Banter, challenges, jobs, rock festivals and conveniences - all in another week’s work

BRAKESPEARE takes his usual perspective on the week in Fenland.

MY occasional banter with Wisbech county councillor Steve Tierney produced a colourful exchange in more ways than one at the weekend.

Steve introduced readers of his (getting more interesting by the week) blog to Elmer or Elmo, a curious creature that somehow figured in Saturday’s re-opening of Wisbech Library.

“I have a picture of county council leader Jill Tuck with that multi-coloured Elmer thing” he wrote. “She warned me, on pain of death not to put it on my blog. So if you want to see it you’ll need to donate some money to a local cause and then Ill risk her wrath for a good cause.”

Your diarist, ever up for a challenge of course, offered the �5 (all in 1p coins) paid to him by a certain public official in March for winning a bet on the outcome of the election (Brakespeare wagered �5 on a coalition council- the official foolishly believed Conservatives would win outright.).


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“I am prepared to offer this entire sum for the photo you have of Jill and the Elmer”, I told Steve. “I think donating it to your coalition partners would readily satisfy your requirements for a worthwhile local cause.”

“the consequences I’d have to endure.”

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Such a shame.

MARTIN Curtis, who spent the weekend at the Hellfest heavy metal series of concerts in France (not for nothing does he describe himself as Britain’s Hardest Rocking Politician), will no doubt have used the time to ponder his political future.

His Cabinet work at Shire Hall looks rock fast enough but I’m not so sure he’s quite tuned into the new leadership style at Fenland Hall after being ‘relieved’ of the chairmanship of the planning committee.

Indeed rumour among some of his colleagues is that he won’t be standing for Whittlesey in next year’s district council elections, leaving a gap in the sandwich between county and town councils.

Maybe he’s banking on a fresh General Election and the opportunity to shine, once again, as a Parliamentary candidate.

DEREK Orr, of the Bramley Line Heritage Railway Trust, dropped me a line to clarify the input of British Transport Police into the vandalism at Coldham.

He says he was intrigued by my puzzlement over why the Bramley Line Heritage Railway Trust was asking people to contact the British Transport Police rather than Cambridgeshire Police if they see trespassers on the line.

The reason is a very simple one, says Derek. The line remains the property of Network Rail and falls under the British Transport Police jurisdiction. Network Rail is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the line until such time as they either sell the line, or lease it to someone else to look after.

If the line was to be purchased, then as a private enterprise, it would fall under Cambridgeshire Police “but while it remains the property of Network Rail, all crime should be reported via the British Transport Police, as they are the police force tasked with policing the National Rail network” he said, helpfully shedding light on this issue at least.

A CAMBRIDGESHIRE school is trying to recruit what they describe as a numbers genius to teach maths.

“We are looking for a human calculator to take the department to another level of education”, says the job specification.

A genius of a different sort is needed to help educate some of Fenland’s most difficult youngsters and although it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it does come with a salary of not much less than you would get for being an MP.

The 32.5 hours a week post is being advertised by Cambridgeshire County Council who want a head to take over the Pupil Referral Unit in March.

“We do not underestimate the scale of the task and the challenges”, says the council who are happy to pay up to �57,000 a year to the successful applicant.

EX gangland boss Kenneth Noye has been enjoying the ‘hospitality’ of Whitemoor Prison for some years after being jailed in 2000 for knifing a young man to death.

The case made gruesome headlines at the time but now Noye has become some sort of badminton champion in prison which has attracted the ire of the News of the World.

“He’s fit as a fiddle and living the life of Riley,” one source told the paper. “The jail has a fully-equipped gym and sports field but Kenny prefers the badminton court”.

Personally I’m grateful that Noye remains as fit as a fiddle since knowing he has a full set of marbles ensures he appreciates the longevity of his sentence and the probability facing him every day that he may one day die in prison.

He’s not young any more but he’s incredibly fit, the same source told the News of the World, and given no one has ever escaped from Whitemoor that’s fine by me.

Coincidentally I was reminded this week of the one attempt made to break out of Whitemoor in 1994 when six prisoners, mostly convicted IRA terrorists, escaped and a prison officer was wounded after a shot was fired. The men were quickly recaptured and the subsequent inquiry attacked the liberal policies of former Prisons Minister Dame Angela Rumbold, whose death has just been announced.

She had ordered the ‘rubdown’ body searches of visitors to inmates to be halted which turned out to be one of several security loopholes identified by the inquiry into what had gone wrong at the prison.

I WAS fascinated to learn a Cambridgeshire company is conquering France with its knock out microchip cat flap identification device.

The SureFlap microchip cat flap identifies cats using their unique identification microchip, unlocking only for your pet and preventing strays and neighbourhood cats from entering your home say proud bosses at the Dry Drayton company.

Now Sureflap has been invited to an exhibition of innovation at the British Embassy in Paris and wondering how many of Frances 10 million cat owners will warm to the product.

“.We saw a niche in the market for a microchip cat flap that avoids the dangers associated with collar operated flaps and only opens for a specific pet”, says the French distributor of the Sureflap who purred with delight at this innovatory device.

I SUSPECT Andrew Stokes to be a little disappointed now he knows the answer to his Freedom of Information request to Fenland Council.

Andrew asked how much it cost the council to submit their entry for the 2010 Local Government Chronicle Council of the Year award.

“The entry was written by our council’s internal Policy and Communications team and took approximately three days, equal to 21 hours of staff resource to write and then a further two hours to design up the entry” he was told..

“There were no additional costs incurred through this part of the process other than staff time.

“If successful in being short-listed a visit from the LGC judging panel takes place. In preparation for our visit we spent approx 65 hours of staff time in total planning and hosting with an additional cost of �620 (non staff resource) for the visit”..

Which, given the kudos these things achieve, strikes me as very small beer indeed.

AND talking of beer and councillors, be assured not one penny of Council tax payers money was used to lubricate guests at the annual staff awards at Fenland Council last Thursday.

Senior managers paid for some of the drinks out of their own pocket (as they always do) but that was that. The rest was paid for by the staff themselves, one or two, perhaps, availing themselves too richly of the generous bar prices at the BRAZA but that’s their business, and it was, of course, in their time.

SUMMER Big Cat sighting has taken its grip once again on the nation, and the website which records these things has uncovered one seen in Littleport.

An early morning commuter claims to have seen the Big Cat at around 5.40am on June 19 on the A10 outside of Littleport.

“It had dark tan, pointed ears and was about a metre long,” says the eye witness.

“It was hard to guess the height as it was running, 30 seconds, about 100 metres away. “I was travelling to work, it was very early and there was no traffic.”

The correspondent added: “The cat bounded across the road.”

Big Cat? It divides us into different camps, of course, but as someone who still recalls his own sighting of a Big Cat 15 years ago and along the B1066 near Brandon, I’m on the side of the believers.

UNUSUAL analogy by Jill Tuck on the subject of forthcoming cuts in local government spending.

“The size of the debt the Labour Government left the country with is astronomical - it is up to the coalition government and local government to find the money to bring our country back into the black,” she’s told colleagues.

“It reminds me of the sign we often see in conveniences: ‘Please leave in the same condition as you would wish to find it.’”.

Well that’s one way of putting it, Jill.

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