Speak up, councillors, while you still have time

We were pretty rude yesterday about Cllr Paul Clokie, the leader of Ashford Borough Council, for making a series of comments about the stalled Wye Park project that plumbed new depths of inanity even for his office. But you have to say this for the chap: he has at least said something. What about the rest of our public representatives? What do they have to say? Nothing, so far as we can work out. They are, it seems, content to let Imperial College, the organisation that has blighted Wye for the past nine months, decide when and how it will put the village out of its misery officially.

Many of you have asked us when, exactly, we expect to see some confirmation of the fact that the original Concordat is officially in the bin, and a few ideas about what nasties — lesser nasties, no doubt, but nasties all the same — are to take its place. The honest answer is: we don’t know. Imperial’s attitude towards the media — and by implication the public — has been to reiterate the same vacant, largely meaningless statement all along, one that doesn’t deny Wye Park is headed for the rocks, but merely falls back on the position that ‘no decision has been made’.

This is crude standard PR guff designed to kill stories and instill a sense of fear and foreboding in a community that has already experienced quite enough already, thank you. But if a public body wishes to behave in this irresponsible and thoughtless way towards a few thousand innocent people there is precious little the media can do to stop it. Never mind that there are people with homes they might want to sell discovering that no-one has a clue what the price might be. Never mind that Ashford council tax payers are starting to wonder how much more money they are supposed to hand over to Paul Clokie to pay for yet one more failed ABC turkey. This pain will go on because the people inflicting it feel absolutely no obligation to tell the truth.

Who can make them? Here’s an idea, albeit one you may regard as somewhat fantastic. How about a little visible pressure from our public representatives? Why isn’t Wye’s own borough councillor, who has been uncharacteristically silent of late, jumping up and down demanding that Imperial tell us why it’s pulled the plug on much of the work on Wye Park, most tellingly the environmental investigations? Why aren’t KCC members and Damian Green, Ashford’s MP, asking the same questions?

Perhaps they are… but in private. Which is where the answers are staying. So are we being prepared for another shock like the December 9 announcement of last year? Do those involved in the ridiculous farce of the Concordat honestly think they can stitch together one more behind-closed-doors deal to replace the last, failed attempt? Have they learned anything at all over the last nine months?

Who knows? But it is surely time for the public’s elected representatives to start making a few noises the rest of us can hear. And one of those should be a call to Imperial to come clean on the mess it is in with Wye Park, and what exactly it proposes once it finally confirms that ill-advised, undemocratic, environmentally disastrous stew of greed-driven nonsense is finally, and officially, laid to rest. They are, after, all our representatives, not Imperial’s, though you would hard pressed to tell that from the way many have behaved.

The Concordat saga has revealed some grim and unacceptable truths about the state of democracy in local government in Kent. Those who stand to get the blame for this — and yes, that will, we assure you, occur — might now take the opportunity to try to claw back a smidgen of their shattered credibility before it’s too late.

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About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome. Most recent book the novel of the Danish TV series, The Killing.
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One Response to Speak up, councillors, while you still have time

  1. Kerry Bethel says:

    Could it be that many councillors are frightened to speak up for fear of being given an acerbic and offensive dressing down by Cllr Clokie which seems to be his sole stock-in-trade?

    Thank goodness there are one or two councillors who refuse to be cowed by this council chamber bully and, hopefully, others will join them in standing up to him and bringing a return of proper democratic governance.

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