Error In Judgement

Error In Judgement

It is incredibly common for the opposition folks in Wisbech local politics to play the victim.  They tell you Conservatives have been mean to them and called them names and stuff.  I’ve often pointed out that, while I am no angel, most of the worst stuff originates on their side.  Still, the local media will often pitch in for them, while completely ignoring anything they say or do.  We have a new instance today which perfectly highlights what they do.

A few hours ago, UKIP Parish Councillor Dave Patrick published the following on Facebook:

Patrick attacks Kings head Windows

The text is:

This is a picture today of the Kings Head Wisbech. The pub that lost its late night licence because of of violence and serving drunks. The pub quote by the Conservatives run by a responsible landlord. Obviously been some trouble in the last day or two. Maybe election campaign manager Mr Steve Tierney or member of staff Cllr Sam Hoy could enlighten us as to what happened to cause such damage to the windows.

So Dave Patrick’s assumption is that there has “obviously” been some trouble.  Then he demands that Sam or I respond to him to “explain” the damage.

Now, putting aside the fact that what a private business is doing with its windows is none of his business – it must be pretty embarrassing for him to have gotten it so dramatically wrong.  You see the windows are feature stained glass and they have been taken away by Elgoods, the company who owns the pub, for refurbishment.  No violence.  No damage.  No crime.  These are the same people who have tried to accuse the landlord of the pub of illegal parking (in a vehicle he doesn’t own), and have published the same picture twice while suggesting the second one is “new” (but forgetting that the posters in the back window are good guidance for the date of the posting.)

Dave Patrick’s motivation to say there has “obviously” been some trouble is clearly to muddy the name of the landlord, because the landlord is a current candidate in a by-election.  But this time I reckon he’s made a mistake.  His comments and completely inaccurate misreading of events can clearly be seen to cause direct damage to the reputation of the landlord and his business.  Even were he just a member of the public this could get him into trouble.  As a Councillor?  A bad error of judgement, I think.

After they realised they had made a mistake, the contributors of the site desperately tried to backpeddle.  Some of it is a bit sad.  Some quite funny.  Some unbelievable.

I like this one, from Sharon Horne, after an Admin had pointed out that maybe a mistake had been made:

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Sharon appears to think that “free speech” means the right to cast aspersions on other people’s businesses and reputations, without any evidence to back it up.  Sharon is a UKIP activist and was an organiser of the infamous “anti-immigration” rally and the Wisbech Immigration Issues Facebook site, just for context.

Here’s Jason Hatcher, suggesting that there were no incorrect facts.
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Clearly the term “(there has) obviously been some trouble” is viewed by him as “speculation” rather than a statement.  I wonder if he would feel the same way if somebody “speculated” about him by using the term “he is obviously….” and then some sort of criminal activity?

At this point Sam Hoy pops onto the forum and tells Dave Patrick he should apologise, that he has got it wrong and that he has gone too far.  He responds with characteristic charm:
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“What are you going to do, report me to your conduct committee?” he asks.  The suggestion that he doesn’t value the Conduct Committee hasn’t stopped him reporting other people to it in the past though, has it?  Somebody should remind him that he signs the Councillor Code Of Conduct when he becomes a Councillor.  Or perhaps giving his word doesn’t mean very much?  Who knows?

Apparently not following the “wriggle pattern” set by others, Sharon Horne continues:
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Come on guys.  Make your minds up.  One minute its “speculation” then he “states what happened?”  This grand “threat” to which she was referring was when Sam Hoy said he was incorrect, advised he apologise, and said he had gone too far.  To suggest this was a “threat” is to play the victim into the realms of fantasy.

