A crisis that’s not going away

By Keith Newbery

Friday, January 10, 2014


A crisis that’s not going away

The pigeons are coming home to roost at County Hall.

THIS ISLAND LIFE AT the local election count last May, there was a vague whiff of moral and intellectual superiority in the air. A throng of 'independents’ was in the process of being swept into power on a tide of platitudes, vague promises and back-of-a-fag-packet economics.

The pervading odour in the hall was a heady mixture of hope, optimism and simmering triumphalism.

Clenched fists punched the air and the word 'yes’ could be heard hissing from between gritted teeth as ward results were announced.

This motley collection, comprising candidates from the left of Tony Benn and the right of Michael Gove, with a sprinkling of familiar opportunists in the middle, had campaigned on a common theme — anything is better than the last lot.

The electorate agreed and a few hours later, with the Tories nudged out of office, the victors were looking at each other as if wondering what to do next.

When Richard Priest, the Island’s own Martin Bell, decided the council leadership was not for him, Knocker Stephens (the other acceptable face of 'independence’) stepped up.

He is a well-meaning idealist who no doubt believed all the pre-election

blather about 'transparent, accountable and democratic governance for the Island’.

Greater public engagement was promised but the only evidence for this so far appears to be the Statement of Licensing and Sex Establishment Policies, a subject about which people spoke of nothing else during the build-up to the election.

A 'framework for change’ was promised, with the famous 'root and branch review’ but if digits are not removed from civic orifices pretty quickly, there will be precious few roots and branches left to be reviewed.

Last week’s County Press front-page story suggested County Hall was about to be turned into a municipal abattoir, with blood running down the bleak and echoing corridors.

Mass redundancies were said to be on the cards, with drastically reduced funding for council services and events, amounting to millions of pounds.

Attempts will be made to browbeat parish councils into taking on services for which they have neither the expertise nor the money and we will all have to pay more to park and use the floating bridge, apparently.

However, it may well be the 'independents’ are employing the old political trick of issuing dire warnings about the future, before claiming the credit when things turn out to be rather less cataclysmic than anticipated.

Either way, the air is full of the sound of flapping wings as pigeons come home to roost, because you may recall Knocker and his chums foolishly pledged to protect public services — and there can only be two reasons why they made such a disingenuous promise.

Either they thought the Conservative administration was making cut-backs just for the fun of it, or they were well aware of the looming financial crisis facing whoever won the 2013 election and were hoping it would just go away.

Well, it’s not going to, and few Islanders will escape the ramifications as local government faces one of the most precarious and unpredictable periods in recent memory.

The fashion that will cost kids dear later in life

WHEN I was a kid, we used to dress appropriately for the season (at least, our mothers did their best to ensure we did).

That meant summers were spent scampering around in jeans (shorts were for sissies), T-shirts and plimsolls (baseball boots if you were really flash).

Winters were spent swathed in heavy, immobile, calf-length mackintoshes, which made our class at Swanmore Primary look like a platoon of titchy Gestapo officers as we marched to school each morning.

These macs were made from gabardine, an unforgiving fabric which has the basic properties of calcified tent canvas. We kids used to move around but the garment didn’t.

It maintained its shape throughout the winter, sneering at whatever Mother Nature threw at it.

It was then hung up in the wardrobe come spring, only to re-emerge in November in exactly the same shape.

Haute couture it was not but the good old mac did its job.

So what on earth possesses mothers these days, when they send their little darlings off to school in the pouring rain wearing little more than a fleece or a flimsy blouson?

Indeed, it is not unusual to see lads of about 13 or 14 slouching through the rain in nothing more than shirts, open at the neck and with school ties worn so loosely the giant knots are often flapping around the navel.

I realise these kids are slaves to fashion but I fear this mixture of hubris and hardcore modishness is destined to end in tears when they creak their way towards middle age.

Red faces on the side

David Wilson house
My thanks to a reader for sending in this photo of the side of a David Wilson house in Snowberry Road, Newport.

As my correspondent pointed out "The company may well be a 'highest quality house builder’ but I’d think twice before allowing them to fix a name plate on my front gate."

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