Cultural revolution with a selective slant
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.