Fen Diary Week 6

THE Parliamentary sketch writer who weighed in on the announcement of Manchester winning the recommendation to get Britain s first super casino, must have had a bad morning. She described Labour s Tessa Jowell, the Culture Minister, as approaching the sub

THE Parliamentary sketch writer who weighed in on the announcement of Manchester winning the recommendation to get Britain's first super casino, must have had a bad morning.

She described Labour's Tessa Jowell, the Culture Minister, as approaching the subject with the "kind of po-faced, self righteousness last seen on the faces of Victorian missionaries in Africa as they disembarked from canoes".

I mention that by way of balance since she later piled into Malcolm Moss, MP for North-East Cambridgeshire, describing him inexplicably as "a rather drippy Tory".

Mr Moss was less than enamoured. "I've never even met the woman," he told me.

However, Brakespeare did concur with one observation from the debate, that of the Tory MP who muttered something along the lines of: "We could use it in this place." That after being told pumped oxygen to keep gamblers awake would be banned.

ANXIOUS townsfolk in Wisbech, expecting that Fenland District Council's overview and scrutiny panel might finally get round next week to deciding the fate of their Market Place, have been disappointed.

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Next week's panel has been cancelled, says Terry Jordan of the council's democratic services department, "due to the lack of business requiring a decision at this time".

NOT happy, not happy at all, was a visitor to our March office this week complaining about some literature from B&Q highlighting the potential savings of having your own wind turbine.

"Not true," he exclaimed, pointing to a sales leaflet which suggested consumers "will save up to a third on the average UK household electricity bill" with one of B&Q's £1,500 turbines.

He had a point, for when I contacted trading standards it seems the campaign by our visitor from the Fens has encouraged the withdrawal nationwide of the leaflets.

"I think B&Q were withdrawing them anyway," said my man at trading standards. "Your visitor must have picked up an old leaflet."

Had B&Q had many other complaints, I pondered?

"Not really, but I think it was because very few of the domestic turbines were sold anyway," he told me.

A DELICIOUS irony befell Councillor Peter Skoulding when asked to counter-sign cheques for payment at Monday's meeting of March Town Council.

For among the payments falling due was the £5,500 cost of providing each councillor with a ceremonial robe - a decision Cllr Skoulding had fought fiercely to prevent.

So when may we expect the first official outing for the newly enrobed civic throng? Sometime after the May elections, I'm told, but not before.

AMONG the many intriguing fees and charges gathered in annually by Fenland Council are the three tariffs for purchase of plans.

Provide a reference number to get a building regulation decision notice, and the cost for next year will be £11.75. Fail to provide a reference number and the charge rockets to £52.88.

But those aside, it was the third charge that intrigued Brakespeare, for £35.25 "if a letter of comfort is required".

The council's official spokesman fell about laughing when I mentioned it to him and helpfully ran off to find what sort of comfort my £35.25 might bring.

On Tuesday a colleague bumped into Sandra Claxton, the council's deputy chief executive, but sadly she had no idea what a "comfort letter" is or was.

Sadly, when Brakespeare closed down his column for the week, he was still awaiting a response.

COSTS of attending to the dead are going up, for elsewhere in the fees and charges schedule is the introduction of a new charge, of £20, to "facilitate a memorial safety inspection".

Officials tell me this will "help to maintain the health and safety standards in our cemeteries and is in addition to the standard body internment charge."

I just hope we all remember to bury "standard bodies".

FENLAND Council's summary of the bid by Apple Day organisers in Wisbech to help stage this year's event was described by officials as being needed for "core funding".

Once Brakespeare had stopped smiling, he noticed the application, for £1,550, had been refused.