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Wall of silence

The council taxpayers of Herne Bay have just received a reassuring message from the city council. Apparently the town’s museum is not being closed after all - it just will not be open to members of the public! Talk about semantic gibberish!

As a concerned council taxpayer, I wrote to some 16 Conservative Canterbury city councillors in early December, expressing my opposition to the proposal to close the Herne Bay Museum as part of the 2010/11 budget cuts. I asked the councillors concerned to consider alternative methods of making the necessary savings and urged those representing the town to put the interests of the community before those of their political party.

Out of all those councillors contacted, only two - Ann Taylor and Peter Vickery-Jones - have had the decency to come back to me on this matter. The remaining 14 have not even deigned to acknowledge receipt of my correspondence! They might not agree with my sentiments concerning Herne Bay Museum, but surely common courtesy dictates some sort of response - if only to say that my comments would be given further consideration.

I am not a political animal and, accordingly have no particular party axe to grind. I deliberately targeted the Conservatives for the simple reason that they are currently the controlling party on the city council and, as such, form the executive which dictates policy. As a retired local government officer who served a number of local authorities in Kent for more then 30 years, I have never had a particularly high opinion of elected members in general. Some are hard-working and do have the best interests of their local community in mind, but many would appear to be there only for their own personal egos.

Their failure to reply to correspondence would only seem to indicate their complete unwillingness to discuss matters with concerned council taxpayers and has most certainly done nothing to enhance my opinion of them. For most people, pursuing a sporting interest, hobby or pastime costs money Councillors have chosen their particular pastime as being local politics. Why should other members of the community subsidise them in the pursuit of this chosen hobby?

Are the council taxpayers of Canterbury City Council getting value for money for the majority of their elected representatives? Council leader Cllr John Gilbey has been quoted in the local Press as being of the opinion that the number of elected members sitting on the Canterbury City Council is excessive and I, for one, fully agree.

An immediate reduction by say some 20 members (with the resultant reduction in associated allowances and expenses) would save council taxpayers somewhere between £100,000 and £150,000 per annum - a not inconsiderable amount and certainly much more than the projected annual savings on the whole of the city’s museum services budget.

I wrote to chief executive Colin Carmichael more than two weeks ago expressing my frustration at having received no response from city councillors. To date I have not received any response from him either on this matter! Have other readers encountered a similar wall of silence from Canterbury City Council?

John Fishpool, Herne Bay
HB Gazette letters, 4th Feb 2010

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