Don’t shoot the messenger on ex­penses

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Countryfile -

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.ken­ton­ for all the lat­est Kent po­lit­i­cal news.

‘Long day of full coun­cil meet­ing, of­ten rather uned­i­fy­ing spec­ta­cle’

Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor Paul Fran­cis

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