Eric Pickles finally outed at last as a force for bad – sort of

Peter Oborne, writings in today’s Sunday Telegraph, are music to my ears, if that’s actually possible – writings, ears?    His contribution to an article looking at the issues around the recent widespread flooding, focusses on the political dimension and in particular, the hamfisted and spiteful involvement of one, Eric Pickles MP.

In my opinion, the position of the local council leader, Mike Fisher (behind Pickles wearing glasses, says everything there is to say about Eric Pickles relationship with local government.
Photo with thanks to Croydon Advertiser

No sooner was Eric Pickles put in charge of dealing with the flooding incidents that were impacting a number of areas in the south of England, than he started apportioning blame and apologising for the supposed shortcomings and failures of the ‘blameworthy’.

Having honed his talents for spite and bile on belittling and criticising local government, he had now set about the Environment Agency, for failing to prevent the flooding of thousands of homes and businesses.  By inference, according to Peter Oborne, Pickles was also back stabbing a government colleague, Owen Paterson, laid low by a sight threatening detached retina that required urgent surgery, the cause of Pickles appointment, along with Lord Smith of Finsbury, Chairman of the EA.

For those of us involved in local government, this was very much par for the course with Eric Pickles, especially if there was a reporter’s microphone, or TV crew in sight.  However, and morale to anybody suffering from Pickles’s non-stop spite, is that his big mouthed, brute force handling of his new role, has seen him outed as no more the the “blundering Whitehall meddler” we all knew him to be.

      Disappointingly, Peter Oborne suggests that, up until this point, Eric Pickles was actually considered to be a safe pair of hands,           this despite his unchecked assault on local government, as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.  So, unless Owen Paterson and Lord Smith confront David Cameron and tell him in no uncertain terms, it’s him or us, it would seem that local government is stuck with this loud mouthed lout, until May 2015.

Network Rail – not our job guv!

Having tried and failed to get Network Rail to actually do something with the sub-standard Stepping Stones Bridge they dumped on Spalding last year, it now seems that the one solitary light that serves the bridge is the responsibility of the Lincolnshire County Council Highways Dept, even though the lamp-post itself is inside the Network Rail fence.  Likewise, even though the bridge’s top walk way floods and freezes in the cold weather, or just simply floods in the rain, this is again the county council’s problem not Network Rails!

So, as well as all the potholes around the district, county highways will have to add Stepping Stones Bridge Spalding to their list of things that need sorting even though their budget keeps getting smaller.  Meanwhile, Network Rail can smugly continue to do things we don’t want them to do and then pass the buck when it starts to cause a problem!

Meanwhile, Bill Bryson the Anglophile American, who now resides in England and leads the Campaign To Protect Rural England (CPRE), has come up with a bright idea on how to kick organisations such as Network Rail, when they ignore their duty to keep their house in order.  Something called a Litter Abatement Order appears to be a good tool for the job according to Bill and although it’s all a bit tedious to do, the simple threat of doing it can have the desired effect.

I will be taking this to the next meeting of the Spalding town Forum to see what they think about threatening to use these on some of our more uncooperative companies.

No Big Society for Network Rail

In my long running battle to get something done with the new ‘second-hand’ Stepping Stones Bridge in Spalding, I have been communicating with Network Rail, the company that installed this poor excuse for a pedestrian link across the railway line.

Two issues have been raised time and time again by residents since the bridge was installed and in an effort to get these resolved, I registered a formal complaint with Network Rail’s customer contact line.  Up until now, the people I spoke to on the phone were polite and helpful, as was a Community Relations Advisor in our email exchanges.

However, I have now run in to one of those faceless, self important bureaucrats, otherwise known as a brick wall, that one sometimes encounters in these big organisations.  Below is an email response this person sent to me tonight (Tues) and I think most reasonable people would find its tone extremely high handed and completely dismissive of the concerns that I have raised on behalf of Spalding residents.

Dear Mr Gambba –Jones

Thank you for your comments on the replacement steppingstones footbridge which is a standard design used extensively across the infrastructure.

Regarding time scales for a response to your queries.

I will be in a position to respond regarding the weep holes in 2 weeks

Regarding the lighting I would suggest you note my earlier comments, the light is the responsibility of The Council, Network Rail has no obligation to light public footpaths, you should make contact with the relevant Highway Department, neither am I prepared to permit you sight of agreements between Network Rail and The Council without a formal request from the relevant party in The Council.

Should the Council wish to access Network Rail land to repair this light arrangements can be made through our Asset Protection team, again I would be happy to provide them with a contact on request.

Regards *** ***** (name removed to protect the guilty)

Having re-read this person’s email (note that I’m avoiding any reference to their gender), I actually find their tone pompous, arrogant and mildly offensive and can almost picture them at their desk in a stiff, anal retentive posture, punching out this dismissive missive.

This individual has obviously failed to catch the drift of David Cameron’s Big Society and its drive to give local people the backing to make a difference in their communities.

Not to be beaten on this (yet) I have now contacted a colleague at the county council, to get their view on these issues.  I will update this blog with any outcomes in due course.

Meanwhile, if anybody else wishes to annoy Network Rail and let them know of their dis-satisfaction with this bridge, please feel free.

Network Rail National Helpline 08457 114141. The reference number to use, if they ask, is: 2779146. Or you could start your own complaint and get a new number.