The strong wind proved to be an absolute nightmare over Southend airport this afternoon. ‘Under the hood’ and on instruments only, the experience is on a par with riding a ‘rib’-inflatable at speed in choppy water. Keeping the tolerances required to create neat holding patterns and precise descent rates at exact speeds was more like a wrestling match with an octopus.
Meanwhile, the distracting buzzing in my pocket reminds me that I have forgotten to turn my ‘Blackberry’ off and back on the ground, I discover a series of emails from Michael Child, giving me a hard time over last night’s Cabinet meeting decisions on Pleasurama and the Ramsgate Museum, news of which you can find on his excellent press release aggregation site at http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/.
I’m new to Cabinet meetings and at present I'm learning the ropes from watching and listening to the exchanges in the council chamber. Last night’s meeting however prompts me to share a few observations:
From a Local Government perspective what is good and what is necessary are often not quite the same. People call and correspond with me and tell me what the council should do, because they firmly believe its right, even if the dictionary of rules and regulations which governs us has no entry for their particular problem. Invariably and in the present economic situation, councils are now having to do what is necessary. In other words, facing record unemployment and a public sector funding catastrophe, still being denied today by the Prime Minister, councils are rightly doing everything to ensure that essential services can continue to operate without interruption while giving every possible impetus to a hard-pressed local economy.
In distinguishing the good from the necessary, Cllr Wise, did last night make an astute observation, when he suggested, that on occasions and for the benefit of public confidence, we may sometimes have to choose the good over the necessary. Flower beds may be an example of this, in that the council may be cutting back on the number of flower beds or closing public toilets (that are being constantly vandalised) to save public money for other more pressing priorities but sometimes concessions have to be made for public opinion.
The second thing I noticed yesterday, is that our Labour opposition don’t present a sense of being, well, Labour! Instead I have a mental image of a new political group that would prefer the public to think of them as local personalities, Clive and Iris and David perhaps, each doing laudable ward work. This may be preferable than associating themselves politically with the likes of the Labour Party of Gordon Brown, Hazel Blears or Shahid Malik. In a way this is illustrated by a flurry of releases appearing telling us how hard they are working! There’s almost a sense of a General Election in the air but not quite!
What did strike me was a sense of denial over the state of our economy This was some way short of Dr Ladyman’s persistent “You’ve never had it so good” mantra but having to be reminded that as a society, we are all 'up the creek' without the proverbial paddle and that our grandchildren will be burdened with the debts of the last twelve months.
With a hundred thousand people a month being made redundant and little to suggest that unemployment will not rise above 3million next year, you can, if you like, choose to believe that the Conservatives are the ‘Nasty Party’. At least however, there’s an attempt to be honest and pragmatic about the mess we are in and if you don’t believe me, then listen to the LibDem’s Vince Cable as an independent voice of reason. If you think it's getting tough now, then you haven't seen anything yet because we haven't really felt the impact of the public sector financial crisis; only the first ripples of the incoming Tsunami!
I wrote a couple of weeks ago, that here in Thanet, the headline issues involve dealing with a growing burden of deprivation, unemployment and homelessness, triggered by the downturn in the economy. The problems associated with this are visible in eight of the wards in Thanet and when it comes down to our local policy, I like to think that like my Conservative cabinet colleagues, I’m a realist and while supporting some ideas which are intrinsically good I’m more concerned at present, with shrinking budgets and delivering what’s necessary to help the more vulnerable people of Thanet through this national crisis.