The third en­ve­lope

The Wokingham Paper - - VIEWPOINTS - TONY JOHN­SON caveat.lec­tor@icloud.com

STU­DENTS of His­tory and Pol­i­tics un­der­stand that there’s times when change isn’t just needed, it’s in­evitable. Com­par­ing some of the UK’s most cel­e­brated lead­ers:

Lloyd-Ge­orge (Lib) who up un­til the Paris Pace con­fer­ence could do no wrong, and after which could do no right;

Churchill (Nat) who up un­til the end of WW2 held the coun­try to­gether through its dark­est hour, yet im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards was booted out;

At­tlee (Lab) whose huge ma­jor­ity in 1945 led him to be­come the ar­chi­tect of modern Bri­tain, yet whose po­lit­i­cal ex­haus­tion just six years later be­queathed a party split that con­tin­ues to­day.

Thatcher (Con) who as a prac­ti­cal so­cial­ist had re­formed the worst of the wel­fare state, un­til she was “sav­aged by a dead sheep” - re­sign­ing just fif­teen days after Ge­of­frey Howe’s speech.

And though it can’t be proved, it seems the seeds of their great­ness were those of their down­fall too.

Get­ting Ad­vice

Change in pol­i­tics isn’t just re­stricted to the UK and there’s a story re­gard­ing Brezh­nev suc­ceed­ing Kr­uschev in the USSR, prob­a­bly apoc­ryphal.

Get­ting to the Gen­eral Sec­re­tary’s desk in the Krem­lin, Brezh­nev opened one of the draw­ers and found three en­velopes with Kr­uschev’s spi­dery hand­writ­ing on them say­ing ‘to be opened in the event of the first cri­sis’; sec­ond cri­sis; third cri­sis and so on.

Putting them back and for­get­ting all about them, they only came to mind a year later when there was a cri­sis. Open­ing the first one, Kr­uschev’s ad­vice was sim­ple ‘Blame your pre­de­ces­sor’. Brezh­nev did and the cri­sis disappeared.

The next cri­sis two years later there was no hes­i­ta­tion. Open­ing the sec­ond en­ve­lope, the ad­vice was even sim­pler - ‘Re­or­gan­ise’. Lo and be­hold, the cri­sis went away, al­beit slowly.

Decades passed and it was in fail­ing health that Brezh­nev or­dered the third en­ve­lope brought to him. His heart gave out when he read Kr­uschev’s last piece of ad­vice : ‘Pre­pare three en­velopes’.

The point is sim­ple - get­ting as well as giv­ing good ad­vice when you’re leader can be re­ally, re­ally, dif­fi­cult.

Beg­ging your par­don …

The twice-re­or­gan­ised Ex­ec­u­tive Team were pretty much all present at last week’s Exec Meeting, as were the Lib­eral Demo­crat op­po­si­tion to ask ques­tions. The Labour ques­tioner was ab­sent.

The scene was set - al­though set for what wasn’t quite as clear as usual, since the In­terim CEO had parted com­pany with WBC ear­lier in the week some­what sud­denly.

Be­tween the pub­lic (that’s us) and the mem­bers (your coun­cil­lors), there was a range of ques­tions con­cern­ing: a street lamp, a railway bridge, busi­ness rates, de­sign of new houses, park­ing, drilling, cy­cle­ways, waste charges, and over­spends (x3).

Par­don, you’re beg­ging …

The first ques­tion could well have been ‘how many peo­ple at Shute End does it take to change a light-bulb’ ? as the first an­niver­sary of the un­lit street lamp was only days away.

The sec­ond was about re­plac­ing the tem­po­rary Tan Hill railway bridge - a mat­ter so old the an­swer came by steam. Still, at least one of Wok­ing­ham’s railway bridges won a na­tional award last month (for a model railway).

Not­ing that even Con­ser­va­tive min­is­ters had ad­vised against charg­ing for DIY house­hold waste, one Lib Dem ques­tioner asked “when Re3 will be tak­ing ad­vice … and ceas­ing mak­ing th­ese charges which, as you know, may well be un­law­ful?”

This pro­duced the cu­ri­ous but ir­rel­e­vant re­sponse that “Re3 does not charge for house­hold waste, so your ques­tion is in­cor­rect” be­fore stat­ing that WBC “have in­tro­duced charges for the dis­posal of non­house­hold waste, such as soil, rub­ble and so on”.

An­swer­ing the sup­ple­men­tary ques­tion, after a long list of ma­te­ri­als that sure sounded like DIY waste, WBC’s Min­is­ter for Waste ex­plained that they were all classed as in­dus­trial waste, there­fore charge­able.

His an­swer went on to make po­lit­i­cal com­par­isons with two Lib­eral con­trolled / in­flu­enced coun­cils – Corn­wall and Portsmouth – who also charge for DIY waste.

What wasn’t men­tioned in all this com­par­a­tive pol­i­tics was that there’s no charge for DIY waste at Con­ser­va­tive run Northamp­ton­shire coun­cil (up to four trips in 60 days). Mind you, Northamp­ton­shire ef­fec­tively de­clared them­selves bank­rupt in Fe­bru­ary this year, their Leader re­signed in March, then ‘left the Con­ser­va­tive party’ in Au­gust. Their Cab­i­net Mem­ber for Fi­nance was sacked after he’d re­fused to re­sign.

Over­spent and Running Late

Po­si­tioned last, it ap­peared the three over­spends were the big ques­tions of the night.

The news in Peo­ple Ser­vices was that the 2017 over­spend of £1.204M had now been separated. Ques­tions on the over­spends

(£0.8M Adult Ser­vices and £0.996M Chil­dren Ser­vices) were an­swered by their re­spec­tive Ex­ec­u­tive Mem­bers. While the sep­a­ra­tion was en­light­en­ing, the an­swers weren’t.

The an­swer to the Mar­ket Place over­spend ques­tion made it clear that the £400k of ‘con­tin­gency’ had been spent, also that an ex­tra £370k spend was in dis­pute.

Dis­cus­sions then moved on to other mat­ters, in­clud­ing the

Lo­cal Plan Up­date where the new sched­ule showed that Wok­ing­ham’s Lo­cal Plan would go to the

Sec­re­tary of State in Spring 2021 for ap­proval.

Com­pared to 2016’s sched­ule, this is now running two-and-a-half years late.

And well after the lo­cal elec­tions in 2019 and 2020.

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