Bedford’s mayor said he is like a “fat bloke in a sweet shop” because he wants “everything now”. But at the moment he said he is “tied” to the previous administration’s budget.
During his campaign for May’s local election, Mayor Tom Wootton (Conservative) set out his plan for the borough’s future.
Now into his seventh month, the Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the mayor how his plans are progressing.
“So the way it works is, and I don’t think most people understand this, is that when you’re elected you think ‘right, I’m going to change the world’,” Mayor Tom said.
“Then it all screeches to a halt when they say you’ve got to do everything with the budget we’ve got.”
The mayor explained that in the previous administration’s budget, there wasn’t a line that said toilets or extra maintenance, or road gully emptying, or new tarmac, etc.
“It’s been real hard work to take a budget that was not suitable and not designed for what we wanted and make it suitable just to get us along as far as we’ve got,” he said.
“Our budget starts when we can get it passed in February, and there will be a lot more things you can judge us on.
“So we have got plans, we are doing work on them, so watch this space. But nothing’s happening as quickly as I wanted it to, but if it’s in the budget then it’s going to happen.
“There are a lot of things, a lot of problems, there are a lot of things to change and do better on. “I’m going to be going for quality fixes, not the blooming quick and easy fixes.”
“We just really really want to have quality and really make a difference.
“You can say ‘oh Tom, that’s just hot words and politics’, but look at our budget. We’re struggling like hell to make it all add up and make it pay and to make it work. When it comes out people will see the difference.”
Mayor Tom said during the recent peer review he was asked “What sort of Tory are you?”
“I said we’re the sort of Tories that have spent a year and a half knocking on doors,” he said.
“Asking what the people want and what people need, and that’s the difference. We know what the residents want.
“So I’ve nailed my colours to the mast, I’m actually going to deliver on stuff,” he said
“I’m not going to be the man that sits about for 13 and a half years and has very little to prove for it.
“I’m the fat bloke in the sweet shop. I just want everything now.
“And they say Tom you’ve got a prioritise, how can I prioritise I want doctors’ surgeries, I want the roads fixed, I want everything all at once now
“And [have I got it wrong so far?] probably, but only for having too many priorities.
“I’m just too keen to make sure that Bedford and Kempston are going to be the places of the future,” he said.
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter