FENLANDER’S DIARY: Cometh the hour, cometh the panel to tell councillors what they think they’re worth

MUCH has been made of the independency of the independent panels that have been reviewing councillors’ allowances and of course Fenland Council’s trio that former their independent panel are what it says on the tin…..independent.

It might have helped , however, if both the chairman and one of the other panellists weren’t, er, tenants of Fenland District Council.

Nickie, of course, runs her growing accountancy business from the council owned Boathouse Business Centre at Wisbech.

Quentin Pain, on the other hand, is managing director of Accountz Ltd – accounting software- from the Fenland council owned South Fens Business Centre at Chatteris.

The third panel member Gloria Culyer is definitely independent of the council: as chief execuytive of Cambridgeshire Age Concern she operates from modest surroundings in Victoria Street, Chatteris.

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Little connects her to Fenland Council, apart from the minor issue of Councillor Martin Curtis being a trustee of her esteemed organisation.

Except of course the Fenland Strategic Partnership (FSP) which “brings together all of the local agencies and organisations who are dedicated to improving the district and making life in Fenland even better”. The chairman of the FSP? Gloria Culyer, and very effective she’s been too.

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If you want to know more about what FSP does you’re welcome, I’m assured, to contact the Partnership Development Manager who is based, conveniently, at Fenland District Council offices inside Fenland Hall, March.

NOT that Fenland councillors are expecting too much of an increase but many may think even a modest rise should not be happening at this time.

I was not surprised, though, to find, and in capital letters, the word ‘FROZEN’ next to the allowance paid to the chairman of the standards committee.

Despite the comparable committee at Shire Hall being busy resolving the legal quagmire they’ve gotten themselves into, the good folks at Fenland Hall appreciate when the writing, for this group at least, is on the wall.

AS you will see from the letters page not everyone believes Councillor Scrimshaw is correction in his assertion that the public can use the loos at the council’s one stop shops.

So here’s what I suggest. Firstly that several of you, dear readers, act as my WC emissaries and pop into your local one stop shop and ask, nicely, to use the loo. Then report back, of course, to the usual email address.

Secondly I’d like to hear of any recent experiences of being ‘caught short’ in Fenland. This might help the campaign to keep more public loos open following the council’s decision to axe up to seven of the district’s 11.

I even heard tales of councillors needing ‘to go’ urgently whilst out on council business but that, as they say, is for another day.

Favourite Tweeter joke: A man came up to me and said “Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.” I said “That is very annoying.” He said “Well I can only apologise.”

EVEN though he’s moved to Stamford, Tory stalwart Geoff Harper seems in no rush to vacate his seat on Cambridgeshire County Council and continues to represent those in his Doddington ward.

Geoff will probably stand down in 2013 but if he continues to represent part of Fenland from his new Stamford home he’ll clocking up extra miles to Shire Hall. My RAC route finder says his new home is a round trip of 85 miles compared to 62 miles from his former pad in the Fens.

BIT like X Factor, I suppose, to want to know what became of former chief executives once they left.

I hear, for example, that Andrea Hill, unseated from the chief executive post at neighbouring Suffolk County Council, is somewhere in Italy using her pay off cash to partly finance art studies.

Meanwhile I hear little of Tim Pilsbury who, despite being comforted by a �300,000 pay off from Fenland District Council, would have liked to have continued with some paid consultancy work locally.

I fear prospective employers were put off by the estimation he had of his worth when consulted for a local project but these are difficult times for the plethora of former local government executives who roam the wastelands of a once great monolith of bureaucracy and unfettered job creation.

One March councillor knows the joy of receiving a pay off from Fenland Council: former director PeterTunley exited Fenland Hall nearly a decade ago with a generous package.

After a decent absence he decided to return but from the other side of the fence.

PEACE has finally broken out and the cheque can now, seemingly, be written for the �1.5 million that Fenland Council promised to the College of West Anglia.

Several recent, and confidential, Cabinet meetings at Fenland Hall have thrown little light on progress but it seems settkement has finally been reached.

Council Leader Alan Melton offered the cash a year ago “ to facilitate the development of skills and further education in Fenland at the Ramnoth Road campus in Wisbech.”

Originally COWA planned to go it alone through �70 million worth of funding from the now discredited Learning and Skills Council.

When that scheme blew up in everyone’s face, COWA was back to the drawing board and more modest expansion is now scheduled but at Wisbech rather than March.

It was partly the cash going, again, into Wisbech that saw some Fenland councillors bemoan the lack of investment in their respective towns although the official line the cash was held up to ensure it was routed more precisely into projects that would be sustained locally for a long period of time.

Happily the cash was agreed, and the result will be evident, in the not too distant future, for all to see once new facilities open at the Isle campus site in Wisbech.

AS a well known Chelsea supporter and one reportedly buying a penthouse near the ground, I’m not sure what Dave Dawes thought of the mention he got at the weekend from Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Referring to United’s newly wealth enhanced neighbours, Manchester City, he described the turning point riches had brought his bitterest of local rivals.

“We all reach points and say, ‘This is a different life now’, whether it’s a job or winning the lottery,” said Sir Alex.

“ Look at that couple who won �110million in the lottery. Do you not think that was a turning point in their life? We all have points in our lives when it happens.

‘We never expect anybody to go away but what we try to do is make sure we are the better one. The important thing is we don’t go away.”

United lost to City 6-1.

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