Then, the Wisbech Standard reports the actual facts.  And suddenly they fly into a panic, realising they’ve got it completely wrong.
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So Jason Hatcher thinks that its the admins fault that Dave Patrick made a nasty guess that was completely wrong.  Apparently it is the admins job to provide them with a live feed of information, just in case they might get something completely and utterly wrong and make no effort to check their facts before spouting off about it?  And Dave Patrick thinks it is Sam Hoy’s job to feed him information, to save him from making a complete fool of himself.  The funny thing is, she did!  She said he had got it wrong and should apologise.  Apparently, it’s also her job to be his personal news service just in case he is about to attack a business and an individual based on false assumptions.  How about a little personal responsibility Dave?  You make the same mistake every time.  You cock up and then, instead of just holding your hands up and saying: “Sorry, my bad,” you keep digging and digging.

At this point Dave goes into “play the victim” mode.
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I’m not sure how many more times he can play the victim card, while being the one doing the attacking, and get away with it.  In fact, I think he stopped getting away with it a while ago.

Jason Hatcher, my hat goes off to him for this most expert and wily wriggle:
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No joke, I really did enjoy that bit of wordplay.  Very clever.

But at this point members of the forum are leaving because they don’t like what is going on.  And there is a backlash:

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At time of writing this blog post, Dave Patrick has not answered the question of where he got the photo, or why it is the same as the newspaper’s photo but he claims not to have seen the newspaper’s story.  Now there could be a perfectly innocent explanation for it, of course.  Unlike Dave, I’m not going to “presume” guilt, I’ll wait for his response.

Shops In Wisbech Town Centre

Shops In Wisbech Town Centre

This is a list of the shops in our Town Centre based on a quick survey as of 21st august 2015. I’m sorry if I miss anybody. If I did it was an accident as I was doing this quite quickly. By town Centre I refer to the collection of roads that make up the commercial center of town – the Old market, the High Street, the Horse Fair, Market Street, Norfolk Street and Hill Street plus surrounding lanes and ways. I apologise if I get any names wrong, or don’t quite list the services correctly, these are just quick impressions and should not be considered as anything more.

Goddards – Quality Clothing Shop
7th Heaven – Computer Games & Electronics
Evison – Drapers/Outfitters/Clothing
One Stop Shop – Fenland District Council advice and help
2 x Post Offices; one main, one sub-.
Etcetera – House/Kitchenware
Diamond Bytes – Computers
Loafers x 2; the big one and the sandwich bar.
Fancy Fayre – Jewellery / gifts
QS – Clothes
All About You – Hair & Beauty
Bon Marche – Women’s Clothes
Hearing Centre – hearing aids etc.
Drake Pearson – Solicitors
Shoe Zone – Shoes
Rose & Crown – Hotel and restaurant
Fashion Centre – Clothes
99p Store – Discount Goods
ECIG Zoo – Ecigarettes
Savers – Toiletries etc.
The Flavour Pit – Cafe
The Gallery – Restaurant / Cafe
Cats Pajamas – All sorts of wonderful stuff
Wool Shop – Wool etc
Royal Blue Meat – Butchers
The Answer – Mortgage Advice
Lustre Lingerie – Lingerie
Entertainment Centre – Games, DVDs, etc.
Clothes For All The Family – Clothes
Wisbech Music Center – Musical Instruments etc.
Bit of A Do – Party Shop
Country Fayre – Gift Shop
Prams & Toys – Toys and Kids Stuff
Picturesque Framing – picture framing & gallery
Swinton Insurance – insurance
Addiction Tattoos – Tattoos
The Floral Centre – florist
Brewers – Fruit & Veg
Card Factory – Cards & Gifts
Boots – Pharmacy etc.
New Look – Clothes
Burger King – Fast Food
Peacocks – Clothes
Wisbech Angling – angling supplies
Holland & Barrett – health store
Superdrug
Greggs the Baker
Argos – catalogue shop
Co-Op – Supermarket
Kiosk – Gifts
Trespess – Outfitters & Outdoor clothes
H.Samuel – Jewellers
Cardzone – Cards & Gifts
Poundland – discount goods
Costa – Coffee Cafe
The Money Shop – short term loans
WH Smith – Newsagent, stationery, books etc.
QD – All sorts
Deaveson – Jewellers
Music Box – Vinyl Records and musical collectibles
McIntosh’s – Outdoor Wear
Bhangal Spice – Indian Restaurant
Survival – Dress Agency
Willowfield – Beauticians
Oasis – Christian Book Store
The Outlet – Catalogue shop
Terry’s – restaurant / cafe
Lebara – Newsagent
Foxes Cards – cards
Cashino Gaming – slot machines etc.
Hughes Electrical – Buy & Rent Household Appliances
Beales – Department Store
Cox – Electrical Goods
Bygones – restaurant / cafe
AJs Jeans – Clothes
Bolton – Fish & Chips
Brittania – restaurant / cafe
Acme Cabs – Cabs
2nd Time Around – Second Hand Bargains
Bedtime Beds – beds
CAB – Citizen’s Advice Bureau
New Image – tattoos
Fairbrothers – chemist
Anglia Locksmiths – locksmiths
Kodak Express – photographic services
Discount Cycles – Cycles etc.
Osbornes – furniture
Bumps, babies & Beyond – Baby and kids clothes etc.
Click – Computers and electrical

