Darren Fower on Opportunity Peterborough’s Golden Parachute

This is an interview with Darren Fower LibDem Leader on Peterborough City Council, talking about Opportunity Peterborough, vibrancy, and the fact that staff at Opportunity Peterborough have been handed jobs with Peterborough City Council. Broadcast at 08:10 on Tuesday 9th March 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. the interviewer is Paul Stainton.

STAINTON: So as we revealed in the first hour, Peterborough now has a Head of City Vibrancy. It’s a new title for one of Opportunity Peterborough’s Directors. The organisation is currently being restructured, with all regeneration stuff returning to the City Council. But do the people of Peterborough know what a Head of City Centre Vibrancy does?
VOXPOP (TAPE): I’ve no idea at all, absolutely no idea. No. Vibrancy? = Vibrancy would be making life fun and jolly and enjoyable, so how about that? The Head of making Peterborough a jolly place to live === I ain’t got a clue === I don’t actually know === I haven’t a clue. It sounds interesting. I might apply. I’m quite vibrant, so I might be eligible.
STAINTON: (STUDIO) Well not as vibrant as Steve Bowyer. He is the Vibrant One. Earlier he told us what the title actually means.
BOWYER (TAPE): Vitality if you like would be another word. Actually a place where people want to come and enjoy, where businesses importantly want to come and invest, where it is a place of commercial interest, cultural interest, leisure interest etcetera. So a vibrant city is one where people want to be, whether they be individuals, people who live there, whether they be tourists, whether they be visitors, whether they be commercial companies, businesses, cultural organisations etcetera.
STAINTON: Vibrant I am. Darren Fower is Head of Peterborough Liberal Democrats. Good morning Darren.
FOWER: Good morning.sir, how are you?
STAINTON: I’m mocking the job title, because I think it’s overblown and ridiculous, as are most job titles around this city. But he does have an important job here, doesn’t he. I mean, Pete’s been on the text. He says: “Paul, I’m happy this vibrancy in the city has been appointed, as our night life is poor, and a lot of people are staying in. Hopefully Mr Bowyer can sort it out.” So it’s a good thing Darren, isn’t it?
FOWER: Well it’s certainly a questionable thing. As for the vibrancy side of it I am sure Steve is vibrant. I’d love to know the salary level, and I’d also like to know what happened to the role. Why did it become, or why was it no longer needed.
STAINTON: I didn’t see it advertised, to be honest.
FOWER: No. That’s another question that you’ve just pointed out. Opportunity Peterborough, dare I say, ..
STAINTON: It may have been advertised. I may just not have seen it.
FOWER: Yeah exactly. It may have been advertised. Me and you may not have seen it. But we do have to ask these questions. We do need to say, look, at a time when today we’ve got people striking with serious concerns over their jobs, and they’re doing what I like to call the real jobs, we’ve got this sort of thing happening within a quango that is Opportunity Knocks, sorry Opportunity Peterborough.
STAINTON: Other people are less kind to Opportunity Peterborough, but I mean they have delivered what they said they’d deliver in the city centre. That’s almost finished now. What? And you know we do need a vibrant night life in this city, don’t we? We do need people in our city centre most nights of the week to get ..
FOWER: The city centre is very barren at the moment. But that I think does come down to issues of people feeling safe, and cleanliness, and also there’s a need to support existing businesses. The city centre does still have venues, but if you go and speak to some of these people who own them, they will say they don’t feel as though they get the support from the local authority.
STAINTON: Half of Opportunity Peterborough, the regeneration side, is going back to the Council as well. I mean there’s a huge restructuring of it all going on. Is it just finding jobs for people for the sake of it, or is there things for them to do?
FOWER: Well if we look at their track record. I mean obviously we had the incident of the expensive and rather bizarre logo. We’ve obviously got the unwanted fountains, which I will add I noticed Steve said the scepticism was reducing. It’s not that, it’s just that people have got other things to worry about, but the feeling remains that they’re not very popular.
STAINTON: I like the seats, though.
FOWER: You like the seats? Oh this is something I’ve got to find out about, because apparently if you ask about where the wood came from, it comes from some sort of very rare rainforest plant, so I’ll look into that and come back on that.
STAINTON:¬†Oh you’re joking. Oh no don’t say that.
FOWER: I know. It’s going to be a bit ironic if that’s the case.
STAINTON: You see I was lambasted in the office when I said I wouldn’t have picked wood.
FOWER: Yes, well..
STAINTON: I’ve got this funny feeling that somebody’s going to be there with a flick-knife, or their felt-tip.
FOWER: It’s just one of those things whereby you know, it’s about consultation with the people of Peterborough. At the end of the day, if we look for example at these fountains at three hundred thousand pounds cost, and then the fifteen thousand a year upkeep, dare I say again, it’s similar to the water-taxi type scenario, is this a priority for our city right now? And I think a lot of people would say no.
STAINTON: What would the LibDems have done with Cathedral Square then? How would you have made it look exciting and vibrant.
FOWER: Greenery. We’d certainly like to see some foliage. And we’d certainly have asked the people before we started running away with an idea that came from one or maybe two people at best.
STAINTON: Are you not in favour of Steve Bowyer’s new role then? Is that what you’re saying?
FOWER: I think questions need to be asked. I think you’re doing a great job as always. And I will look forward to seeing what the people of Peterborough say. But from our point of view as the Liberal Democrat group on the city council we’ll certainly keep an eye on them as we have done for several years now. And if we find anything of interest we’ll make sure that you find out first.
STAINTON: Thank you Darren. we’ll check on this wood as well that’s been used on the benches.