South of the River – Plate Spinning

Compass-SouthWhether it’s the housing PFI scheme, booking a holiday, or Beeston Festival, life increasingly seems to be about spinning plates.

The Council are getting a lot of flack for the Beeston Hill & Holbeck PFI-funded housing scheme. It seems to have been dragging on forever. Everything has taken a lot longer to do, except it seems, moving tenants out and dropping tower blocks.

I have no doubt that the Council are to blame for some of the delays, but the government have thrown a least two spanners into the works to my knowledge. Then there are the contractors (themselves a consortium of builders, surveyors and architects) and the money men – the bankers.

So there are lots of plates spinning and if you take too long getting one going, the danger is that another plate will slow down and fall off its stick.

The Council demolished Holbeck Towers so early in the process as I understand it, because funding became available that would help make the PFI funding go further. Everything seemed in place for the project proper to get started within months of the demolition, so it seemed a pretty good decision to press on at the time. Of course in hindsight we’ve had empty sites and a depopulated Holbeck for three years. But then hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Now you may think that this just isn’t good enough, these people should be able to keep enough plates spinning to see a project through. Well maybe, but actually, when you think about it, we’ve all been there.

Consider booking a holiday. You see a great deal online (let’s just pause a moment to fondly remember Teletext RIP). Where was I? You see a great deal online on Friday night. You want to book it, but you can’t ask your boss for those two weeks off until Monday morning.

If you book the holiday, spend the money and then the boss says “no” … well that’s a bit like demolishing Holbeck Towers too early.

You may know I was involved in setting up Tiger11 and redeveloping Hillside on Beeston Road. The current Board are resolving a difficult financial position, caused in part by a £1m mortgage we used to buy and refurbish the former school. I hear that we’ve been described recently as a naive community group to get into this trouble. Well I admit I’m no financial genius, but then no one else predicted the credit crunch of 2008 and the consequent recessions.

If we had waited until we could line up enough different grants to fund the project, it would never have happened and we would not have Hillside today. The first grant would have been withdrawn or run out of time before the last was in place – spinning plates again. At best we would have a boarded up building at worst it would have been torched and demolished.

I don’t know about you but I suffer from this plate spinning problem all the time. It’s called the “work-life balance” and it’s bloomin’ difficult. As I write this I’m balancing a family funeral, a meeting with the School Council at New Bewerley Community School, this article, tonight’s tea and a financial report for a charity committee meeting tonight. Meanwhile the dog needs a walk and I’m supposed to be job searching!

Jeremy MortonWhich brings me to Beeston Festival. I must find time this pop along and see the marvelous Rapide Brothers at this year’s event. They may be clowns, but I reckon they could teach me a thing or two about how to keep all my plates spinning!

I’ll be back next Friday with more views from South of the River. You can follow me on Twitter: @BeestonJeremy