VFTX Issue 42
Politics is a tricky business. It involves pursuing ideals using reasoned debate, clever marketing, propaganda, spin - and sometimes telling lies.
All political parties dabble to a greater or lesser extent in all of these activities. The sad thing is that they think that we, the public, are too stupid to see through them.
Consider where we are at the moment. The Tories are running the show and they are determined to ensure we all tighten our belts. They want to reduce spending to reduce the vast amount of debt the Labour Party ran up.
It could be argued that the Labour Party spends money it does not have, and for a few years everyone has a great time. When we are skint, Labour gets kicked out and the Tories come in to sort out the mess. Times become hard under them, and eventually people forget about the past and vote Labour back into power, impressed by all the money they promise to spend. The cycle then repeats itself again and again.
Right now the country is undergoing cuts to everything, and South Lanarkshire Council is not immune to them. They, like everyone else, need to reduce their spending and it is interesting how this Labour-led Council approaches this.
They have a knack of reducing services which people feel comfortable with.
Transporting children to school seems to be under threat for many as the boundary for free travel is extended further away from the school the children attend.
Closing public toilets is another example of picking on a group of people such as the elderly, for whom access to a public toilet is often not a luxury but a necessity.
Cutting back on keeping our public gardens planted and maintained, and reducing the availability of the Memorial Hall at weekends to voluntary groups is an inconvenience once again to people who have done nothing wrong.
The latest unpopular suggestion is the possibility that the Council may want to charge the Lanimer Committee around £7,000 a year to have the roads closed at times during Lanimer Week!
It is doubtful if the Lanimer Committee generates that kind of surplus in a year. Their accounts are presented to the Lanimer Committee itself, and do not appear to be published anywhere. My guess they try to break even by having a year round campaign of fund raising run by volunteers whose main aim is to put on a great week of free entertainment for young and old alike.
An extra £7,000 would finish the Lanimers very quickly, and once it was gone it would be virtually impossible to restore it to its present spectacular form.
I gather there were some worried people at their recent meeting trying to get their head around how such a situation could ever be resolved. I offer some food for thought.
The Lanimers was always the responsibility of the Town Council who produced the money to run the event. In charge was the Provost. It was the Provost and Bailies who selected the Lord Cornet each year, and the Provost received the declaration as to the state of the Marches on Lanimer Evening.
Running the Lanimers was the remit of a large committee chaired by the Provost. The Lanimer Committee was in fact a sub committee of the Town Council.
As we all know the Town Council was abolished in 1974 and replaced with Lanark District Council and Strathclyde Regional Council. On the run up to this, a Joint Co coordinating committee was set up to take care of such a massive change over.
One of the main worries was what would happen to the Lanimers? Would Lanark District Council be keen to see it continue? It was quickly proposed that the Lanimer Committee would be reformed as a standalone committee with its own constitution and its own Chairman.
Its remit was, as it always had been, to organise the event on behalf of the local authority. The local authority would continue to supply the services necessary to put the show on the road. Their duties were to prepare the marches route for the Monday Night perambulation, arrange for the public address system to be installed, have the flags put up for Lanimer Week, arrange the fencing at Castlebank for the children’s races and supply benches and chairs for Lanimer Day.
The stage for Monday night was supplied by the Council, and the roads department sorted out road closures for the week and marked off the holding areas for Lanimer Lorries in the St Leonard Street area.
The partnership seems to have worked very well. The Lanimer Committee received a grant from the Council each year, and it now had the power to raise further funds to balance the books.
I think most people are unaware of this partnership. I would imagine it is assumed that the Council supports the Lanimer Committee who are in charge of this ancient custom. As you can see it is the other way around. The Council have inherited the promise to see the Lanimers happen each year, and they have been happy to devolve the organisation to the Lanimer Committee. If the Lanimer Committee folded tomorrow, the duty of keeping Lanimers going would default to the Council, and the cost to them would be astronomical. Like in other places, the Lanimers would be no more than a memory!
Due to these unique circumstances, I hope the Council will take the view that the Lanimers is a unique event, different from Gala Days, Christmas Fairs and Street Decorations. £7,000 is not a lot of money compared to the turnover of the Council each year. £7,000 is a massive sum compared to the turnover of the Lanimer Committee.
In the past I have been critical on occasions about the value for money we sometimes get from the Council. We get great value for money from the Lanimer Committee. If it ain't broke, don’t fix it!
There is something in the back of my mind that these unpopular cuts have a wee political bias in them. If the cuts are designed to be unpopular with decent people, it is easy for a Labour council to put their hands up and say “Blame the Tories! We hate doing this but our hands are tied”.
What is certain is that the cuts will be decided by the Council inner cabinet as usual, our local Councillors will have no influence on the final vote. I hope I am wrong!
Finally my frustration once again with the Business Group. Once again they have agreed to have late night opening on a different night from the Christmas Light Switch On when the High Street is like a Lanimer Day.
At 5pm the Christmas lights are switched on, and the shop lights are switched off. Staff leaving struggle to get through the crowd. With a captive crowd on your doorstep which need no bribes of free drinks to get them there, why walk away from them, only to open late when the Town is dead?
Worse still is the Taste of Lanark Event on a Sunday when many local shops do not even open!
Am I missing something here, or are these initiatives they come up with not worth them supporting? We know High Street trading is tough everywhere, and we should all play our bit to ease the situation. That means the Business Group meeting us half way at least.
If you close your shop during the Taste of Lanark Sunday, take a run down the Clyde Valley and you will find the whole place buzzing! How can they attract people and Lanark cannot?
As I put my pen down, a 30 page glossy booklet arrived highlighting what is now called Lanark Winterfest. It would appear to have been produced by the Lanark Community Development Trust, and on the back page they are claiming responsibility for Winterfest 2016.
If they are indeed in overall charge, I hope they will consider a one off spectacular for next year rather than a series of half cocked efforts that attract people by a sense of duty rather than an urge to participate in something that has the potential to be outstanding.