It’s often said in politics you set your stall out, be positive and don’t go negative. Conservative controlled Forest Heath District Council has an outstanding track record and has delivered quality services, reorganizing its back office, halved its staff numbers and thus been able to deliver 5 years of 0% council tax increases. Our Local Conservative manifesto is full of good ideas for our community from our carefully worked out plan for a 4 year freeze of the Council tax, making it a record 9 year freeze alongside investment in our area such as a new public services hub in Mildenhall to include new state of the art sports facilities, so there is much to be positive about.
Recently there is a national story about did this politician or that politician rewrite their own wikipiedia entry, well they could do worse that read my wards local UKIP leaflet as a masterclass in editing your own track record, and sometimes you read things from the opposition that are just so ‘poor form’ that they need to be countered, so that residents can judge what is being said and promised.
The candidate in question is called Cowboy, no seriously, not getting myself into hot water, he is listed as on the notice of those standing, as ‘Cowboy’ which will appear as his first name on the ballot paper. He is a former Conservative whom we asked to leave the party after he refused to attend a selection interview for the previous district election, something all other candidates did including myself and indeed the Leader of the Council at the time. I know this because I was then the Vice President of the Conservative Association and on the agenda for his interview was to discuss his suitability as a candidate given his inability to work with his fellow Conservative Councillors and to seek his undertaking that we would not be printing his own election material, stop making promises he could not deliver and had not been discussed with the rest of the group and that he would take an active part in the group discussions on its manifesto, all things that had been a problem with him before. So at the last District election he stood as an Independent, just beat my running mate and thus became my fellow ward Councillor and now he apparently is a candidate for UKIP, hey anything for a vote!
Over the past 4 years on the District Council I have heard him speak twice at full council, once to vote against the creation of the shared services agreement that has saved millions of pounds in the running costs of the council, the only Councillor who did so, even Labour and the Liberal saw the sense of what was being proposed.
The second was when he banged his Stetson down on the table in front of him and stormed out when the Council unanimously, apart from him, voted in favour of providing something called the ‘People’s Project’ in our village with assistance. He had earlier handed round a hand written note and plan, not tabled a motion having gone through the due process so Councillors could have time to considered the matter before the meeting, no just 5 minutes before the meeting, in which he wanted his fellow Councillors to reject the request for assistance and to support him to knock down the building the People’s Project team was proposing to try to buy (to extend facilities at the Lakenheath Village Hall) and to turn it into a car park. To date the People’s Project has purchased the building and are busy fund-raising to renovate it.
In the past 4 years he has sat on the planning committee as ward member, apart from that role I have not seen him propose one single policy idea to the council, beyond the for-mentioned note. He has never attended any of the Audit Committee meetings I am Chairman of, I have never heard him ask a single question in any meeting other than a planning meeting. In the 3 or so years the Council has had a cabinet, I have never seen him attend a single cabinet meeting, I attend most. Seems to me, if you are going to ask people to elect you to represent them then surely you have to occasionally turn up and actually take part in council business.
But what is even more bizarre with his leaflet is that of course he did once have a more substantial role on the Council, but seems to have omitted this from his leaflet.
Once he was the Chairman of the Local Plan Working Group. Maybe the omission is because on that committee he approved the housing numbers for Lakenheath that were adopted as a part of the Local Development Plan Core Strategy document, at one meeting he said and it was witnessed, that if Newmarket could not take the 1,200 hundred new homes that at the time were being proposed for a particular location, then Lakenheath could.
Now you might say so what, but you see the UKIP Leaflet talks about his opposition to the housing numbers being considered in the village!
But it gets worse!
The leaflet also says the Parish Council is ‘frequently ignored’ by the District Council when it comes to planning matters, yet 3 years ago the Parish Council which Cowboy chairs wanted to know how they could have more control over where the housing numbers for the village should go and over the type of infrastructure that would come as a result. FHDC Senior Planning Officers attended the Parish Council and a presentation was given, explaining that in the planning system if the Parish Council produced what is called a Neighbourhood Plan document in a particular way they could do precisely that, now these things are expensive because of the process that has to be gone through, about £25,000 but grants may be forthcoming to help (the council had over £150,000 in its reserves at the time). Some of the members on the council wanted to commission a plan but the idea was rejected by Cowboy’s controlling group. As the planning applications have flowed in, the Parish Council have felt fustrated they don’t have more say and again his group have voted through, getting a Barristers opinion on what they can do. To date according to the records of the Parish they have spend over £10,000 and rising on that opinion. Whilst I am not party to the advice received, I suspect it will be telling them that they should have got themselves one of those Neighbourhood Plans!
You could not make this stuff up! So the local ward UKIP leaflet claims to be against the housing numbers yet one of their candidate was front and centre in agreeing the housing numbers. Their leaflet says the Parish Council is being ignored and it should control where and what is built and infrastructure provided, yet their candidates was front and centre in rejecting the mechanism to do precisely that.
But hey anything for a vote!