Local Government Guide: Slough - ... and one that did not deliver

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The Independent Online
Come friendly bombs and fall

on Slough.

It isn't fit for humans now.

SLOUGH has never quite recovered from John Betjeman's depiction of its unloveliness, writes Sophie Goodchild.

It has more in common with a London suburb than leafy Berkshire. Its numerous critics claim that it has failed to capitalise on its existing assets such as a thriving computer industry, and has neglected small businesses.

Rajiv Kapoor, owner of the Tobacco Mart newsagents at the bottom of the high street past the concrete shopping centre, has lived in the town for 14 years and says he has lost count of the times promised improvements by the council have failed to come to fruition.

"There are many people in the council who are serving their own ends," he said. "They have made so many plans to do things for the town but none has materialised. They planned a subway but could not find the money. People are very disillusioned.

"For the past 10 years there has been a plan to widen the road, and we are still waiting. The council does not make the best of what it has got."

Across the road, where buildings are showing signs of neglect, is Mike's Barber Shop. Its manager, Salvatore Marsala, says that some days he can wait several hours before he gets a client. The situation could be improved, he believes, if the council encouraged people to shop at the less glamorous end of town.

"Everything is focused on the town centre and we are neglected," he said.

"It's pathetic. We pay as much as pounds 10,000 a year in rates but don't get anything back. They have a pass-the-buck attitude. It's small things as well, like it takes ages to get them to pick up the phone.

"Most people don't say they come from Slough because of its image. They say they come from somewhere like Burnham down the road."

Mr Marsala is still waiting for the council to finish work on the pavement outside his shop. Several customers have tripped over since it was dug up by workmen.

He added: "So many businesses have opened and closed, and a lot of people say they want to leave the area. You would think the council would try to improve things but they don't seem to give a toss."

Slough Borough Council is quick to defend its performance, which it says is improving.