Cul­tural revo­lu­tion with a se­lec­tive slant

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OPINION -

AMONG the more in­ter­est­ing trips abroad county coun­cil­lors took last year was the one to China by county coun­cil ed­u­ca­tion chiefs. Ap­par­ently, the visit en­abled “the dis­sem­i­na­tion of best prac­tice on ed­u­ca­tional is­sues” in the field of life­long learn­ing. It must have made for some in­ter­est­ing dis­cus­sions be­tween the Con­ser­va­tive vis­i­tors and their Com­mu­nist Party hosts but it seems the two may not be so far apart as you might think. Af­ter the cul­tural revo­lu­tion, the Chi­nese sys­tem moved away from what was broadly a com­pre­hen­sive sys­tem to one in which sec­ondary schools were ei­ther aca­demic or vo­ca­tional cen­tres of learn­ing. Sounds familiar.

WHAT­EVER Ash­ford coun­cil’s strat­egy was to man­age the fall­out from the un­ex­pected and em­bar­rass­ing de­par­ture of quango chief Martin Ba­con – as­sum­ing there was one, which on the ev­i­dence is not en­tirely cer­tain – it was a mis­er­able fail­ure. It rather sug­gested that those in charge of the civic cen­tre’s spin ma­chine may have had pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence on an os­trich farm. Per­haps they were fol­low­ing Ben­jamin Dis­raeli’s maxim, “Never com­plain, never ex­plain.” We did con­tem­plate ask­ing them to con­firm that last week saw the first day of Spring but feared they would not be able to com­ment.

HAS KCC learned any lessons from the demise of its back­ing for a plan to start di­rect flights from Kent In­ter­na­tional Air­port to Vir­ginia, Amer­ica? It was a ques­tion that was clearly oc­cu­py­ing some mem­bers of the county coun­cil’s watch­dog com­mit­tee last week when they hauled coun­cil chiefs in to ex­plain what went wrong. But did they get the an­swers they wanted? The in­de­pen­dently-minded Con­ser­va­tive back­bencher Cllr Roy Bul­lock seemed un­sure af­ter feel­ing com­pelled to ask the same ques­tion three times. On the first oc­ca­sion, he was told by coun­cil leader Paul Carter: “We have learned that any busi­ness risk has sig­nif­i­cant busi­ness risk at­tached to it.” Er, quite.

THERE may be some who ques­tion the com­mit­ment of Kent County Coun­cil’s Con­ser­va­tive ad­min­is­tra­tion to the green agenda. But at least their latest en­vi­ron­ment strat­egy progress re­port comes with im­pec­ca­ble cre­den­tials. The re­port was “printed on Re­vive Silk pa­per, fully-re­cy­clable and biodegrad­able, 75 per cent of the fur­nish is made from 100 per cent de-inked post-con­sumer waste. To­tally chlo­rine free and ele­men­tal chlo­rine free. Printed us­ing 100 per cent al­co­hol-free damp­en­ing for vir­tu­ally zero VOC emis­sions and veg­etable-based rather than pe­tro­leum based inks.” Phew.

AS this year’s in­fla­tion­bust­ing coun­cil tax bills be­gin to drop through the let­ter box, are we any closer to re­forms that might im­prove mat­ters? Don’t hold your breath. Af­ter three years and nearly £2mil­lion, it looks like the Gov­ern­ment is to kick key rec­om­men­da­tions made in the long-awaited Lyons re­port into lo­cal gov­ern­ment fi­nance into the long grass. Why? Be­cause Gor­don Brown won’t want to scare mid­dle Eng­land vot­ers by em­bark­ing on a po­ten­tially ex­plo­sive reval­u­a­tion ex­er­cise this side of an elec­tion. And if David Cameron gets in, he will prob­a­bly em­bark on yet an­other re­view for pre­cisely the same rea­son.

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