Hart of the Matter
On a day when, according to legend, women have the right to propose marriage to the man of their choice – as if anyone would dare to assert against their rights to do anything nowadays – it seems a good opportunity to look at the opposite, in the form of a proposal for divorce.
It was made, or, more accurately, implied at this month’s Haverhill Town Council meeting, when a councillor asked what we have to do to break the bond which ties Haverhill to St Edmundsbury borough and Suffolk county.
It was a reasonable enough request when you consider that almost every issue which frustrates and irritates councillors and residents in Haverhill at all levels, turns out, on closer inspection, to be the work of St Edmundsbury Borough Council or Suffolk County Council, or both.
I was, of course, unsurprised at the recent axing of Haverhill Area Working Party, affectionately known as HAWP, the only official forum involving the borough and county which met in the town. I predicted it last autumn, but can take no credit for that as it was a prediction which did not require any clairvoyant powers.
I did not think anything that St Edmundsbury did would surprise me, but I have to confess to a small degree of being taken unawares at the blatant way in which the borough failed to support in any way efforts to improve the transport corridor from Haverhill to Cambridge.
This emerged at the same town council meeting. We had heard some weeks earlier how the City Deal initiative in Cambridgeshire had decided not to contribute towards either a rail link or an A1307 dualling proposal, finding them both to be ‘poor value for money’.
It was disappointing and short-sighted from a county which will soon be relying on Haverhill to provide a large amount of housing for its rapidly growing workforce, particularly at Addenbrookes Hospital.
But the evidence for these schemes put before the officers and councillors making this decision has not been divulged, and it emerged from one of our county and borough councillors that, on investigation, he had found that St Edmundsbury’s officers had made no effort at all to lay any case before Cambridgeshire to support either. Neither, he thought, had Suffolk.
If this is true, it amounts to the grossest dereliction by both authorities on probably the most vital issue affecting Haverhill and its future. We have now heard that Cambridgeshire is interested in supporting in principle, if not in cash, at least the dualling of the A1307.
This statement has come out probably as a sort of defence against the protests about their initial assessment of both proposals, but it isn’t really Cambridgeshire who need to defend themselves. They, after all, came up with both possible solutions to the problems of this transport corridor in the draft of their Transport Plan a few years ago.
They, at least, can see what needs to be done, even if, with all the many calls on their resources, they cannot actually do it.
But from the moment that draft Transport Plan became public, the negativity from both St Edmundsbury and Suffolk has been palpable. Why? Because the last thing either of them wants is that Haverhill should be pulled any more towards Cambridge and start to benefit further from that magnetic attraction.
St Edmundsbury and Suffolk, as I have expressed before and people don’t believe it, have a map of the world which stops at their western border, just beyond Haverhill. At that point there is just a big white space and the words, in neat officer script, ‘here be dragons’.
It makes them think that Haverhill on the very edge of the known world, like Pluto to the Solar System. Sadly for them, the theory that the world revolves around Ipswich or Bury St Edmunds is about as true as Ptolemy’s that the Sun revolved around the Earth.
In fact, Haverhill is much closer to the known world than they are, and therefore, if all things were equal and it was a level playing field, would be as much more successful than they.
To be that, Haverhill needs equivalent infrastructure to the railway and the A14 which serve them and it might then eclipse both. This, of course, is unthinkable, and must be thwarted at all costs.
Some will say the officers were just slow and had their eye off the ball when the opportunity came. If you believe that you’ll also believe that the Prime Minister had nothing to do with the civil service being told not to assist Out campaigners in the European Referendum – and if you believe that you’ll believe anything and there is no help for you.
But this big failure by both authorities, coupled with St Edmundsbury’s axing of HAWP on the grounds that it didn’t do anything, after they had spent the last four years slyly winding down its agenda so that it couldn’t do anything, has led people to wonder if there is any benefit at all in the town being linked to these pointless monoliths.
Hence the divorce proposal – or rather the inquiry about how we got married in the first place, like the girl who woke up in bed with a hippopotamus and surmised she must have had a fair amount to drink last night…. I won’t complete the joke.
That Local Government Act of 1974 has a fair bit to answer for. Surprisingly, 1974 was not a leap year so it can’t have been passed on February 29.