Saturday, 26 July 2014

'LABOUR REBEL, MADE IN CHELSEA': PREPOSTERITY


The pure idiocy of it is irresistible to comment upon, though being name-checked in the Daily Hate Mail is hardly my proudest moment. Two weeks ago, Andrew Pierce, amidst nose-snorting laughs, accused me of being a ‘Labour rebel, made in Chelsea’.

Now, I was ‘Made in Chelsea’, really, here I am in front of my house in Paulton’s Square (above).

Click to enlarge, if you really must
The other matter (his words on my tombstone, left) I will refute. Like most of the K&C Opposition Labour Group I have come to politics via another career which I am still active in; I am no career politician. So unlike the drones, clones, worker bees, back-bench ballast, political ladder-climbers and front-bench hoggers who are prevalent among much of national and local politics, I believe in the democratic system. So if I think the Mansion Tax in its proposed form is unworkable, I will say so, and if my colleagues agree (which they do) I will say so publicly. in the Evening Standard if I can, and it matters not who conceived it.

I know this is pretty radical stuff, so do sit down before I continue.

Call me an old romantic if you wish, but I still believe that policy should reflect what people think, and politicians should respond to their concerns. Politics, not only ON the doorstep, but FROM the doorstep.

When people say ‘you work for the Council’, I say ‘no, the Council works for me, and I work for you’. Councillors (and MPs) are public servants. We may have been through various professions and training that helps us work our way through the labyrinthine and deliberately obfuscated system of Council decision-making - that is a useful skill - but we are the instrument of the electorate, whether they vote for us personally or not, and not of our political parties.

This is why (put your fingers in your ears now you Tories) residents come to us with their concerns, whoever they are, wherever they are from. Along with my colleagues I will always go the extra mile for people who are more vulnerable, confused, disadvantaged or who for some reason find it difficult to speak out for themselves. But we are there to mediate between residents and the Council, whoever they are, even articulate but ignored and angry Tory voters.

Thus, I see no problem whatever stating in the Evening Standard that the Mansion Tax as currently envisaged would not work in K&C, I don’t see how it possibly can be fair given the totally preposterous housing market in K&C, and many residents are extremely worried about it.

It’s part of the job to speak out.

And you Tories still snort-laughing through your noses – watch out, we are working with YOUR voters. You know this is true, after witnessing several hundred of your natural voters cheering on the Labour Group at Council this year. Oh dear.

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While on the subject of public service and preposterity, it may be a good time to remind ourselves that the Council is NOT a business but a public service.

Thus, when we are selecting organisations to work with our most vulnerable residents – children with Special Educational Needs – we must think of their needs first, and not our own profit or pleasure. Especially when we, as we are in K&C, so awash with money that we cannot be bothered to invest our Reserves, not even the teensie £100m we don't need for capital projects for five years. Thereby losing cc£12m over say five years in potential INTEREST. But 'Marie Antoinette-like' we still find the cash for the overrunning Arts Strategy - opera, multi-million pound museum refits, long-horned cows, 'n' all.

The disgraceful and avoidable disaster of the SEN Transport Contract has already been discussed in Private Eye and The Guardian [Guardian on SEN Transport fiasco], and will soon get further coverage. But for those who may have missed it, this is the story of three Councils ‘working together’ in an attempt to save an unbelievable 50% of the costs of the contract for picking up our most vulnerable and idiosyncratic and often brilliant but poorly AND OFTEN FUN AND FUNNY children, taking them to school or daycare, and home again at the end of the day. The ‘new cheap’ contract began in April, and there were problems from day one as revealed at the committee meeting at H&F  [Notes of Meeting on SEN Transport, H&F 8.7.14]. 

Did anybody pause to think, maybe the previous cost of SEN Transport was 'best value'? No. No more fun for our precious children; just daily f***-ups.

We are told that in Westminster there have been few if any issues, but in H&F as you will gather from the documents, it has been frankly disastrous. One child could have died, and if any child comes to any harm from this moment onwards, K&C Council must take the consequences.

At a specially convened Council Meeting to discuss the matter last week, the Tory Whip, bored of hearing some home truths from outraged parents in the Public Gallery, told them to ‘SHUT UP’.

Now Mr Whip, or ‘Cllr Shut-Up’ as he has been re-named, just imagine for a moment that one of your children was in this situation and subjected to appalling treatment every single day. Would you sit and listen to the drivel the Cabinet Member was expounding, or would you lose it, just a bit? As for the other Conservative Councillor, who accused the Labour Group in the most repellent terms of making political capital of what was (to him evidently) a minor matter, in case you didn't realise, some members of the public felt physically sickened at your comments and had to leave the Chamber. Yes you, the one your colleagues call 'Lord Voldemort'. Shame on you.

You will never, ever be allowed to forget what happened to SEN Transport, or your appalling conduct at Council. That’s a promise.

Along with the transcript of the meeting between parents, officers, and – love them – the new Labour team in charge of H&F, plus the Minutes of the Special Council meeting last Thursday, plus all the upcoming press coverage, this will go down in -















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