You will probably remember a few weeks ago Anne Western (Labour) and her cronies delivered leaflets around the village claiming our roads wouldn’t gritted or cleared of snow this winter due to Conservative cuts and has gloated about a Radio interview she had. Well the September 2011 meeting at Derbyshire County Council offices seems to tell a different story and perhaps Anne was being a little shy of telling the truth. The note below is a transcript of a statement made by Cllr Spencer (Conservative) – Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport during the meeting.
CLLR SPENCER (Conservative): Well where do you start, Chairman? I have been looking forward to this for weeks! (Laughter) I am actually going to just put the record
straight. One of my colleagues on the other side of the room mentioned a radio interview that took place on BBC Radio Sheffield. I have to say the way in which that interview was conducted was totally unacceptable and it did not follow BBC guidelines. Let us get a
couple of things quite straight there. The Labour Party are actually publicising this
particular interview on their website and BBC Radio Derby actually played an extract from it as well. We did actually challenge Radio Sheffield to a couple of comments that were made. One of those comments was, bottom of page 5, the interviewer read out what was supposedly said in the report. Well let me tell you now he did not do that and he did not
get it right. If you listen to what he said and what the report actually does say you will see for yourself quite clearly that he skewed the debate, and he went on to say “You can’t even tell the truth on this programme.” Let me tell you that is contrary to BBC guidelines and that is why I have a formal written apology here from BBC Radio Sheffield. If you would like to see it you are very welcome to do so. Now, let us get down to the nitty-gritty, shall we? We are in the process of consultation. I am afraid, Councillor Allen, I am not going to be travelling all over the county just to alleviate you as a County Councillor from having to answer a few questions, and I do believe it is a consultation process that we will take into account moving forward. I am more than happy to hear the views of the members of the public – provided of course they are not skewed by politicians like yourself – but what I will say is this: I am more than happy to hear those views throughout this consultation process. We want to do a slight amount of clarification because obviously the Labour Party are quite keen on debating this issue and I understand they have put out one or two press releases throughout the county which I very much welcome (if they were true, of course) which on many occasions they are not. I have one here from the Buxton Advertiser, similar to the one in the something 44 Chronicle somewhere up in the North East. It says “40% of our roads will only be treated between 9 am and 5 pm”. That is possible under a worse case scenario, and Councillor Lucas knows that, but that is not going to be a standard process. There are a couple of issues in here that I have to say, we are going to get into the debate about the funding and whether we should have a million quid in or a million quid out or a £2 million contingency fund in place or should not put it in place or we should do it in different ways, but there is an acceptance within this Authority that it didn’t and could be improved upon. Believe it or not throwing cash at things is not the only way to fix them. We know that is a Labour Party ethos because they have spent 13 years throwing cash at things and it is not the way to fix them but you can continue to do it if you wish. This Group is not going to do that. I believe fundamentally following a full review of the service we had to take difficult decisions and change the way in which the service was delivered. I know the Scrutiny Sub- Group did go to North Yorkshire and I know they had a very interesting and informative day. They came back with some sensible ideas, of which we took some of them on board. The £200 to local farmers I think was a good idea and I support that philosophy, it engages with them, but of course there is a lot more to do. Councillor Allen is quite right that we need to take into account the needs of the elderly people within our communities. One of the big issues related to this scheme was the way in which we consulted, the way in which we informed the public and the way in which we
talked to the public about what the Council is doing in the circumstances of bad weather. We are going to be running a significant programme of information from this Authority moving forward and telling people how they can help in their communities, how they can help their neighbours, how they can assist the Local Authority in delivering the services they are responsible for. I think you will find in that information some tips, so read the leaflet, Councillor Allen, and you might learn one or two things. What I would
say to you is this: there has to be a change in the way in which this service is delivered, there has to be a change in the way in which this service is operated moving forward. I believe that the proposals put forward by the officers of this organisation are acceptable, they are sustainable and they are deliverable. I personally believe when I look at the reports that I have read and gone through in detail – and I read them properly I might add, Councillor Western, not miss words out that are quite important – what I would say to you is this: we are still as an Authority gritting the same mileage of roads. We are still, compared to our neighbours, doing a considerable amount of roads compared to themselves. Some Authorities, I think Nottinghamshire off the top of my head 35%, we are still doing 47%, I think Brian knows that, and there are others we can name down the list. We have to deliver this change. We have to look at the way in which it is delivered in the rural communities and the process and the time of delivery is paramount in this. The secondary routes have been introduced along with the tertiary routes. The tertiary routes, I believe, will be a fundamental improvement, particularly in rural areas. We do have old people in rural areas as well, perhaps you do not know that, but we do actually need to look at the way in which we interact with our communities, our Parish Councils, our Borough Councils, our farmers, and anybody else who wishes to get involved in this process there is going to be dialogue taking place. I genuinely believe through that dialogue we can improve the delivery of service from this Authority. I genuinely believe that we need to review the way in which it is done and we have no choice, given the economic climate this Authority finds itself in as a consequence of the actions of the Labour Party. If you listen again, you have to have it every time, let us do it again. Councillor Western has asked one particular question. I told you on Radio Sheffield and I
will tell you again, have you got your pen handy because I don’t want you to say I have not answered it. There will be no reduction in the gritting fleet until a review of this year’s service has taken place. Is that clear?