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Councillor on Medway Council: Letter to Medway News

John Ward

Letters
Medway News
12 New Road
Chatham
Kent
ME4 6AT

30th October 2002

Dear Sir

Cliffe Airport, and Your Money

Oh, what a wonderful batch of letters you have printed this week! (25th October) Your Letters page is always good, but this week's seems better than ever.

One great thing I have noticed in recent times is that more and more Medway people are noticing what is really going on around them, particularly when it comes to issues involving either local or national government, and sometimes both.

We've all been through (or are now going through) a few major issues and had our eyes opened as a result, and that is a one-way street: we can never be easily fooled again.

I just love the idea of offering our spanking new (proposed) airport to the North. It has become so obvious just how much the Prescotts of this world hate our part of the country, and their attitude to us bears this out so often.

It has also become almost certain that the airport options were deliberately skewed to get the answer that the vested interests wanted, not the answer that was right. Co-incidence? Computer error? Wrong type of leaves? What excuse will they trot out to get themselves out of this one? I do wonder.

We shall see what the government's reaction is to Medway Council's response to the SERAS consultation on behalf of Medway residents, but based on what is in the draft version of this (a public document, already recommended by the Council's cabinet for acceptance by all elected members) it looks to me that the only way the government can save face over this issue is to admit that the mis-scoring of the Cliffe option was "a mistake" and permanently withdraw Cliffe from the list of options.

Meanwhile the question of the exclusion of Gatwick will be dealt with in the courts in mid-November, and that too will be interesting to follow.

Elsewhere on the Letters page I found the "squandered healthy finances" letter, which touches on a subject close to my heart. For months now I have been trying to find out exactly what has happened to all that money: simply, how much went when, for what purpose and on whose authority. Simple questions, and the kind of question that I could have answered in an instant when I was responsible for the day-to-day finances of a chunk of the Department of Trade and Industry.

However I too have had little success too far, and it is looking ever more like a case of someone with something to hide. Now this was your money, and there is no excuse that I can see why this information cannot be provided, whatever it reveals. I can guarantee that I shall not let this one slip by me, and one way or another I shall find out what really happened to something like a tenth of a billion pounds of Medway people's money.

No wonder some Council members felt we couldn't afford to continue to fight the threatened cement works! I voted to continue the fight regardless, as—like the Cliffe Airport issue—it was a matter of right and wrong and of protecting people from misery. I believe that if we'd still had those reserves the Secretary of State would have backed off on that issue: I worked in central government for more than 22 years and know how they think. If we had still had the reserves that issue would almost certainly have died long ago. Who knows what other miseries could also have been averted?

Yours faithfully

John M Ward — one of the two Councillors for Horsted