Off the Record With po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor PAUL FRAN­CIS

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Letters And Opinion -

One of the un­solved mys­ter­ies about this week’s test of the gov­ern­ment’s plan to use Manston air­port in Thanet as a Brexit emer­gency lorry park is not why so few hauliers turned up.

Ob­servers were left scratch­ing their heads over the pres­ence of a coun­cil rub­bish lorry among the con­voy of HGVS.

Did it get caught up by mis­take? Or had it fin­ished its round early and seen the op­por­tu­nity to make a lit­tle money on the side? Or had it been bad­gered into tak­ing part to boost num­bers?

Yes, Brexit plans are im­por­tant but we need to know.

n The Depart­ment for Trans­port rather pre­dictably down­played con­cerns that too few lor­ries took part in the trial to learn ter­ri­bly much about what would hap­pen in re­al­ity.

Of­fi­cials em­pha­sised they were “com­pletely sat­is­fied” by the num­bers turn­ing out - maybe one rea­son was that the low turnout meant the over­all bill for pay­ing hauliers £550 came in un­der bud­get.

No doubt in time we will get de­tails of a tech­ni­cal anal­y­sis and con­clu­sions from what of­fi­cials usu­ally de­scribe as a “wash up”.

Or maybe we won’t: the gov­ern­ment may feel dis­in­clined to share its con­clu­sions if they raise ques­tions about the vi­a­bil­ity of the emer­gency plan.

The DFT has proved to be re­sis­tant to re­leas­ing Brexit-re­lated ac­tiv­ity un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act, of­ten ar­gu­ing that to put in­for­ma­tion about op­er­a­tional ac­tiv­i­ties in the pub­lic do­main is not in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

One ques­tion that does arise is whether there are any plans to trial the M20 con­tra-flow plan should there be de­lays at the chan­nel port.

Given that High­ways Eng­land has in­di­cated that it could take up to 12 days to im­ple­ment, maybe they won’t.

n What has hap­pened to the re­view of the 11-plus that Kent County Coun­cil said it would carry out after it emerged - sur­prise sur­prise - that some fee-pay­ing in­de­pen­dent prep schools coached their pupils to pass the exam - some­thing that is not per­mit­ted in Kcc-run schools? The short an­swer is not much. Or if it has made progress, there’s been no pub­lic re­port about it.

n Fol­low Paul Fran­cis on Twit­ter @ Paulon­pol­i­tics for all the lat­est po­lit­i­cal news and gos­sip from across Kent and Med­way.

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