My fellow blogger, Matt Dent, has recently posted under the title “Threaten all he likes, Cllr Ayling is a sub-par councillor and he knows it”. I happen to enjoy reading Matt’s blogs, even when I disagree. Matt doesn’t mince words and has likely upset a few, including St. Lukes ward councilor, Brian Ayling, who he is clearly not a fan of. I happen to disagree with the title and while I may not regard Brian as a lot better than par, I don’t think he is sub-par either, especially when comparing with other councilors, although I do feel that Brian didn’t handle the expense row that Matt referred to particularly well. I have already given my views on the forthcoming local elections, when Brian will be pitted against Donna Richardson (Labour) and Del Thomas (Conservative). Actually, I like all three of them and have yet to decide who, if any, I will support come May’s local election. I think St. Lukes is fortunate that both Donna and Del are switched on to the issues and already doing their bit in trying to serve the residents of St. Lukes (in Donna’s case has given rise to some awkwardness). Rather than repeating myself, and in case any are interested in the background to the story then I suggest reading my earlier blogs (here, here and here).
The awkwardness is regarding a leaflet that Donna wrote and an email that Brian sent in response, and since all this is now in the public domain I don’t think it inappropriate to refer to Matt’s post where the contents are reproduced (to my knowledge accurately). One of the gripes often vented against sitting councilors is they do not listen to and act on behalf of those they represent. While I have heard that said more than once with respect to St. Luke’s councilors (although I suspect this could be said of all councillors in varying degrees), my gut feeling is while they could do better, they do do better than some other councilors who I won’t name in other wards and in my experience working with them in my capacity as chair of the local residents association there is plenteous evidence they have listened to local residents on many issues even if there has been some selectivity. In Donna’s case, while going around the ward and spotting things needing doing she found something that hadn’t been done despite allegedly being reported to the local councilors. Her action reporting the deficiency may have contributed to a problem getting resolved and understandably she wanted to write about it in her leaflet. After all, championing (or not) residents concerns is an important aspect of being a councillor and people need to know if this is the case. Whether to shame an “Independent” councilor, albeit unnamed, while doing so was the right action is a moot point but it clearly upset Brian who speaking on behalf of his Independent colleagues claims no recollection of the matter being reported. But what upset Matt was the implied threat and bullying tone he perceived in Brian’s email: “Please provide the details of the resident concerned as the statement within your leaflet could be considered untrue and subject to legal procedures unless verified”, which knowing Matt is like offering a red rag to a bull. As for providing details of the resident, Brian should know that releasing the identity of the resident who complained would be a breach of confidence, and besides which the manner of his request might well put off someone volunteering that information.
In response to Matt’s defiant retort to Brian’s implied threat, I cite the oft-quoted “House of Cards” villain, Francis Urquhart: “you may say so but I couldn’t possibly comment”. Leaflets are a strange thing but sometimes that is all what one has to go by in deciding who to vote for. I recall that being a deciding factor for me on more than one occasion. Now we have seen a break in what up to now has been a fairly genteel contest, I hope that we won’t see a leaflet war between the candidates on who said what with an acrimonious stand-off between the principle protagonists and that the focus in all that is done will be on serving the residents and addressing the issues. It would be nice to confirm that a resident had indeed reported the problem and if so Brian should apologise for his lack of recollection as well as what can be only be construed as threats. I hope too that Donna will not resort to making unnecessary, even if gentle, digs at the opposition, unless completely certain of the facts, for in my experience even the nicest people who refer to someone elses inactivity or incompetence has an agenda when doing so.