Stupid Sussex

I don’t often read Iain Dale’s blog. I rarely bother to go below the line when I do, on account of how all the right wing Tories (and those from further right parties) are just competing to bleat the most ridiculous bile.

But today I was pointed a this story: Are people in West Sussex stupid?. Seems that the County Council has a YouTube channel – wsccvideo – which is used for little publicity clips. But it has also recently become home to some ‘How To’ snippets, such as:

How to Wash your Hands Properly (in which the presenter also shows you how not to wash your hands), How to read a map and compass (“and remember, North is always at the top”), How to pack an emergency bag (which should include things to read, and something for the cat, apparently) and the one that brought the attention of Mr Dale: How to use a mobile phone.

All can be found on the Youtube channel in their patronising glory.

Best thing is that Henry Smith, leader of WSCC and Tory candidate for Crawley in the next General Election, didn’t know about the ‘How To’ stuff until yesterday. Looks like old ‘Enry is still as on top of things as ever (as illustrated in an old post).

Henry Smith and the truth – not easy bedfellows?

I expect that our Henry is up in Brum this week, hoping to bask in the glory of his leader. Maybe he’s still down in Sussex, but keeping a bit quiet after being caught not quite giving the correct facts again – ‘Cock up’ over hospital mortuary – telling people that the mortuary at Crawley Hospital was closing, when it fact it is not.

Gosh, it’s not like the Tories are trying to get votes by doom-mongering or anything?

He’s been caught uttering mistruths before, by the Police. He’s also been noted voting a nice big backdated pay rise for himself last year, while putting our Council Tax up by over 4% again*. Oh, and the ‘Campaign for Pease Pottage Hospital’ is doing so well that it’s had to be relaunched by the puppet press this week, despite the fact that two years ago it was supposed to be a concrete plan and was in no way opportunitistic or flimsy (the ‘full outline proposals’ from December 2006 are still there, with the spelling mistakes and the back-of-a-fag-packet sums)

* Actually WSCC regularly puts up Council Tax by more than CBC does (pretty much every year except for the one in four when the County Elections are about to happen…). How they are going to manage if the Tories get in with their promise to freeze Council Tax? WSCC spending went up from £1.218bn to £1.441bn in the past year, which is an increase of 18%. George Osborne wants to cap councils to only increasing spending by 2.5% a year.

And while I was near Midhurst…

In the context of Potholes, it had been said to me that Midhurst didn’t have many of them – Col ‘Tex’ Pemberton the Highways Cabinet member until recently is from up the road in Haslemere – and I can say that the roads did seem quite a bit smother than they are around here. Not just the main roads, like the A272 or A286, but the little country lanes in between (we got a bit lost and then decided to look for the Three Moles in Selham).

Also, at West Dean we saw several police officers. Some were dedicated to helping direct traffic on and off the site, despite there being marshals who were doing the same thing. Yes, it was a busy place, but at least half a dozen coppers? I know that crime in Sussex went down recently, but I didn’t think that the boys in blue had nothing better to do.

And while railing at the West Sussex establishment as we drove around the area, I realised that we were moving into the area that is known as the ‘West Weald’ and which was going to be in the South Downs National Park before WSCC and Chichester District started to complain at the loss of power that it would represent (they don’t really want the National Park at all). It’s beautiful around there in the Wealden heathland, and the Black Down dominates the area.

Why would ‘conservatives’ oppose a National Park, which is aimed at ‘conserving’ the character of an area? Well, they want to have control of planning and a NP Authority would usurp that. You see, while they would be happy to agree with conserving things from some developments, there are some very influential parties in that part of West Sussex who take an entirely different view when it means that money can be made. It is these who would lose out if a National Park restricts development, even if it is supposed to be keeping the countryside beautiful. The same people who ensure that their local roads are well kept and that the local police are there in force for rural shows even if they are missing in urban areas don’t want their little paradise spoilt by not being able to control it as much as they can

It’s not just roads that don’t get repaired

It’s paths too.

It came out today that West Sussex County Council has over £19M worth of outstanding repairs to make on pathways across the county.

Every part of the county is suffering from this, but Crawley has been left with the worst of the backlog – well over a quarter of the work (by monetary value) – £5.6M.

I suppose that rural areas have fewer paths by the side of the roads, but I’m sure that Horsham can’t be too far off having the same amount as Crawley, given that the district includes the town itself as well as some large villages. Mid Sussex has a few towns (East Grinstead, Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill) and must also have a similar number of paths. Surely between the two districts there would be as much, if not work to do on paths. And yet the backlog for both combined comes to about £4.2M, still a fair amount less than Crawley.

When I was a councillor, I was always getting complaints about poor footpaths and roads. And whenever I passed them on to the County Council I would get the same reply, pretty much – that there was a programme of repairs and upgrades, but that particular road/path was not going to be dealt with soon.

Things have changed since then – WSCC has lost £6M on Fastway, has cut it’s Highways budget and has grown a sizeable long term debt. Under such circumstances it’s easy to see why they have got so far behind. What isn’t so easy to see is why Crawley appears to have borne the brunt of postponed work.

Hat tip to the Crawley Observer