Off the Record
Behind the scenes at County Hall with political editor Paul Francis, Regional Press Awards UK’s weekly newspaper journalist of the year
• It is one of the challenges for politicians on the campaign trail. No, not being egged or punched in the face, but taking an interest in a myriad subjects they have no real knowledge about. Step forward Ed Balls, the Labour shadow chancellor, who was given an exhaustive briefing on boilers during his recent visit to Kent. You may not like his politics but you had to admire the way he kept up a conversation as he was talked through the pros and cons of different models. “And which one is better for baths?” he said at one point. Hats off.
• Social services chiefs have defended the way in which they awarded contracts for care home services. The Kentish Gazette recently revealed one company picking up some of spoils from KCC had received a dismal inspection report from the Care Quality Commission only months ago. “We can’t make a decision about contracts just by looking at their Inspection reports, which may be out-of-date anyway,” was the gist of the argument. But officers in charge were quick to point out that things were Improving for the care company that had been under the spotlight. How did they know? They looked at the latest report from the Care Quality Commission, of course.
• With another reorganisation of departments and directorates at County Hall, where have Kent libraries found a new home? Now there is no longer a communities directorate, they have been crowbarred into the new Growth, Environment and Transport directorate. Not what you might call a natural home (certainly a novel one) but maybe library users will take comfort from being incorporated into the one department that has growth in the title.
• There are some who believe Kent County Council is rather top heavy with men in the most senior management roles. After the departure of Meradin Peachey as the council’s director of public health to a new role in London and the loss of former communities director Amanda Honey, the eight-strong corporate management team now boasts just one woman – Amanda Beer, corporate director of human resources.
• Off The Record senses UKIP is not enjoying some of the attention on its maverick candidates that has caused the party a few wobbles in recent weeks. Unveiling its latest campaign poster – featuring the White Cliffs of Dover and an escalator going up – party leader Nigel Farage issued a press release which gave vent to his feelings. “No doubt the political establishment will react again in mock outrage and throw a new round of slurs and smears at UKIP and at me.” It’s called politics, Nigel.
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Herne Bay Gazette, May 8th 2014