The fallout continues following a rather incredible radio interview (listen again here) earlier in the week.
This surprising exchange on the BBC was then followed up by the local press, see copies below.
|Herald & Post|
|Luton On Sunday|
The point here is not that estimated figures turned out to be wrong given the benefit of hindsight, nor is it about the rights and wrongs of the busway project (which is built and operational; discussion about whether it was a good idea belong in the past). The worrying issue is the casual attitude towards at least attempting accuracy; the strong implication seems to be that it is perfectly okay to lie if it gets you what you want.
This was not some junior or inexperienced councillor being cornered by a journalist; Dave Taylor has been around in Luton politics a long time and is a senior member (portfolio holder) of the Luton Borough administration.
This was not a panicked answer to a difficult question; Cllr Taylor was taking part in a pre-arranged interview about a subject he is well briefed on.
This was not a misunderstanding or unfortunate misquote being repeated out of context; Iain Lee gave Cllr Taylor every chance to retract or correct the quote but he stood by it, and continued to stand by it when speaking to print journalists later in the week.
Cllr Taylor also referred to the central government funding which has been secured to enable the junction 10a upgrade project. My understanding is that certain projections around creation of new jobs were made to support this funding bid and that the funding is conditional upon those projections being met; if they are not, then Luton Borough Council could be liable to repay significant amounts of that funding to the government. I sincerely hope that those targets are hit, because job creation is certainly a good thing, but I hope that the projections are realistic and not embellished; Luton Borough can ill-afford the financial consequences of pushing up the figures here.
There is also the issue of trust in local government, both between the public and those who serve them and also between different local authorities. When you are dealing with difficult projections and large budgets then the variances will often be significant but to be quite so gung-ho about being wrong by 59% is deeply troubling.
With arguments over assessing housing density, with another senior Councillor recently giving serious misquotes on the BBC and now this, how are we to trust any statistics or other claims coming out of Luton?