A SENIOR Thurrock councillor who is seeking to become the borough’s next MP says he cannot recall a time when the authority has been so far removed from the needs of local residents and says he is shocked by the level of ‘arrogance and contempt’ shown by some officers and senior members of the administration.
Labour’s Cllr John Kent has served in the Grays Thurrock and Riverside wards since first joining the council in 1993 and for several years has been leader of the authority.
He stepped down from the senior role in the Labour group to concentrate on his parliamentary campaign but says as someone who lives and works in the borough, where his three children were born and educated, he says he finds it difficult to recognise the council as a democratic authority these days – and says it is completely out of touch with the wishes of the majority of local residents.
His angst was focused this week on an official picture released by the council showing its Conservative leader Cllr Rob Gledhill offering cash to a local businessman who has campaigned against one of the current Cabinet’s key policies.
Cllr Gledhill visited businesses threatened by closure after the council announced it had bought the buildings they operate from as part of its scheme to rebuild the civic offices complex.
Last month a majority of councillors backed a motion by current Labour group leader Cllr Jan Pothecary to scrap the plans for the civic offices which have been widely described as a ‘vanity project’ for the administration.
“Not for one moment am I suggesting that Cllr Gledhill was trying to bribe people who disagreed with his opinion, but it shows the crass insensitivity of the current administration, and the fallibility of the communications team supposed to be guiding them,” said Cllr Kent.
“I have to question Cllr Gledhill’s sensitivity to issues that have clearly upset and aggravated a wide section of the Grays local community. If he and his advisors think him turning up, cash in hand, is going to win hearts and minds then I think he is surely mistaken.
“It is yet another example of the contempt and arrogance currently shown by this Conservative group who have gone against public opinion on many issues, not least the closure of Orsett Hospital which they have wholeheartedly supported on the back of mythical integrated medical centres that are not wanted, are ill-suited to the borough’s needs and appear simply a political sop to a Conservative mantra.
Instead of caring about healthcare, they care about the appearance of healthcare.
“It’s a smoke and mirrors policy of duplicity and deceit and sadly those words are becoming commonplace when describing this council’s policies.
“One other thing springs to mind. The Chief Executive clearly got a bloody nose when her plans for a revamp of 75 per cent of the council’s services – plans drawn up behind closed doors and, apparently, without reference even to the senior Conservatives – were thrown out.
“She was bold enough to ignore that message and pressed ahead regardless but as I understand she has an iron grip on the council’s communications system, it seems likely she sanctioned the released of the picture of councillor Gledhill.
“Anyone with an iota of common sense, and the chief executive certainly knows her stuff, would not have sanctioned that picture unless there was an ulterior motive.
Perhaps the administration needs a scapegoat and a duff picture of Cllr Gledhill apparently doing the unthinkable in pursuit of the unfathomable, certainly sets him up nicely as a fall guy.
“He might have thought he was buying a sandwich, but maybe he’s bought himself a bit of a pickle to go with it.”