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How to Massage the Facts

November 17, 2018 8:21 AM
By Nick Eden-Green

Letter to the Kentish Gazette by Nick Eden-Green

There's been a lot of words from some of your correspondents about how evil the private sector is and how much better things would be if the public sector took them over. A bit like Animal Farm where the slogan was 'two legs bad, four legs good'. George Orwell is still relevant some 70 years on.

Don't get me wrong. As a Lib Dem I fervently believe in properly funded public services and don't want to see the NHS further privatised. But don't let's pretend the public sector is perfect.

Take a few examples. A week ago I tried to help some of my residents with a rat problem. After all it's not nice when you have rats chewing the carpet behind your wardrobe at night or running around the living room. Especially when you've got young children. It's even nastier when they commit hari kiri in the tumble drier and get ejected in bits all over the kitchen floor.

So I rang the council. 5 minutes waiting on the switchboard. A series of options and no reply except for the infuriating music and exhortations to go to the website. Gave up and rang back. Finally got through. Asked to be put through to East Kent Housing. Another series of options and no choice to speak to anyone about my problem. Tried a few options but no reply anyway. Rang back to the council. No reply. Gave up. Rang another officer on her direct line and asked her to look up the direct line number for the East Kent Housing officer I wanted. Rang her. She was 'not at her desk' but invited me to leave a message and ring another number. Left a message with my home phone number. No reply to date. Rang the number she gave and got the same range of irrelevant options as before. Because I can't speak to anyone I can't even register a complaint.

At this point I emailed my tale of woe to the chief executive who now has to deal with a rat problem because nobody else will. By the end of the week still no action. My conclusion: rats are better organised than the council.

Or another tale of woe. For over two years I have been trying to get a lamppost repaired and back in working order. Yes, over two years. KCC and CCC have batted the problem back and forth between themall this time to try to decide who's responsible. Bingo. Finally, today, I found it's definitely CCC but I won't celebrate until the lamppost gets fixed. Will 2018 be my lucky year? Don't hold your breath.

It's not just the city council. The mandarins at Whitehall are no better. For some years I have been trying to get some information about why the Financial Conduct Authority won't do anything about a rogue trader. I've even involved The Treasury. This has been a one sided correspondence because they simply don't reply at all. Not even an acknowledgement so no complaint gets registered. Presumably the only way would be to have the Prime Minister to personally intervene but she seems a bit tied up with how to stop the A20 becoming a lorry park.

Then there's the police. The last time I called them on 999 about a fight they simply didn't turn up, although to be fair they did answer the phone. So the crime wasn't registered. Last week they produced figures to show how delightfully welcoming and safe our city was at night by claiming that call outs to our nightclubs had reduced by two thirds in the last 6 years A fact not lost on one of our Conservative city councillors who owns two of them. However, the doorstaff (aka a privatised police force) employed by the clubs are there to avoid 'inconveniencing' the police. So that ensures the statistics get massaged. The boss of the security firm is at least honest enough to say 'behaviour has got worse' in recent years. In other words, residents suffer just as much, if not more, but the official public sector statistics look really bright and shinywith fewer registered crimes.

With the local elections looming we now have a Momentum led Labour Party extolling the virtues of the public sector and the evils of capitalism. The Conservatives do the reverse. As a Lib Dem I certainly want properly funded public services but above all I want some service, public or private. That means people answering the telephones, emails or letters. Paid employees taking responsibility. Giving answers. Taking action. In short doing their jobs. Is this really too much to ask?

Meanwhile the rats are happy, my residents aren't and 'Animal Farm' is still in print.