Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Anatomy of an Inexactitude

...or Matt Rodda's - A Series of Unfortunate Events

December 2010 Planning Application

Application for an extension to 77-81 Whitley Street to create a unit that will be more than twice the size of existing shops.

[I'll skip out my year of discussing this with my neighbours, local businesses, council officers and senior directors and managers in Tesco]

22nd November 2011 Appeal Public Hearing at the Town Hall.

No Labour councillors or 'supporters' present. It was just me, some local businesses and a local resident. There was no written evidence provided by Matt Rodda or anyone else from Labour.
The hearing was suspended, pending evidence for a technical matter.

28th November 2011 Letter

Myself and the one local resident who attended the hearing were written to saying that we were entitled to send further written submissions up to the 9th December.

9th December 2011 Hearing closed to evidence.

16th December 2011 "Labour speak to residents"

Labour when canvassing in Christchurch Road finally started raising the matter with local residents (yeah, I spoke to them) This was a week after the period for evidence had closed and a month after the end of the hearing.

20ish December Labour's Kategrove Banner

Article: Tesco Plan for Whitley Street
Matt says: "I want to hear residents' views."

5th January 2012 Planning Inspectorate Decision Notice

Appeal dismissed.

6th January 2012 Letter to residents from Katesgrove Labour

Matt Rodda writes: "I encouraged residents to write to the inspector and wrote in myself. I also successfully pushed for residents to have extra time to write in"

11th January getReading - No go for Reading's 14th Tesco
From the Reading Post:

Fellow Katesgrove councillor Matt Rodda said: “I hoped I helped as I successfully pushed for more time for residents to feed in comments. I also wrote in myself raising concerns with the inspector.”

12th January 2012 Reading Chronicle

Picture of Labour supporting "residents" celebrating the decison with a bottle of bubbly in The Chronicle.

25th January 2012 Freedom of Information request from the Planning Inspectorate

I have retrieved the appeal file and confirm that there is no correspondence either from or on behalf of, or addressed to Matt Rodda contained on the file. Furthermore, no further correspondence was received after the hearing on 22 November 2011, other than correspondence from the Appellant and Council regarding the technical appendices from the Appellant’s statement; no correspondence was received from any members of the public.
So what are we to make of the statements made by Labour to local residents and journalists as truths stating that:
  • They had written to the Planning Inspectorate with their concerns
  • They had succeeded in getting an extension to the hearing
Neither seems to be supported by the facts.

Someone in the Labour party needs to tell Pinnochio that the first rule of politics is not to get caught.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Maid Redundant

An interesting slip by Jo Lovelock at last night's Personnel Committee. She said that one of the justifications for the removal of the Chief Executive position was because there was going to be a significantly smaller number of council staff.

A significantly smaller council? The council has around 2,500 employees outside education. Given that Labour have been responsible over the years for significant reductions in the number of council employees with the connivance of the unions, this has to be bad news. I wonder exactly when they are planning to tell staff about their impending hatchet job?

The difficulty facing the council is not, as Labour are trying to hide behind, the cuts to grants from central government but a dismal failure to tackle council spending increasing by greater than 16% per annum. Expect a significant increase in debt to finance their inability to stop spending.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

By Jiminy Cricket!

I've obviously got this ward councillor thing all wrong.

You see, after working for over a year on the planning application for 77-81 Whitley Street, meeting with residents, talking to businesses, working out through my own research that the application was actually for a Tesco Express, going through planning policy documents, speaking in person to the Communities and Government Director of Tesco, managing expectations of local businesses, attending and speaking at the public hearing, exchanging emails with Tesco's Head of Property Communication, delivering updates to residents and businesses, discovering "inexactitudes" in the applicants submission and working with council officers in the planning and highways departments to put the strongest case possible to the Planning Inspectorate... I was obviously a bit of an idiot.

I should have learnt from Labour's Little Book of Laissez-Faire Campaigning that all I needed to do was let someone else do all the work and then claim credit for it.

After all, how otherwise can you rationally account for the complete non-attendance at a public planning hearing and yet claim total credit for its findings?

But I perhaps do Labour a disservice. Their approach was even better than letting someone else do all the work.

It involved sitting on the fence until splinters in the bum became an occupational hazard. Yes. they could see both sides of the argument but once the result of the appeal was announced... they were "pleased".

I bet they had a "Great news as Tesco invest in Katesgrove" press release ready as well!

However, my faith in my constituents and local businesses in undiminished. This is a genuine exchange today from a conversation with a local shopkeeper after showing them the report in The Reading Chronicle with a picture of Labour Ausländers celebrating a Lib Dem win as their own:

Me:What do you think about this article?
Shop:[Points at picture] Who are they?
Shop:Never seen them.

[Reads article] **** off!

I’m going to tell everyone who buys this that this is rubbish. They did nothing. I’ve never seen them before. How can they lie like that?
Me:That’s politics!
But obviously I conceed that this could is an isolated case, apart maybe from...
  • Labour claiming sole credit for the Lok 'n' Store objections when the councillor didn't bother turning up at the hearing. Even more hilarious as if they'd mentioned the work of David Sutton and Richard Stainthorp they'd have had a lot of credibility as it was clearly, as far as residents were concerned, a cross-party piece of work. In contrast, I personally thanked Pete Ruhemann of his work!
  • Claiming credit for cleaning up the alley way behind Elgar Road when residents knew it was myself and Gareth who got it cleared and ridiculed Labour's leaflet.
  • Claiming credit for removal of double yellow lines in Collis Street when is was again over a year's worth of work by Gareth and myself.
  • Failing to mention that Lib Dems helped clean up Whitley Street Estate when the Neighbourhood Action Group had a litter pick [NAGs are meant to be apolitical - it is part of their constitution].
  • Claiming credit for the allocation of parking permits to Boults Walk and Compass House residents when it had been agreed before the election after work by the Lib Dem councillors.
  • Claiming credit for the doubling of residents permits which in fact I had pressured for and obtained the agreement of Richard Willis to restore the allocation before last May's election.
  • Attacking Lib Dems for a cut LABOUR had made to student waste collections.
Oh, there are more I could mention.

There is a term for these sort of tactics. It's called "The Big Lie". Orwell put it quite well:

The key-word here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts.”

And again:

“To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed....”

Perhaps I should not mention the instance when a Labour councillor collected a petition against a licencing application, didn't turn up at the licencing hearing, didn't answer calls to a developer concerned about it... and never quite got around to mentioning to residents that he was a trustee of one of the organisations that was resident in the building making the application!

There is however a big problem for Labour. I have discovered the heartening fact that people remember what you do for them, not the lies published in political leaflets.

Labour are a parasitic organism leeching off those responsible for the actual work done.

The reverse socialist dream. Kind of apt!