Home Page Golden rules to keep feet out of mouths in Bury St Edmunds 04/07/14

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Hart of the Matter

With all the sporting fever which is unavoidable at this time of year, however disappointing or triumphant the results may be, there is the inevitable moment when people pick their fantasy team of the tournament, of the year, or of all time.


It’s a nice opportunity to let your imagination range, and this week I have been using a similar instinct along more cinematic lines, by putting together a fantasy cast for a film which, at the moment, would be easy to script.


It is under the working title of ‘Carry On Carping’ and it follows the everyday intrigues of local government folk, producing a series of hilarious moments and quite a few politically incorrect sideswipes.


In it the leader of an affluent middle class borough council – played, hopefully, by the late great Kenneth Williams – looks down his ample nose on the efforts of a much smaller, working class town council, led by its mayor, for whom I have pencilled in Sid James.


There are a variety of other characters. There’s the outspoken deputy mayor (Barbara Windsor), there’s the new chap who’s just been elected and is still a bit naive (Jim Dale), and there’s the deputy leader of the borough council, played by Hattie Jacques (Oh Matron!).


Then there’s the little chap who keeps changing sides, always manages to say the wrong thing at the wrong time and imagines he has been misunderstood (Kenneth Connor), and the ambitious aspirant who tries to have a foot in both camps but has to keep an eye open for the main chance when it comes to voting (Joan Sims) – oh, and the big bloke (Bernard Bresslaw).


There are one or two other characters who make up the numbers, but I don’t have to cast them because they never actually appear.


I think it’s a neat little story and will sustain well for 90 minutes of knockabout fun. Of course, all these characters are completely fictitious and any resemblance to any real people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


The biggest problem I face is that there are quite a few people around at the moment who might find it offensive, so I am unlikely to be able to raise the cash. There was Government money made available for projects which engage residents more with political issues and local government generally, but it is being withheld by the funding body which was supposed to distribute it, to help subsidise their running costs.


Of course, anyone who was hanging on to cash in the face of some sort of grass roots campaign, might be likely to find the subject matter of the film a bit close to the knuckle. But those who were losing out in such a situation might also argue quite effectively that it isn’t very funny in real life.


And it isn’t. The current situation, for example (and in no way connected with the above, I hasten to add) between St Edmundsbury and Haverhill Town Council is not funny because it demonstrates as clearly as anything could the disconnect which exists between the two largest communities in the borough.


For all that the borough talks about its determination to work with partners to improve the quality of life for all its residents, its actions speak louder than its words.


My father often used to quote a line from the American philosopher Emmerson to the effect that ‘the more they talked of their integrity, the faster I counted the silver spoons’. Sadly, this is reflected at Bury at present, I imagine for political reasons in the run-up to next year’s elections.


There’s an irony in the way in which some people call for the removal of politics from lower levels of local government like town councils. There should be no politics involved in the town council, they sermonise, and with the next breath pillory the Tories on the town council for supporting the petition which was handed in on Monday because it was started by Labour councillors.


But what St Edmundsbury leader John Griffiths and his foot-in-mouth ‘carping’ comment have shown is that it goes deeper than politics. I know Cllr Griffiths to be a decent chap who really believes he has been prioritising Haverhill with success, and sending millions down the A143.


As I have said many times before, he and his colleagues just cannot understand the attitude of Haverhill Town Council. In dearth of any other explanation, they put it down to politics. That’s all it must be, they think.


So he tells the town council publicly that, with all due respect etc, etc, they are not Haverhill. This is during a debate about a petition signed by more people in Haverhill than have probably ever heard of his borough council before.


They must be imagining that these people were not canvassed fairly, or did not have the full information to take a sensible view – anything to avoid looking at the elephant in the room, which is that they just don’t get it. Cllr Griffiths is not alone. On the national stage people accuse David Cameron of the same disconnect.


It is probably pointless, particularly after former town clerk Will Austin’s parting shot at a borough council meeting earlier in the year, but I’ll try again to put forward a couple of golden rules.


1 You CANNOT spend money on providing things in Bury St Edmunds and claim that they, in ANY way, are a provision for people in Haverhill. Therefore, you MUST realise the Apex is a massive drain on Haverhill council tax payers for nil return.


2 You CANNOT keep referring back to earlier provisions, particularly when some of them were not only windfall, but have caused as many problems as they have addressed, ie the cinema complex.


3 You CANNOT continually axe stuff in Haverhill and expect residents to just put up with it and not seek other forms of provision via the precept.


4 (and this is a new one because even I have never heard anyone have the gall to try this argument publicly before) You CANNOT work on an expectation that Haverhill people should be grateful for you just carrying out statutory duties like collecting our rubbish. That, I’m sorry to say, was just pathetic, demeaning and unworthy of both leader and council.

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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