Cambs County Council’s late weekend work and Fenland mobile gym to get “essential maintenance”

THE Fenland gathering hosted by the council’s former chief executive, Jason Manford on national newspaper allegations and the student’s word banned by Countdown also come under the spotlight in this week’s diary.

Dine hosts

NO word yet on what they discussed but I’m grateful to the customer who noted a special Fenland gathering enjoying lunch the other day at one of Cambridgeshire’s finest eateries.

The host was former Fenland District Council chief executive Tim Pilsbury and numbered among the small, but exclusive, lunchtime diners were former leader Geoff Harper and former deputy leader Fred Yeulett.

Unsurprisingly, a notable absentee was current leader Alan Melton but since he owes much, especially his current position, to the actions of the above three, it is little wonder he was not invited.

The venue chosen was the Anchor at Sutton Gault, and I can thoroughly recommend the two-course �11.95 per head set lunch.

A little off the beaten track but popular, the pub’s restaurant charts its 400-year history describing in detail how villagers were once “as anti-social as their environment and this secret place had become the haunt of vagabonds and malaria-ridden peasants”.

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Thank goodness times change.

Counted out

OFFENCE is something I’ve always tried to avoid giving, so I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere to find the eight-letter word by a Cambridge student that got banned from Channel 4’s Countdown, hosted by presenter Jeff Stelling, ably assisted by Rachel Riley.

First year maths student Jack Hurst, 18, ad an eight-time winner, came up with the word which ‘dictionary �corner’ accepted but was later axed by the show’s producers who filmed a further round but with different letters.

The letters he faced? D T C E I A S H F.

Some wags have suggested he could have got a nine-letter word from the combination and found himself in territory familiar to many of his college peers!

Loos change

WITH Fenland Council busy, once more, reminding me of their statutory and discretionary functions, don’t expect improvements any time soon to the appalling state of many of our public conveniences, such as the one at March, left.

How they configure the �100,000 annual cost of running them beats me, but if cuts come these could easily be among those non-discretionary services that could close.

If you want public loos that impress, best to pop into East Cambs, where no less than 11 of their public toilets were awarded stars at this year’s Loo of the Year Awards.

Five got five stars, five got four stars and only the loo in Fordham failed to shine with just three stars.

“The accolades are highly prized,” chortled a council spokesman, who went on to remind me each was visited by judges looking for “spotless loos and evidence they are well looked after”.

Crossed lines

I DISCOVERED two things about Ged Beeston this week – he doesn’t watch X-Factor and cares about the state of Wisbech roads. I know the first because his e-mail popped up in my inbox while in the middle of X-Factor and to be writing so passionately on the subject of roads, more especially on pedestrian crossings, on a Saturday evening is the mark of a Good Samaritan.

Ged lives in Peterborough but tells me he often visits his mother in Leverington and he, too, noticed the poor state of repair of the crossing near Horsefair.

Indeed, he sent me a copy of his complaint to Cambridgeshire County Council he sent back in September.

He told the council of the night a lorry driver screeched to a halt, blasting his horn, after Ged had stopped suddenly to allow someone to cross.

“The lorry driver obviously did not know it was a crossing,” said Ged.

Mr Beeston was assured repair work had been authorised and the order placed on September 27 with Atkins to paint the crossing.

I thought a second note to the council wouldn’t go amiss and sent off an e-mail straight away – and was most surprised to receive a reply, late Saturday evening, from Pam Hans, customer services �advisor at Cambridgeshire highways and access helpline.

Ms Hans assured me the order was with Atkins “but I have updated the record by copying in your e-mail and passing it on to the highways office for their attention”.

If the highways department responds as quickly as Pam, I imagine the work may well have been done even before my column reaches your breakfast table.

Race to the poll

COINCIDENTALLY a Rick Hans sent me an e-mail this week, introducing himself as campaign manager for the East of England Local Government Association (job titles like that worry me in this era of cuts!).

Anyway, Rick is recruiting locally for an upcoming event to encourage loads more people to stand for the council.

With Fenland awash with new candidates I expect a charabanc outing to Cambridge to be bursting at the seams.

What with all those new Tory hopefuls hoping to knock out the sitting ‘tenants’ (re-selection meetings planned in several wards, I hear) and a raft of independents considering their options, it sounds like the dawning of a new age.

So keen is hotelier Rob Skoulding to get his nomination legalised for next May, he popped into Fenland Hall to find out more... only to discover he’s still several weeks, if not months, away from the opening date for applicants for next May’s election.

Mind blowing

IF I were to make an award for pretentiousness, organisers of the 2011 Secret Garden Party festival in Cambridgeshire would be a worthy recipient.

They’ve announced the theme for next year will be origins and frontiers and based on the words of post-impressionist artist Paul Gaugin exploring such ideas as “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?”

It seems the festival will help us connect to our creative powers, explore our wildest fantasies and offers the potential to change lives.

All that and more for just �155? Bargain.

Clown and out

TREVOR Bracken has finally retired, leaving March Police Station after a lengthy career both as a serving officer and a civilian worker.

Brakespeare tried to send him a farewell greeting but left it a day too late. It did, however, mean I got a splendid and slightly mischievous “out of office” greeting courtesy of Trevor’s e-mail account.

“I have now retired,” it said. “I will be out of the office starting 04/11/2010 and will not return until 05/02/2017”.

For more serious inquirers not able to wait that long, alternative e-mails were provided.

Game for a laugh

COMEDIAN Jason Manford turned up to perform at Cambridge Corn Exchange on Friday just hours after some national newspapers had been reporting texts he had allegedly sent to a fan.

Manford co-presents The One Show on BBC One and met the fan through the show’s website and admitted it had been a bad day.

“I was thinking of not turning up, but you’re all Guardian readers so you wouldn’t know anyway,” he said.

Probably not, but I’m sure they were quick to Google the revelations as soon as they got home.

Much like your diarist, in fact!

Fitting response

COUNCIL bosses sounded the retreat over a threatened three-week Christmas closure of their new mobile gym and will take it off the road for just a fortnight.

“The closure is necessary to enable us to carry out essential maintenance on the vehicle,” a council spokesman assures me.

“Christmas and New Year is always one of the quietest times for all our leisure facilities, so it makes good sense to do any necessary work during that period.

“However, having taken a fresh look at the timetable, we are now looking to re-open it on January 4, immediately after the New Year break and a week earlier than originally planned.”

Questions had been asked at last Thursday’s Fenland District Council meeting as to why their mobile gym was advertised as being out of action for so long.

The gym, which was bought with the help of Government funding earlier this year, is set to be mothballed over the festive period – but one councillor wanted to know why.

Councillor Mark Archer, the independent member for Manea, inquired “why such a long holiday?” to mystified silence.

The gym only goes to Wimblington, Manea and Chatteris. When it first launched it went to parts of the Wisbech area but this has stopped.

I recall the gym coming under fire from Chatteris town councillor Chris Howes when it first arrived, describing it as a “massive �250,000 white elephant”.

He’s definitely not a fan.

“As ideas go, this isn’t one of the best,” he chirped.

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