Much guff on the value of jaunts to for­eign lands

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Sounds Good -

OFF The Record has en­joyed leaf­ing through the lat­est KCC an­nual re­port that sets out all the good things to have tran­spired from its jaunts abroad – sorry, we mean “in­ter­na­tional ac­tiv­i­ties” – in 2007-08. In our view, there’s rather a lot of self-serv­ing jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for some of this ac­tiv­ity and an aw­ful lot of im­pen­e­tra­ble guff about sup­posed part­ner­ships and “out­comes”. De­spite ac­knowl­edg­ing that “main­tain­ing this out­ward­look­ing fo­cus will be a key chal­lenge” in the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate, we sus­pect KCC is un­likely to be scal­ing back much on trips to for­eign shores. Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Gil­roy is quoted in the re­port: “We must keep our doors open and let the fresh air of the global world in.” Who could pos­si­bly dis­agree with such breath­less prose as that.

THE ex­cite­ment is mount­ing. It is not long be­fore we dis­cover which of the short-listed de­signs for the “An­gel of The South” will get the nod from or­gan­is­ers of the Ebb­s­fleet Land­mark com­pe­ti­tion. The favourite for the north Kent site still ap­pears to be the mas­sive stand­ing white horse, pro­posed by Mark Wallinger. But what has hap­pened to the county coun­cil’s cam­paign to pro­mote its idea of a su­per-sized pranc­ing In­victa horse as an al­ter­na­tive? Since the or­gan­is­ers of the com­pe­ti­tion gen­tly poured cold wa­ter on the idea, not much has been heard of this ini­tia­tive. The dis­tinct im­pres­sion is that KCC has rather had to rein in – ex­cuse the pun – its am­bi­tions. How­ever, Off The Record can re­veal that so de­ter­mined was KCC to push its al­ter­na­tive de­sign that it drew up a far-reach­ing PR strat­egy to per­suade us what a grand idea it was. Among the many ideas floated, KCC pon­dered the idea of get­ting a Kent In­victa real horse and tak­ing it to var­i­ous pub­lic lo­ca­tions in Kent. It also mused on whether to have a Spot The White Horse com­pe­ti­tion. But our favourite wheeze was the one for “some guer­rilla mar­ket­ing” that sketched out the idea of per­suad­ing a uni­ver­sity art depart­ment to cre­ate an or­ganic spray horse sten­cil, which – rather like a Banksy paint­ing – would pre­sum­ably have ap­peared at var­i­ous ru­ral lo­ca­tions mys­te­ri­ously overnight. Yes, we know what you’re think­ing. There re­ally are peo­ple em­ployed at KCC to dream up this kind of thing.

STILL, it’s a good job that Eurostar’s de­ci­sion to res­ur­rect a di­rect ser­vice from Ash­ford to Brus­sels came when it did. The an­nounce­ment in July has al­lowed KCC to claim, in its re­port on “in­ter­na­tional ac­tiv­i­ties”, that it as a “key mile­stone” on the in­ter­na­tional front.

IT MAY not be on quite the same scale as the re­sent­ment Gor­don Brown faces from fac­tions in his own party. But there’s no doubt­ing a sense of rest­less­ness among some Con­ser­va­tive back­bench county coun­cil­lors at the way KCC is han­dling the de­par­ture of rather a lot of se­nior of­fi­cers from its en­vi­ron­ment and re­gen­er­a­tion direc­torate. Lib Dem leader Trudy Dean com­plained that if any other or­gan­i­sa­tion had suf­fered the de­par­ture of so many key of­fi­cers within a mat­ter of weeks without any ap­par­ent strat­egy to fill them, it might be rea­son­able to say they were in free fall. You might have ex­pected Con­ser­va­tive back­benchers to have protested loudly. As it was, a few ap­peared to nod re­gret­fully in agree­ment.

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