the local Labour Party and former Assistant General Secretary of the Labour Party under Tony Blair. Apparently he doesn’t like the word “corruption”.