Some types of shop there are multiples of, so rather than list them all individually I’ve grouped them for simplicity. This is no reflection on their quality – I have no doubt they are all absolutely brilliant. Just strapped for time today smile emoticon

Other Fast Food x 10
Nail Technicians x 3
Recruitment Agencies x 2
Betting Shops x 5
Sundry Grocers/Delicatessens x 14
Estate Agents x 5
Opticians x 3
Hairdressers x 16
Letting Agencies x 4
Empty Shops x 12
Derelict Shops x 4
Empty UKIP Shop x 1
Banks/Building Societies x 5
Tanning Studio x 2
Mobile Phone Shops x 5
Charity x 7
Pubs x 5

In total there are approx. 200 shops in the wider area that can be considered Wisbech Town Centre.
As APPROX. rounded up percentages:-

4% of the shops are charity shops
3% of the shops are betting shops
7% of the shops are run by Eastern Europeans
Hair & Beauty is the largest percentage making up 11% of the shops
6% of the shops are empty
2% of the shops are derelict

Staithe UKIP Leaflet

Staithe UKIP Leaflet

I haven’t talked much about the forthcoming By-Election for the Staithe Ward on Wisbech Town Council.  There are some pretty dirty tricks being played, but I don’t think local people are paying them much attention so there’s no point highlighting them as they don’t seem to have much traction.

But I did catch the UKIP leaflet.  I thought this bit (below) was amusing.

UKIP snippet

“I will tell you what others fail to tell you – the truth.”
“Caroline Rosalie Smith, a local mother who lives in Staithe Ward.”

Here is the legal document, the Statement Of Persons Nominated.

UKIP 2 snippet

Caroline Rosalie Smith has stated her address as 2 Wilberforce Road, Wisbech PE13 2PU.

So what’s the problem?

Well, Caroline’s stated “home address” is in Wilberforce Road,  And Wilberforce Road isn’t in Staithe Ward.
It’s in Clarkson Ward.

Oh yes, Caroline.  You do always tell the truth.  No doubt about it.

Normally, election literature is approved by the candidate, but the legal responsibility for it lies with the Election Agent.  In this case the Election Agent appears to be Cllr. Alan Lay.  The same guy who then endorses Caroline Smith on the same page.

UKIP 3 snippet

You couldn’t make it up. :)

*And by the way, Alan Lay is not the County Councillor for Staithe, either.  Though I suppose he is a local County Councillor, so that’s just a little misleading rather than false.  I guess that’s because the actual local County Councillor is Samantha Hoy, and she’d be pretty unlikely to endorse Caroline Smith.

The Small Print for Election Purposes:
Printed and promoted by Steve Tierney of 6 Alexandra Road, Wisbech PE13 1HQ on behalf of Aigars Balsevics both of Cromwell House, Wisbech Road, March, PE15 8EB.

