Nothing about leading a district council is local when a berserk government is in power

Big Ben in London with the houses of parliament and ornate street lamp Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Many district-level functions are set by government - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

This will irritate the very few Herald group readers who have been foaming in my general direction via the letters pages, but today I have to resort to repetition of previous themes.

Firstly, I consider it a great privilege to have a weekly column in the Journal and Herald papers, and would thank the person – not known to me – who kindly praised them in last week’s letters. By the way, the district I lead has more than twice the population of the East Devon MP’s.

Elsewhere on the pages, however, there are regular contributions of a different sort reminiscent of the Why-oh-Why letters Barry Took used to get on Points of View. Among the bees in their bonnets are the BBC (left-wing, biased!), Brexit (Belt up you Remainer traitor) and Climate Change.

Their first line of attack against me is “why don’t you just stick to local matters?” To which the answer is that nothing about leading a district council, especially with the current full-on end-of-days style of the current PM, is “local”. Entire areas of what we do at district are set by a berserk government. Indeed, our biggest headache is a broken financial promise by the Chancellor.

Long, long ago, in around May 2020, Mr Sunak promised that nobody supporting the national effort at a time of Covid would be financially disadvantaged. Therefore, when it came to covering the £1.6 million to keep LED afloat for the last two years of enforced closures, we felt it was underwritten. Maybe not. Mr Sunak did not write the cheque. He still hasn’t, and that gap in our finances is a threat to your services.

With consummate irony, those councils who did not go the Tory route and “outsource” leisure services, but deliver them in-house, were paid at least 80% of their losses more than a year ago. Pick the bones out of that if you can.

One eager correspondent in particular, Mr Mike Goodman, has not let getting facts wrong keep him from the keyboard. Until last year he was a Conservative Cabinet Councillor at Surrey County, and a District Councillor, and a Parish Councillor with an odd incident on Zoom at Windlesham Parish Council.

Only in the last few days he has launched a petition trying to block EDDC from raising charges to park. It’s one of those ones anyone would sign given the degree of omission and misdirection in its blurb. So, if I may, I offer a little context from Mr Goodman’s Surrey days, and then some exciting bullet points.

The context is that only last year the Conservatives in his old patch charged £995 for an annual parking permit in Camberley. Now the bullet points:
· In East Devon it is not £995 for an Annual Parking Permit. It is £120. Or £2.38 per week to park your car off-road for the price of a coffee.
· In East Devon for the 5 months of the year most sensitive to shopkeepers (Oct-Feb inc.) it is just £2 all day. Yes, £2! Enjoy this for the next month and a half.
· Even under the new charging plans, the daily maximum is £8
· The reason for the need to increase charges is that Mr Goodman’s allies didn’t bother for 12 years. Not since 2010. If the Tories are the party of business (debatable) they must know that makes no sense. My administration is not full of hucksters like this government. We are doing what needs to be done.
· Mr Goodman may not realise that the policy of the current administration has the support of all but one of his own party members on the Overview committee which suggested the latest rise. Which goes to prove what I have written repeatedly - there are many excellent Conservatives in this country, including in East Devon.

With apologies, readers, I am guessing I’ll be back on this subject soon.