BRAKESPEARE: No more Fenland First Independence Alliance, local radio spared and council allowances

OUR Diarist also highlights references to Dave ‘Boy’ Green in Sugar Ray Leonard’s autobiography which is released in paperback next month.

THIS Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To You is the new collection of stories by Jon McGregor.

He says that “in these stories, which are all set in the low open landscape of the Lincolnshire Fens, the sorts of things that don’t happen to someone like you do, in fact, happen to someone like you”.

• A young WOMAN is almost killed when a sugar beet crashes through her windscreen.

• A BOY sets fire to a barn.

You may also want to watch:

• A FATHER is arrested when he tries to watch his daughter’s school nativity play.

• A pair of itinerant LABOURERS sit by a lake, talking about shovels and sex, while fighter planes fly low overhead and prepare for war.

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The pins on the map mark the location of each story, and include photos and additional information.

“Feel free to explore,” says Jon, whose book is out next month and will sell for about a tenner.

ANOTHER book out next month is the paperback version of the autobiography Sugar Ray Leonard: The Big Fight, in which the American fighter reveals why his fight with Chatteris boxer Dave “Boy” Green remains at the forefront of his mind.

Although Green, with 24 wins to his name, never actually beat the world champ and was sent crashing out in round four, the contest sealed a remarkable and lifelong friendship.

Green, as it happens, was the only British boxer he faced and Leonard recalls how he saved him the best punch of his career.

That, historians will recall, was a short left hook which sent Green to the canvas and he was duly counted out.

“It was perhaps the most beautiful punch I ever threw,” recalls Leonard.

“Whenever I connected with such power and precision, a tingling sensation similar to an electric shock travelled directly from my hand to my shoulder.

“It was a tremendous feeling, and one every fighter experiences when he lands the perfect shot.

“The world has no choice but to stop and acknowledge his work. I raised my hands and stood in admiration, as any artist would.”

But such theatre was also tinged with concern as Leonard waited to ensure his British �opponent suffered no long-term harm.

“Seconds went by that seemed like hours, my thoughts racing to the worst of possibilities ... all I could think about when I walked down the aisle was how close I had come to killing another human being,” he writes.

And, in a later aside, and just for good measure, he adds that “I didn’t just want to beat Davey ‘Boy’ Green. I wanted to teach him a lesson”.

LET the minutes record that “Councillor Hatton stated that he was overcharged for a taxi journey from his home to Elm.

“He was charged �15, with the return journey being �12, working out that, if a meter had been used, the journey would have been �8 and he feels overcharging is rife.”

Now let the facts record, as explained to me by fellow councillor Dave Patrick that Cllr Phil Hatton couldn’t have been too displeased with the service he received on that eventful occasion.

“I was the taxi driver who took him home,” recalls Cllr Patrick. “And as he will confirm, he gave me an �8 tip. I was happy and thought he was, too!”

In the ping-pong world of Fenland politics I’d suggest honours, on this occasion, to be even.

But since both sit on opposing sides of the political spectrum, I doubt that will be the case for too long.

And if you wish further enlightenment on the taxi debate (but why would you?) do as I did and trawl the archives of Fenland District Council meetings for wholesome entertainment.

THESE councillors ... such wags. Which is why I always find the musings of Cambridgeshire County Council leader Nick Clarke to be such a spiffingly good read.

Nick was in exceptional form at the weekend, risking on his blog a joke that got re-tweeted to thousands of ardent admirers.

“A Conservative was walking along a knife-edge cliff with a Labour councillor and a Lib Dem councillor,” tempted Cllr Clarke.

“He was asked which one he would push off first. The obvious answer was the Lib Dem.

“Wrong. Business before pleasure so Labour first.”

Oh, how we laughed.

JOHN Patten, the BBC chairman of governors, is intent on sparing local radio and determined that the corporation trim its budget elsewhere to preserve the likes of Andie Harper, Johnny Dee, Sue Rhodes and Richard Spendlove.

Mr Patten will also, no doubt, spare the excellent Jeremy Sallis ... although his Wednesday morning interview with a woman giving up her mobile phone for three months might strike some listeners as being a tad fanciful.

What next? Listener gives up brown bread for Lent?

Presenter in news story discovery shock?

YOU may not have noticed (but then why would you?) that the political allegiance that created the Fenland First Independent Alliance is no more.

This was the loosely-aligned March-Manea axis that comprised Independent councillor Mark Archer and Independent councillor Rob Skoulding. The former liked to be considered “leader” of the FFIA but no matter. It has been “wound up”.

Cllr Skoulding decided he’d had enough of the idiosyncratic councillor for Manea and, finding less and less in common with his former colleague’s political juxtapositioning, decided enough was enough.

It now means, of course, that Cllr Archer can no longer claim the �30-a-week top-up that councillors, collectively, so generously awarded the rag-tag-and-bobtail assortment of opposition party councillors following last May’s election.

CORRESPONDENTS continue to harangue me about the independence of the panel that met last year to consider, and later recommend, increases in the allowances made to members of Fenland District Council.

One of the three-strong panel was, you may recall, Gloria Culyer, the delightful and overwhelmingly professional chief executive of Age Concern Cambridgeshire.

Trouble is Gloria is also chairman of the Fenland Strategic Partnership, a group on which the council is strongly represented – along with many other bodies including Cambridgeshire County Council – to tackle widespread community issues.

My correspondents question whether this latter chairmanship accords with the 2003 Act of Parliament, which states that “the members of the independent remuneration panel cannot also be members of a committee or a sub-committee of an authority in respect of which the panel makes recommendations. This includes co-opted members”.

The partnership reports and minutes do, in fact, appear as part of Fenland Council’s own website!

And if that’s not enough, the two other members of the panel have a sort of “declared interest” in that both rent office space from ... Fenland Council.

Nickie Bantoft is an accountant working out of the council-owned Boathouse in Wisbech, and chaired the panel.

The third member of the team was Quentin Pain, managing director of Accountz Ltd, which is based in Chatteris ... at the council-owned South Fens business park.

MEANWHILE, Cambridgeshire County Council sets about finding a fresh panel to sort out the allowances it pays its members.

There was, earlier in the week, some speculation that the procedure was being hurried through.

This was to ensure they reached a decision in March so that councillors could avail themselves of a clause in the legislation that allows any increases to be backdated to the beginning of the financial year.

Of course, Brakespeare wouldn’t dream for one moment this was likely to be the case and is assured, by various contacts at Shire Hall, that such thinking was furthest from anyone’s mind.

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