Consultation On Streetlighting

Consultation On Streetlighting

Cambridgeshire County Council wishes to achieve financial savings of approximately £272,000 by switching off street lights across Cambridgeshire between midnight and 6.00 am each day.

Under this proposal a total of 1,449 street lights would be affected in Wisbech; and Wisbech Town Council has been asked whether it would be prepared to contribute financially towards the cost of retaining streetlighting during those hours, on particular roads within the town, with effect from the financial year 2016/17.

The cost of retaining full operation of the 1,449 street lights would be £12 per light per annum (increasing by inflation and fuel costs each year), plus an annual administrative charge of £65. The total cost for 2016/17 would be £17,403.00.

In order for Wisbech Town Council to decide whether to meet this cost, they wish to know what the residents of Wisbech think about the proposal.
If the decision is made to fund full illumination, this would become part of the Wisbech Town Council budget proposals for 2016/2017. If an increase in the annual Parish Precept was required, this would be an increase of 8.4%

Please see the Council website for the figures for what this would cost your Band of household. http://www.wisbechtowncouncil.org.uk/streetlightssurvey.html

If you are a Wisbech Parish Council Tax payer you can make your views known by completing the survey below. For your vote to be counted, you must include your name, address and postcode – details will only be used to verify residency in Wisbech Parish.

The deadline for your views is 5pm on Friday 25 September.
The majority view will be a strong guide to the council’s decision, and the results of the survey will be published in the Minutes.

Save The Night Shelter

Save The Night Shelter

Press Release from Church Together, put here for public information

The Night Shelter division of The Ferry Project is once again in urgent need of funding in order to stay open. It regularly supports numerous people in desperate circumstances and provides a much needed service in our community.

Last month (July 2015), the Night Shelter supported many people including 32 who were direct victims of crime including several who had been kidnapped and trafficked into the area. The Ferry Project say that the numbers of human trafficking victims they are coming across in Wisbech and the surrounding area is increasing as they continue to work to bring freedom and help to these vulnerable people and the lack of funding to the Night Shelter is seriously threatening this valuable work.
As a result, the Ferry Project are hosting a fund raising event – a 1940s themed dinner dance (Click Here for Poster) on 19th September. Please can you circulate the details of this important event amongst your contacts and congregations?
Even if people are unable to come to the dinner dance, they can still donate to the Ferry Project directly.
Churches Together in Wisbech were instrumental in helping to start the Ferry Project in 1998 and have maintained close links with it ever since.
 nightshelter

Wisbech Rock Festival 2015

Wisbech Rock Festival 2015

… and we’re done for another year!

As usual, I feel like I could sleep for a thousand years.  But the Rock Festival grew again – both in terms of scope of the show and in attendance.  We think that at the high point, in both stage areas, we may have had between 1500 and 2000 people in attendance.  We are also aware that through the eight hour set a very great many people arrived, left and switched around.  So full attendance is hard to guess, but we believe there were between 3000 and 4000 people at the Rock Festival throughout the day.

Everybody seemed to have an amazing time.  It helped that the weather was so great and the bands so entertaining, but the people of Wisbech were ready to Rock and Roll and that’s what they did.

Despite the large numbers and frenetic activity, the event was managed smoothly and there was no significant problems or trouble.  Even though, for the first time, we had a beer tent on site.

Anyway, very tired.  Amazing work from David Oliver, Jess Oliver, Sam Hoy, Gary Read and all the many people involved.  Great to see so many Councillors there this year.  I have promised I wont mention those that didn’t turn up and so I shall not (because nobody is surprised.)

Rock on 2016.

Democracy Is Not A Toy

Democracy Is Not A Toy

It’s been a real wheeze for some Conservatives to briefly pay £3.00, join the Labour party, and vote for Jeremy Corbyn to become the new Labour leader.  Hilarious, I am sure.  You see, conventional wisdom is that Jeremy Corbyn is “unelectable” and that if he becomes leader of the Labour party that will mean political wilderness for them for many years to come.

