It’s a lousy job but vim isn’t enough

By Charlotte Hofton

Friday, February 14, 2014


THE VIEW FROM HERE I HAD to read it twice. Had my brain gone as soggy as the weather? Was I having delusions which caused me to see things in the paper that weren’t actually there?

Because, goodness me, surely nobody in a position of high authority and a key player in the Island’s fiscal policy, so crucial to our welfare, could have openly admitted to being, in effect, quite unsuited for the job?

So I had another look and, no, it wasn’t a fantasy. Last week’s CP included a detailed story on the cuts which are becoming increasingly likely if the IW Council is to achieve its objective of saving £28 million over the next three years.

Now, nobody would envy those who have to make these difficult decisions. It wasn’t easy for the last regime and it’s not easy now.

But the independents scraped into power on a promise the Island would be better off if they took over the reins from those ghastly old Tories. And, presumably, they had had a little think about this beforehand.

One imagines they had at least some idea of how they would improve matters. A provisional budget? A properly formulated plan? That’s what you’d suppose, anyway.

But here we are, nine months down the line since the elections, and council leader Ian Stephens has this to say: "We might not have the facts and figures. We might not have a business plan. But we’ve got heart and soul and vim and vigour."

Excuse me? You’ve been there for nine months and you have neither facts nor figures, nor a business plan?

I’d better read this through one more time. I can’t believe the Island has been landed with a ruling group that admits to being so woefully ill-equipped to do the job for which it was elected.

Nope, no mistake. No facts and figures, no business plan. Just heart and soul, vim and vigour.

Perfect qualifications for a church cleaner, I’d have thought, but not really what we want from the leader of our council.

Can you imagine if somebody seeking financial backing for a new business enterprise nonchalantly floated into the bank and said, well, I haven’t got any facts and figures or a business plan but I’d like you to give me a lot of money?

That’s right, he’d be shown the door, pretty sharpish. But this lot apparently expects us council taxpayers to shower them with dosh on exactly the same premise.

I’m sure Cllr Stephens means well and truly wants us all to be happy but, after nine months in the job, I’d have liked an indication of something actually businesslike, particularly with the council’s all-important budget meeting only days away.

Vim and vigour just aren’t going make the grade, I’m afraid.

He does go on to say: "I do not believe in cuts, I believe in re-engineering to change things for the better," words which I also had to re-read to see if they made any more sense the second time around. Sadly, they didn’t.

What on earth can he mean? Is he going to re-engineer in the same way the deckchairs on the Titanic were proverbially shuffled around?

I do feel for the poor man. He’s got a lousy job on his hands.

But he doesn’t really help himself. And saying you don’t believe in something doesn’t make it any less real.

I fear Cllr Stephens will discover this when he has to look at the cuts he doesn’t believe in. I sincerely hope the vim will be useful in making them disappear but I’m not holding my breath.

We may as well do this properly or not at all

WHILE not always known for my unswerving support of the establishment, I am all for the kind of well-orchestrated and colourful ceremony such as is provided by our monarch on state occasions.

The royal family may be increasingly constitutionally irrelevant but Her Majesty has cheered up the nation for more than 60 years and pretty well everybody thinks she is a good thing.

And while I would be happy for a lot of minor royals and those daft anachronistic offices to be kicked into touch, I feel we should either have a proper monarch on the throne, complete with entertaining flummery, or none at all.

So the proposal to scrap the £25,000 a year allocated to our Lord Lieutenant’s office seems a bit harsh. Maj Gen Martin White is the Queen’s representative on the Island and cuts a fine figure on civic occasions.

Let’s at least do these things properly, because the whole point of them is a jolly good spectacle and a chance for the Island to show its status as a proper county. Otherwise we might as well forget the whole thing and hand over to Hampshire.

Just tell us what the £25,000 is actually spent on and, if it seems justified in making us dignified and capable of putting on a bit of a show, rather than wheeling out the Lord Lieutenant on a bicycle and shoving his office into a broom cupboard at County Hall, then we should go for it.

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