Here is my first "guest blog" from Kent County Cllr. Clive Hart who represents Cliftonville and Margate. He is referring to the precociously titled Kent on Sunday which I picked up yesterday from Tesco's Westwood Cross at 5pm. Here's Clive..
"Conservative county councillor Chris Wells' comments in Kent on Sunday (15/2/09)regarding the dangerous mix of looked-after children and vulnerable adults in Cliftonville made through the newspapers 'opinion' column should have come as a surprise to me as the 'fellow' local member for Margate & Cliftonville but for imminent electoral reasons they didn't.
After four long years of making exactly the same argument that Cllr. Wells outlines, at the highest levels and virtually on my own at County Hall, I was however pleased to read that at long last he finally agrees with my repeatedly voiced concerns on these issues.
Long before Cllr. Wells started to represent the area concerned, I was one of the three district ward councillors who originally called for action resulting in the Thanet Inquiry report, and this despite fierce opposition (at that time) from the Conservative leader at Thanet District Council who said we were exaggerating matters. I have also consistently called for Kent County Council (KCC) to widen their enquiry to include vulnerable adults placed in Margate & Cliftonville at every given opportunity over the past four years. It would have been nice to have had some support from Cllr. Wells in this regard during his time as a Cabinet member at KCC.
Now, with his former role as a Cabinet Member terminated and with the county elections on the horizon, he apparently feels free to cynically chastise his Chief Executive Peter Gilroy and leading officers at KCC such as Childcare chief Bill Anderson and furthermore, attempts to jump out of his constrained silence and on to a supposed bandwagon for electoral gain.
The problematic social mix in Margate & Cliftonville is something genuine frontline councillors deal with each and every day, but the issue certainly doesn't need fanning just before each and every election!"
UPDATE 15.11 14.00
I am grateful to Chris Wells for rapidly responding:
"Ah, bless you, Clive, it is genuinely entertaining to be accused of bandwagon approaches by yourself, the world's greatest bandwagonner of all time.
Every time anyone comments about anything around the areas that you represent you are straight into print, claiming prior rights and years and years of campaigning to achieve the same thing. Without realising you open yourself to the obvious irony that clearly then, you achieve very little!
One of the things about being in opposition a long time, as you have been all your electoral life to date, is a failure to realise that public pronouncement is not always the best way to change things. If you had read my piece carefully, you would appreciate that it was a response to the appallingly inaccurate News of the World story, and spoke of considerable quiet efforts to change awareness of the issue.
However, I doubt if any of these essential truths will change your approach, which is always rather more about how important and hard working you are, than actually making the changes needed on behalf of your constituents.
I am sure that with Iris, you will form a regular, media release based, mutual congratulation society, as you have at District level with two colleagues, label it a successful team, and hope to fool all of the people all of the time.
Only time will tell."
The election is on June 4th where the voters of Cliftonville and Margate can choose between their 2 current representatives, Iris Johnston for Labour and others no doubt yet to be announced.