This is a painfully stupid idea.

In the first instance, playing games with democracy is never a good idea.  Democracy is not a toy.  It is the method by which we elect the leaders of nations.  The people who can decide what activities will result in being sent to prison, how much money is taken from your wages before you even see it, when to go to war and when not to.  Fooling around with it for your amusement, or for cynical reasons, will never end well.

Worse still, Jeremy Corbyn is an extremely dangerous man.  He is dangerous because of a combination of factors.  He is clearly passionate, charismatic and strong.  He is a man who believes, in every sense of the word, in the politics he preaches.  He’s not some moulded media puppet, scared of his own shadow and terrified to say something wrong.  He says it and be damned, and when he says it you can tell he means it.  But wait, that’s a good thing, right?  That’s what everybody says they want politicians to be like.  Well yes, but this is coupled with an ideology that is decades out of date and insidiously destructive.

Jeremy Corbyn is an old-school Socialist.  In fact, he’s probably more than that, but we’ll see the extremes more clearly if he wins the battle and is safe in his new position.  Like all Old School Socialists I have ever heard he espouses policies of high tax and statist controls, suggesting that they can make everybody equal and solve all the woes of the world.  In truth, were he ever given the position to enact those policies we would see prosperity disappear, national debt skyrocket, personal responsibility evaporate, businesses flee, poverty and inequality grow and misery ensue.  Worse than that, each time their policies fail, Old School Socialists never learn from them.  Instead, they “double down” and try and fix one bad policy with a worse one.

This man should not be a figure of “fun” for anybody.  This man is terrifying.  You may laugh now at getting an “unelectable leader” into the frontline position in the Labour Party.  But you won’t laugh in 2020 if he is elected as Prime Minister.  There will be no laughing then for five long years while he sets about dismantling our traditions, smiling for mugshots with our enemies, taxing our businesses and wealth-creators out of the country and plunging us back into the Seventies, or worse.

You underestimate the British people if you think Jeremy Corbyn could never win a national election for Labour.  We have short memories and big hearts.  Despite people who claim they “hate all politicians” and have no interest in politics, we are suckers for a National Saint preaching that poverty, disability and inequality can be eradicated if only the top rate of tax was a bit more, or banks were nationalised, or unions were given control of companies, or price controls were imposed on whatever the cause of the day was.  Because he believes what he is saying, it lends his words a gravity they do not deserve.  He could win here, and if he did, we would be in deep trouble.

On Being Chained To A Tree

On Being Chained To A Tree

The latest local issue to have lit up Facebook is a Wisbech Standard exclusive, that the Town Council may intend to dig up some trees.  I know, it’s not the stuff of a Daily Mail headline, but it has nevertheless got some people into a royal rage.

On the thread, John Elworthy, who lit the fuse in the first place, asks why “other Councillors” haven’t commented.  He means Samantha Hoy and I, of course, since we are the only ones who frequent that particular site.  I don’t mind though, because the whole thing lets me blog about the two issues that really bug the hell out of me.  In fact, these issues are framed beautifully by the tree story.

One issue I have said over and over again, to my colleagues, on this blog and to anybody who will listen is that all of our local Councils suffer from the same core problem.  That core problem is communication.  Regular readers will have heard me mention it in recent blog posts.  Over and over and over again we find ourselves amidst a media, or a social media, storm.   When this happens the opposition clap their hands with glee and immediately start concocting some load of old guff to make best use of the chaos.  Petitions, dramatic photo shoots, declarations of “incompetence” and “corruption” and all the other “go to” buzzwords to put a hate on the local Council.  And it is so damn easy to avoid.  That’s what irritates me.

Communication fails at every level.  Officers don’t properly brief Councillors.  Lead Members don’t properly brief their group and the wider Council.  Cabinet don’t properly talk to backbenchers*.  People get into positions of special responsibility and seem to immediately lose any knowledge of when and how to communicate what they are doing.  So when stories come out, it is quite often in some colourful piece in the local newspaper, which immediately gets shared around two dozen social media groups.  Before you know it everybody has an opinion, people begin spouting “facts” that have no bearing on reality, other people take those facts and have an opinion on them.  And so on, like some twisted Council version of Chinese Whispers.

