Darren Fower on the True Cost of the Fountains

The Leader of the Liberal Democat group on Peterborough City Council believes that once the honeymoon is over the fountains in Cathedral Square could prove to be a millstone around the ratepayers’ necks. Broadcast at 07:22 on Tuesday 22nd June 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show hosted by Paul Stainton on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

The Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Peterborough City Council believes that once the honeymoon is over the fountains in Cathedral Square could prove to be a millstone around the ratepayers’ necks. Broadcast at 07:22 on Tuesday 22nd June 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show hosted by Paul Stainton on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

PAUL: On yesterday’s show we spoke to Wyndham Thomas the former Chief Executive of the Peterborough New Town Development Corporation. They were the chaps, of course, who built Peterborough really, in charge of redeveloping how Peterborough looked many many years ago. Wyndham Thomas said he wouldn’t have installed fountains though, as in his words, fountains are often failures. (TAPE)
WYNDHAM: I’m not struck by fountains. Fountains are generally failures, and I’m not in favour of what’s been done, simply because it’s wide open to, first of all, collapse and malfunctioning, and then abuse. I’m in favour of some kind of water features, but fountains I think are going to be a disappointment to the City Council and to the ratepayers. (LIVE)
PAUL: Well the bad news continues. We also understand the running costs of maintaining the fountains is actually thirty thousand pounds a year at least, not the fifteen thousand that was quoted in the last budget by Peterborough City Council. On the line is the Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Peterborough City Council, Darren Fower. Morning Darren.
DARREN: Good morning Paul.
PAUL: Thirty grand a year, good value for money?
DARREN: Yes well that’s only a hundred per cent increase on the original figure, so value for money, no.
PAUL: Mr Thomas didn’t seem to be a fan, and he was the man with a vision for Peterborough many years ago. He said they’re going to be a disappointment. You’ve been sort of saying that for a while haven’t you?
DARREN: Yes. The Liberal Democrat group on the City Council have been clear from the start. We have not been the biggest fans of the fountains, and we took that position solely because the idea of fountains in Cathedral Square is not a new one. It’s happened before, many years ago, but those who’ve lived in the city for a number of years will remember. They were removed, and there were problems around them, and so it would appear that the local authority are not learning from their mistakes in the past.
PAUL: Running costs can be incredibly high as well. Even the thirty thousand pounds that’s budgeted for could be dwarfed. You get a few people falling over in the winter as has happened in other cities, and things go wrong, we could end up spending a lot more you think?
DARREN: The real worry here is that as we talk there is nobody within the local authority who is qualified to maintain the fountains, and at the moment I think the work has been passed over to Vivacity at Jack Hunt Pool. Now they’re actually restricted on the number of staff they have, so they’re under pressure already, which means that if any maintenance work is required, they’ll have to do that outside of normal hours, which is time and a half during the week, and double time on a Sunday.
PAUL: So the costs are mounting all the time aren’t they?
DARREN: Then you’ve got the point where if there’s a serious issue that needs to be properly repaired, you’re going to have to call in the, well I presume the company that actually installed them, and again they’re not a local company, so the costs of them coming back from wherever they are, again that’s going to be probably quite high.
PAUL: Vivacity of course, surely, will have to have their funding cut after today, when we reveal what’s going to go on, so there’ll be even less money in the pot for them to do the jobs they’re actually supposed to be doing.
DARREN: Absolutely. The City Council, if we can trust the budget now, which we were presented with earlier in the year, have got to make massive savings, millions of pounds, within their own operation, which therefore means that luxuries, things like fountains, are clearly not a priority. Again, therefore, if there are problems down the line, then they need to ask themselves, are they providing value for money to the local taxpayers, and if the answer to that is no then they need to stop with the fountains.
PAUL: You’ve spoken to somebody who knows quite a bit about the fountains in Peterborough. What did he have to say?
DARREN: He’s disappointed, like a number of people in the city including myself. We were promised that the fountains for example would be a fantastic image within Cathedral Square. Now they look Ok, but they’re certainly not fantastic. And obviously then we’ve got the issue of the water. There’s costs around that. I was actually under the impression originally that this water would somehow be recyclable. The truth is there’s a system in place whereby when obviously the water gets to a certain level some more comes out of the tap. So that’s a cost as well.
PAUL: Out of the tap?
DARREN: There is a tap connection which is a ballcock system. So when it reaches a certain point some more water comes flowing in to the overall operation, which obviously comes from the main source.
PAUL: So our fountain water comes out of the tap.
DARREN: Yes. Another point actually I was talking to people about was .. obviously there are chemicals within the water for the treatment, and perhaps there is an argument to say there needs to be some sort of signage in Cathedral Square warning people that there are chemicals in the water.
PAUL: Are these chemicals to stop it foaming when you pour Fairy Liquid in it?
DARREN: Well this is the other thing.
PAUL: Or when somebody does.
DARREN: If that were to occur, and somebody was to introduce Fairy Liquid to the fountains, then my understanding is that it’s not a complicated solution. It’s a matter of again somebody coming from the Jack Hunt team and introducing a little chemical that apparently removes all the foam. But yes I think if you use any chemicals you do need to make people aware that you’re doing so in order just to warn them.
PAUL: Yes. Well thank you for revealing all of that, incredibly revealing. Darren Fower Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Peterborough City Council. It beggars belief, doesn’t it? It could end up costing us an absolute fortune. If they start going wrong we don’t have the expertise to fix them according to Darren Fower. The water, at least some of it, is coming straight from the tap, and already we’ve had a one hundred per cent budget increase on the fountains. Where will it all end?