BRAKESPEARE: Fenland’s enforcement tigers, a weighty look at standards and West Norfolk Council’s ‘old Grinch’
10:01 16 December 2011
TOWN councillor’s invalid application, the Romanian who stole almost £500 of chewing gum from Tesco and Cambridgeshire County Council’s departing head of communications also feature in our diarist’s column this week.
NORMAL service has resumed, I see, at the Fenland District Council standards committee where a weighty 140-page report into a councillor’s conduct has been dumped on members’ laps.
I’ve been generously briefed as to who it is but regrettably no-one has sought fit to expunge the secrecy from within and tell me what the councillor is alleged to have done. Indeed he or she may have done nothing.
“Consideration of investigating officer’s report” was how it was explained on the agenda for Monday’s meeting.
Naturally the press and public was excluded (can’t be too careful you know) but as ever once a challenge is set a degree of obstinacy kicks in.
• HOW unusual for a councillor to become an agent, although in Peter Humphrey there has twice been occasions when an agent has become a councillor.
But reversing the role, albeit on a one-off basis, has been Chatteris town councillor Chris Howes who applied for permission for a temporary mobile home at Holly Tree House, Hospital Road, Doddington, on behalf of a client.
Fenland planners were not amused.
“Unfortunately your application is currently invalid,” they told him in a letter in which all manner of issues were raised.
At least seven incomplete statements were made on the application form and that was before the design and access statement was gone through with a fine tooth comb and found wanting in many areas.
Poor old Chris. For so long the bête noir of Fenland Hall. He even got the fee wrong.
“The fee required is £335... please provide the outstanding sum of £265,” wrote Carol Freeman of development services.
• FOUR years ago Fenland District Council proudly trumpeted its abandoned call rate (i.e. those who quit calling after getting fed up with the wait) was, at two per cent, “among the best in the country”.
So how come in 2011 the goal posts have moved (the target is now five per cent) and councillors were told last night how “we continue to ensure that our levels of abandoned calls remain very low, at just 4.1 per cent in October and overall for the year at four per cent”.
• PORTFOLIO holder Jan French took exception to my suggestion that the district council had not acted properly in getting fly posters removed from Wimblington which advertised food at a local pub.
Both the council and owners promised they would be removed from lampposts immediately but a week later - on Tuesday to be precise - we found this poster still up.
Cllr French, in charge of enforcement, was having none of it when I put it to her, in a mischievous sort of way, that her team “obviously don’t scare anyone. Pussycats in fact”.
Back came the riposte that the signs had been missed when the pub took down the rest last week and action would now be swift.
“I’m on the case and the person in question will be called immediately,” she trilled. “There are no pussycats in enforcement - only tigers.”
• CASTING an eye over the court lists at Cambridge this week I was fascinated by the case of the Romanian who went into Tesco at Ely and wheeled out £467.70 of chewing gum without paying for it.
“I wonder what kind of scam we are dealing with,” the presiding magistrate inquired, having obviously bitten off more than he could chew when juggling sentencing options.
Seems the hapless Eastern European was trying to raise cash to return home after finding the UK was not, as he had hoped, paved with opportunities.
It was never satisfactorily explained what he planned to do with the gum – buying black market gum doesn’t strike your diarist as being the most exhilarating experience he’s come across.
• MUST be a week for morons. The East of England Ambulance Service tells me it took a 999 call from someone who wanted an ambulance crew to carry their drunken friend up to bed.
As the service battles to cope with an increase in calls you have to wonder about the mentality of some who the law allow to have access to a phone!
The East of England Ambulance Service saw a significant rise in the number of calls over the weekend, including inappropriate calls.
Other examples of inappropriate calls made by members of the public include a patient who wanted a urine sample dropped off at hospital, someone whose toenail had fallen off, the parent of a child who was having a tantrum and another parent of a child who was being taunted.
Even without adverse weather conditions such as snow, use of the ambulance service rises significantly at this time of year.
Over the weekend, the region’s three call centres operated by the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) handled 5,205 emergency calls, nearly 300 more than the previous weekend – an increase of more than 5.5 per cent.
It was also more than 200 calls up on the same weekend last year, when ice and snow had hit the region.
Although no figures are obtainable on the number of inappropriate calls made, call handlers have witnessed an increase.
Neil Storey, associate director of emergency operations for EEAST, said: “People should only 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life if at risk.”
Amazing that it’s a message he has to repeat constantly.
• MANY love to brighten up their work place with some Christmas tinsel (apart from my office of course which bathes in celebratory mood for all 52 weeks of the year).
So pity the hapless staff at West Norfolk Council who have been ordered to pack away Christmas decorations on their computers due to health and safety.
The council’s safety and welfare advisor Dave Clack sent an e-mail, with the subject heading ‘Bah Humbug’ to employees this week asking for tinsel decorating computer screens to be removed.
The e-mail warns that the tinsel could block the ventilators at the back of the computer screens which could lead to the machines becoming overheated and flammable tinsel would be a fire risk.
Mr Clack also reminded workers that all decorations should be packed away before the Christmas break, which starts at the end of Friday, December 23.
His e-mail read: “All those staff who have tinsel around their screen should remove it immediately. Mangers or team leaders - I would ask that this is carried out.”
Mr Clack noted that “people like to ridicule health and safety, but I even put ‘Bah Humbug’ as the title of the e-mail.
“I do like Christmas, but decorations need to be put up with a bit of sense.
“I have suggested that I’ll put on a bit of green make-up so people can see what an old Grinch I am.”
The council seems quite content with Mr Clack’s tough stance, noting that the authority was simply looking for a “common sense” approach to Christmas decorations in the office.
• IN these impecunious times how refreshing to learn Cambridgeshire County Council has decided it can live without its head of communications, Andy Allsopp.
Mr Allsopp is off to pastures new as head of comms, as he likes to abbreviate his position, at Hounslow in London on a package I recall being advertised as being around £60,000 a year.
He’s not being replaced. His three-year-and-three-month tenure will come to an end in January and some reshuffling internally will do the trick.
One PR wag I spoke to felt the pay wasn’t “adequate recompense” for a move to Hounslow but hey ho the borough is home to Sky TV, Heathrow Airport and is also er... not Cambridgeshire!