Will the hand of Bob ease the dis­con­tent?

Be­hind the scenes at County Hall with our po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor Paul Francis

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OPINION -

The coun­cil­lor, a stylish sort, is said to have been a mem­ber of a band in the same 1980s mould

THE news that Sir Bob Geldof’s com­pany is to run Kent TV is un­doubt­edly some­thing of a pub­lic re­la­tions coup for County Hall’s Tory lead­er­ship. The rul­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion has been rather ner­vous about some of the re­ac­tion to the pro­posal – un­sur­pris­ing, given that it might cost £1.4mil­lion. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if Sir Bob’s in­volve­ment will sat­isfy the rum­blings of dis­con­tent among some Con­ser­va­tive back­benchers, some of whom, pos­si­bly reck­lessly, put their head above the para­pet at a pub­lic meet­ing to dis­cuss the project last week. The vet­eran Hythe county coun­cil­lor Chris Capon (Con) rather testily asked chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Gil­roy whether he had thought of “tak­ing a con­sen­sus of opin­ion from staff about how they think you are per­form­ing as chief ex­ec­u­tive?” Pre­sum­ably, the re­sults of which could be broad­cast on Kent TV. Ouch.

SHOULD we be al­lowed to know how much Martin Ba­con, the man who abruptly left his job as the head of the quango charged with bring­ing jobs and homes to Ash­ford, earned? We be­lieve we should, so we asked SEEDA (South East Eng­land De­vel­op­ment Agency) un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act for de­tails of his earn­ings while man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Ash­ford’s Fu­ture. How­ever SEEDA, which em­ployed Mr Ba­con, has re­jected our re­quest, say­ing such in­for­ma­tion is ex­empt be­cause to re­lease it would con­tra­vene the Data Pro­tec­tion Act. But this seems rather odd. SEEDA al­ready places in the pub­lic do­main the earn­ings and pen­sion en­ti­tle­ments of its se­nior ex­ec­u­tives in its an­nual re­port. There, for ex­am­ple, you can learn that chief ex­ec­u­tive Pam Alexan­der earned £132,281 and en­joyed a bonus of £25,500 in 2005-2006. So why the se­crecy over Mr Ba­con?

OFF The Record has fol­lowed with in­ter­est the grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple who have signed a pe­ti­tion on the 10 Down­ing Street web­site call­ing for the na­tional an­them to be re­placed by the song Gold by the New Ro­man­tic band Span­dau Bal­let. In­trigu­ingly, a ru­mour has reached us that there is a se­nior county coun­cil­lor who might have an in­ter­est in this pe­ti­tion. The coun­cil­lor, a stylish sort, is said to have been a mem­ber of a band in the same 1980s mould. Any­one who can cast any light on this, or in­deed any pic­to­rial ev­i­dence, please do con­tact us. All in­for­ma­tion treated in strictest con­fi­dence, nat­u­rally...

WHY are some MPs try­ing to ex­empt Par­lia­ment from the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act? The move smacks of “one rule for them, one rule for us” and is rightly be­ing re­sisted by those who be­lieve our elected politi­cians should set an ex­am­ple when it comes to open­ness and ac­count­abil­ity. In­trigu­ingly, an at­tempt to change the Act was due to have taken place last week when a Private Mem­bers Bill was with­drawn. The Bill will come back on May 18 – by strange co-in­ci­dence, af­ter this week’s lo­cal elec­tions.

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