Don’t shoot the messenger on expenses
County councillors backpedalled almost as fast as Tour de France winner Chris Froome charging up Mount Ventoux over a plan to increase their travel expenses. Voting against the recommendation last week meant they escaped an even worse public relations car crash than they might have done. That they came to their senses was probably seeing and reading the reaction of ordinary voters to the idea. Perhaps inevitably there were a few digs at the media coverage which played a part in triggering the about-turn. County council leader Paul Carter bemoaned the fact that debate on the whole issue of pay for politicians was impossible because any time it got raised, the media went into “snouts in the trough” mode. A case of shooting the messenger.
IT was left to the outspoken Cllr Jeremy Kite, also the leader of Dartford council, to deliver the unpalatable truth to his colleagues – namely, it was nobody’s fault but their own and the media was only doing what was to be expected. But even he sneaked in a dig in the ribs, cheekily claiming it must have been “a quiet news week.”
THE real question is how on earth the idea of bumping up their mileage rates by 45% ever got so far. The wrangle has been going on for close to two years and the word from Off The Record’s usual impeccable sources is that officers were instructed to go away and “sort it out.” Perhaps it was their revenge.
KENT’s first Green county councillor Martin Whybrow has not yet been won round to the rather arcane and impenetrable ways the authority operates. He was distinctly unimpressed by the full council meeting, tweeting after: “Long day of full council meeting, often rather unedifying spectacle, too much political point scoring in preference to proper debate.” Welcome to the world of town hall politics.
INSTEAD of contemplating a hike in their expenses, maybe KCC should be taking a leaf out its district colleagues in Canterbury. There, the council is considering reducing the number of councillors from 50 to 38. Why? One reason is that it has handed over many services to other groups to run and as a result “there has been a reduction in the business dealt with through the council’s decision making process which means that it could continue to function effectively with a reduced size.” Exactly what County Hall is preparing to do in its latest bout of belt-tightening.
SOME County Hall insiders have been commenting on the increasingly friendly relationship between Conservative leader Paul Carter and the UKIP opposition Roger Latchford, who used to be a Conservative. The political “bromance” has not found favour among all members in both parties. Nevertheless, having the opposition leader onside – or at least supportive – is not a bad strategy for the Conservative administration, given its slender majority.
FOLLOW Paul on Twitter @PaulOnPolitics and read his blog at www.kentonline.co.uk for all the latest Kent political news.
‘Long day of full council meeting, often rather unedifying spectacle’
Political Editor Paul Francis