Much guff on the value of jaunts to foreign lands
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.