On the trail of bingogate just as bunnygate is dying out and Oyez, oh No to town crier plus Sam Hoy’s video slot

NICE to catch up with Cambs fire chief Graham Stagg (NOT) at this year’s Kids Are Alright final in Wisbech on Monday.

Mr Stagg was unable to attend, and there was a noticeable absence of senior fire officers at this year’s event, even though Cambs fire remains, in general, a committed sponsor.

Perhaps Mr Stagg had shared enough of our Fenland ways for one day, having spent a gruelling two hours earlier before the Fenland Council overview and scrutiny committee.

Another explanation could be the journey home. As a Freedom of Information request revealed last week many of the senior fire chiefs in Cambridgeshire live outside of the county. Mr Stagg, though his chums who compose the answers never revealed this, actually lives in Barnet which according to the RAC is a 110 mile return trip each day to his office in Huntingdon.

Happily his salary package of around �190,000 a year can happily withstand the RAC’s estimated daily travel cost of around �18.

PEOPLE who organise fund raisers sometime leave it a little late in the day to publicise their events, and Rupert Wilkes is cutting it a bit fine by telling me of a visit to the Fens by the Downham Market Swing Orchestra.

They will be guests of the Rev Dawn Mason on July 16 as she opens her gardens at Emneth vicarage to raise money for the churches of Elm, Friday Bridge and Emneth.

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Gates open at 6pm, bring your own refreshments, entry is �6 but under 11s get in free, and the music starts at 7pm.

Advance tickets from Pat Lake on 01945 773413 or Mary Green on 10945 464823.

Every little helps.

VICKY Ford, the Cambridgeshire councillor who became a Conservative MEP, reminds of new food labels that came in this week which means fresh meat products will need to show in which country the animal was reared and slaughtered.

“It is completely unacceptable that a frozen carcass can be flown into the UK, chopped up and packaged and then stamped with a Union Jack,” she says, rather too disarmingly in my opinion but there you have it.

Vicky labelled her press release ‘honest food or porky pies’ a catchy little phrase that prompted me, so to speak, to take a bite.

FOR goodness sake while Rome (well that bit controlled by Murdoch) burns, here in the Fens we lighten our mood with some tough talking over the serious matter of a game of bingo. Let me explain.

On Fridays the good people of Manea pop along to the village hall for some cheery eyes down, a few laughs and good natured banter to see them comfortably into the weekend. However what happened last Friday is fast becoming the stuff of clickety click legend – the behaviour, allegedly, of independent councillor Mark Archer.

I’ve spoken to Mark on several occasions of late – most recently over his unkempt allotment which attracted criticism from the local allotment society (he’s secretary so, technically, wrote to himself telling himself to get it sorted soon or hand it back).

But the bingo row has moved things to a new level, with bingo being halted on Friday night so that the caller could invite Cllr Archer to curtail what has been described to me as “his raucousness”.

Plenty want to talk with me about the incident and have promised to do once the matter gets a public airing at a soon to be convened meeting of the village hall committee- of which Cllr Archer is a member.

“Mark seems to have gone out of his way to p*** people off,” one attendee told me. “Quite why he’s taken to disrupting our bingo I don’t know. But we will not tolerate it.”

Mutiny is on the card with those involved in running the fund raising nights threatening to quit “unless something is done” which probably means inviting Cllr Archer to a) step down from the committee and b) promise not to attend in future.

Another regular reckons Cllr Archer to be a “silly man trying to spoil it for the rest of us”.

She added: “I can’t afford to go out very often and now I have to travel further to other bingos”.

I tried getting hold of Cllr Archer this week and hoped to see him at Fenland Hall on Monday where he was due to attend a committee meeting debating the fire service. Unfortunately he got the dates mixed up and missed it.

WHAT an odd time its’ turned out to be for March businessman Steve Count who has been, variously, up, down, in, out in the world of local politics.

Up when he won the March seat on Fenland Council left vacant by the death of Peter Skoulding but down when he failed to keep the nomination in May’s local election.

Up when he got selected for the county council seat left vacant following the death of John West and up, still, when he won handsomely.

This week he got a further boost when someone else’s misfortune turned to his advantage and he became portfolio holder for resources and performance in the county council Cabinet.

Linda Oliver has stepped down for business reasons (she’s only just started the job) but it’s paved the way for recently elected leader Councillor Nick Clarke to offer the post to Cllr Count.

It’s an extraordinary promotion for a man who only joined the council in March but his new boss believes he can provide “the fresh perspectives and thinking which can be so valuable as we deal with such challenging financial circumstances. I know he will rise to the challenge.”

Of course that’s not a view shared by some Tories in March who ousted him but Steve is gaining friends in unlikely places.

Wisbech county councillor Steve Tierney says he “can’t see why people are surprised. Steve Count is a strong voice and a good councillor with solid business acumen.”

UNDER the heading of ‘ancient relic found’ I turned to the ‘rotten boroughs’ section of my favourite fortnightly periodical- Private Eye- to learn the relic referred to is none other than Fenland Council leader Alan Melton.

Bunnygate is alive and well in Private Eye which describes Cllr Melton, in the light of his design awards speech, as a “bulldozer-loving, heritage-hating” council boss.

Private Eye says Cllr Melton is already an early nomination for their Philistine of the Year Award amidst claims local government minister Eric Pickles is “irritated with the fool from the Fens”.

Alan will neither be irritated nor perturbed by the insults. He reckons his speech has paved the way for a massive national debate on archaeological surveys and their merits and he’s enjoying every moment of the attention forced upon him, and the issues he raised.

I HAD rather expected to see the 600 year-old Rose and Crown Hotel in Wisbech returning to health and prosperity following its sale to new owners in April.

However looking at the scaffolding in place this week and the evident amount of restoration work now needed, I sincerely hope they enjoy better fortune than the previous owner Jonathan Davies.

His mind seemed always willing but regretfully his Fawlty-esque performances, particular when he appeared on the Channel 5 Hotel Inspector series, left many sorely unimpressed.

SO former council candidate Reg Kemp has another failure to consider, his latest bid to persuade March Town Council to appoint a town crier was thrown out on Monday.

The council says it cannot afford it but Reg thinks the approximate �400 a year cost would easily be recouped by the prestige it would bring.

“The town crier would generate many times the �400 honorarium in business and publicity” he says. “March lends itself to such a feature”

That’s the trouble with March, says Reg, accusing them of having “no vision. They spend thousands on robes for councillors but won’t spend a few quid on something that would benefit town”.

Oyez, oyez, Oh No.

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