Social Media is the reason for all of this.  The world has moved on, people communicate instantly, ideas are shared, stories are told, actions and reactions reverberate outwards in every direction.  Meanwhile our local Councils, and many Councillors, are still sitting by their old telephone and thinking “well, it’s not ringing, so everything must be fine.”  All of our Councils, and most of our Governmental institutions around the country, are hopelessly out of date.  By the time some of them have learnt to Tweet, Twitter will be in the history books and we’ll be Whooping, or Snarking, or whatever the new thing is.  Yes, of course, many people don’t use Twitter, Facebook and the like.  But a solid thirty or forty percent do and that’s growing every day – and even the ones who don’t will often be talking to somebody who does.

This is a big problem for local Councils and the tree issue is a good example.  Now I am not on the Markets Committee who have authority over this stuff and I don’t know the full scope of the plans for the Market, but Cllr David Oliver is a clever guy who often has good ideas and it may well be that the trees have to come down due to structural damage, or because they are sickly.  But at the moment the story reads: “Evil Council chopping trees to make concrete wasteland.”  That’s probably abject nonsense, but if nobody is responding to questions being asked then the story grows and grows out of all connection to reality.  Before you know it, you have what we have today, which is what should have been a positive story about the Town Council doing exactly what people always ask for and improving the Market Place into people threatening to chain themselves to trees.  All because of a complete lack of proper communication.

Which brings me on to the second thing that irritates me, and the reason I have recently taken some time out of Facebook.  You see, I am sick to the back teeth of being the visible face of every ill-thought, poorly judged or just badly communicated story.  The only Wisbech Councillors you regularly see on Facebook are Samantha Hoy and I.  So every time anything happens, regardless of whether I am anything to do with it, often even if I don’t support it, I am the person who gets all the questions, the name-calling and the abuse.  I don’t mind a bit of abuse, but what I resent is being the punchball for other people’s failure to communicate.

The reason for this is that so many Councillors think Social Media doesn’t matter.  They stay off of it, usually saying they “don’t understand it” or “aren’t interested.”  I think they wish it did not exist.  That’s all very well, but wishing something doesn’t exist does not stop it from doing so.  It is there, people are on it, if you don’t come up with some way to address that then you will always be playing “catch up” on every issue, every story, even media fanfare.  Which doesn’t work, because by the time you’ve gotten involved, most people have already made up their minds and moved on.  This is what happened with Estover, with the Hudson name change, with many other issues.  But we never seem to learn.

So I was asked what I thought about the possible plan to cut down the trees as part of the market place redesign.  I don’t know, I haven’t seen all the details.  The idea to streamline the market for future events isn’t terrible.  I love the idea of a bandstand or performing area in the middle and in order to do that some stuff probably does need to go.  Sometimes, if trees are growing and doing damage to structures around them they do need to be cut down.  But to be completely honest, I’ve not been involved.  This is Cllr David Oliver’s baby, which has not yet come to full Council.  So David Oliver should be the one on Facebook and elsewhere answering questions about it.

If there are no answers forthcoming, or if the answers aren’t good ones, then I will ask my Medworth constituents what they think.  And if what they think is that we shouldn’t cut those trees down then maybe I’ll be right there alongside Pam “Greywitch” Thompson chained to a tree.  Which will be a new experience, if nothing else.

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*And before anybody says: “Oh what you need is the Committee System” – no it is not.  The Committee System is equally susceptible to poor communication, as can be seen by the broken authority that was Cambridgeshire County Council.  The Committee System would take all of this and add more bad things to the mixing pot. What is needed is for people to properly consult and communicate, in advance of taking decisions that will bug the hell out of everybody involved.  And for them to be sufficiently foresighted to recognise what those issues are.