Race against time to make Olympics year

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OFF THE RECORD - by Paul Francis

Be­hind the scenes at County Hall with our po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor How many politi­cians does it take to change a light bulb? An­swer: Politi­cians don’t change light bulbs, they pre­fer to keep us in the dark

YOU could never call the team driv­ing the county coun­cil’s Olympic strat­egy for­ward pes­simists. Top of their list of fa­cil­i­ties that might be used as pre-Games train­ing camps is Ash­ford’s Stour Cen­tre. Given the de­lays that have blighted this re­build­ing scheme, let’s hope it ac­tu­ally opens be­fore 2012...

NOTH­ING has been left to chance when it comes to re­build­ing Ash­ford’s ring road to the high­est stan­dards. In the quest to en­sure that only the best ma­te­ri­als were used, a group of of­fi­cials from Ash­ford coun­cil and KCC trav­elled to Bel­gium in March 2005 to look at “floorscape paving ex­am­ples,” we learn from a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest. Ob­vi­ously the range at B&Q was deemed too poor.

EVER won­dered how many light bulbs there are in the county coun­cil’s vast of­fice es­tate? If you have, don’t ex­pect to find out. Op­po­si­tion Labour coun­cil­lor Les Christie tabled a ques­tion de­mand­ing to know how many light bulbs KCC was re­spon­si­ble for and how many were en­ergy-ef­fi­cient. How­ever, Con­ser­va­tive fi­nance spokesman Nick Chard told him that with 1,200 build­ings spread across the county “it would be im­prac­ti­cal to count the num­ber in thou­sands of rooms and cor­ri­dors.” All of which re­minds Off The Record of a favourite joke. How many politi­cians does it take to change a light bulb? An­swer: Politi­cians don’t change light bulbs, they pre­fer to keep us in the dark. (We sup­pose KCC could have called in the con­sul­tants to do this ex­er­cise but as ev­ery­one knows, con­sul­tants never get past the fea­si­bil­ity study.)

WE FEEL pretty con­fi­dent that David Wil­letts, the Con­ser­va­tive party’s ed­u­ca­tion spokesman, won’t ex­actly be rush­ing to take up an in­vi­ta­tion by KCC leader Paul Carter to visit the county to see, in his words, how well the gram­mar schools sys­tem works. Off The Record can tes­tify that the mere men­tion of Mr Wil­letts’ name to Kent Tories will in­duce a pained ex­pres­sion and an un­com­fort­able gri­mace af­ter he an­nounced the party no longer sup­ported new grammars. But what about the cam­paign group STEP (Stop The Eleven Plus)? We ask chief STEP ag­i­ta­tor Martin Frey if he is con­tem­plat­ing join­ing the party. “It’s tempt­ing but I don’t think so.” How­ever, we hear STEP is pre­par­ing to send its new and un­likely ally an ap­pli­ca­tion form to join them.

WHO said our coun­cil­lors were fuddy-dud­dies? Coun­cil leader Paul Carter popped up on Ra­dio 1 no less to talk about the gram­mar school row. Sadly, he wasn’t pressed on what on what he thought of McFly’s new chart-top­ping sin­gle.

EX­CIT­ING news from Kent County Coun­cil’s ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment. A press re­lease de­clares that Kent is “on top of the world with global award” af­ter beat­ing off as­sorted cor­po­rate ti­tans in­clud­ing BP and Hewlett Packard – along with the might of the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment, no less – to clinch a sought-af­ter award for its school build­ing pro­gramme. The award has been pre­sented by the world’s largest de­sign firm Glenser, which has judged KCC’s pro­gramme for re­build­ing schools to be wor­thy of its an­nual “world­wide strat­egy and de­sign award.” And just who is Glenser? That would be the com­pany KCC has con­tracted to help de­sign its pro­gramme for re­build­ing schools, of course.

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