Thornton On Thursday

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Have your say

Bushy eyed Labour bruiser and then chancellor of the exchequer Dennis Healey once said being criticised by his Tory opposite number Geoffery Howe was “like being savaged by a dead sheep’’.

I think the ruling Tory group on Peterborough City Council must feel something similar when doing battle with opposition councillors in the town hall.

There has been much criticism of Marco Cereste and his cabinet colleagues outside the confines of the council chamber, not least from this page, but it seems to me that Peterborough residents have not had the opposition they deserve for some time.

A full council meeting on Monday night to discuss the latest savage budget cuts was expected to be a long and heated affair, but in fact was wrapped up in a mere 37 minutes giving everybody the chance to get home in time to see if Lucy Beale was still dead and watch the rest of the soaps.

Did the opposition councillors all agree with the brutal budget cuts? Where was the debate about the cuts to Vivacity’s budget that could strip the city’s cultural offering to the bone?

I do have some sympathy for opposition councillors – they have spent a long time facing a Tory group with a large majority (although that is no longer the case) and while the cabinet system may improve local government efficiency it sure as heck doesn’t improve local democracy. The “opposition’’ is a diverse group from Liberals to UKIP and it’s understandable that a coherent counter-argument has proved hard to form. But it can’t be right that the most focused and effective opposition to a Tory council has come from aTory MP in the shape of Stewart Jackson.

An understandably chipper Cllr Cereste commented after the budget meeting: “Clearly we got it all right.”

Mmm... maybe you did, maybe you didn’t, but a lack of dissent doesn’t prove anything.

I’m sure our Tory councillors are familiar with the wisdom of Benjamin Disraeli. It was he who said: “No Government can be long secure without a formidable Opposition.’’

Ups and downs

I may be a bit thick (I blame the schools I went to), but I don’t quite follow what’s going on with the city’s education.

City council cabinet member for education Cllr John Holdich says “we have the fastest improving schools in the country.’’

He said this after being asked to comment on the latest school GCSE league tables. Yet those tables saw Peterborough plummet from the giddy heights of 126th out of 151 to 134th!

Something doesn’t add up to me. Perhaps it’s the reason I never became a mathmatician... nor a politician.

shopping

Crisp crisis

I was outraged (it’s my job!) the other day when I nipped out to M&S for my daily sandwich. As ever I find a packet of Mr Walker’s finest cheese and onion crisps is a welcome accompaniment.

Reaching for my pack, out of the corner of my eye I noticed the price label which said 59p. A bit steep, I thought, but not enough to stop my purchase. That was until I looked at the accompanying packets of plain and salt and vinegar. They were priced at 55p.

Is there a world shortage of cheese? Or onions? Or has the chancellor put an extra tax on the nation’s favourite?

animals

Feline furore

Cross Keys Homes has earned itself an impressive reputation as a well-run organisation both in the city and further afield.

So the fact that it upset residents in Barnack with its plans for a “cat cull’’ to deal with a feral feline problem was a real surprise. It just goes to show that the best of us make mistakes.

But as befits a company which is ranked in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies Not-for-Profit list, their reaction was commendable with chief executive Claire Higgins apologising and admitting “we haven’t approached this as well as we should have done.’’

It’s a textbook case of how to handle a complaint so that a reputation is not tarnished and might even be enhanced.

Romance

Staying power

I’ve been called many names in my time but Doctor Love is not one of them. Which probably explains why my prediction that Peterborough’s finest gymnast Louis Smith and TOWIE star Lucy’s romance wouldn’t last beyond a few days was so wide of the mark.

Weeks later, love is still in the air... and the pages of the tabloids. Louis and Lucy (try saying that after a few shandies) remain an item so much so their romance features in the latest issue of Hello magazine!

Newtering’s too good for ‘em

A little post script to the shambles ( sorry did I say shambles, I meant to say extremely well-run, money-saving scheme) on Fletton Parkway. Hidden among the extra £4.5 million costs the council has incurred for our benefit, is £59,00o for the great crested newts.

How much money has been spent on these little blighters and how come they are still endangered? We could have saved the whale (and all his mates) for the amount of cash that has been lavished on these warty little reptiles.

Diary Of A Bad Dad

Toddler T is getting to the stage where she starts asking awkward questions.

Awkward not as in “what’s the meaning of life?’’ or “why are Leeds United so rubbish?’’

But awkward as in questions I really ought to know the answer to and in fact have been blissfully going around thinking I did know, until faced with an interrogation from my own little Paxman.

But what should you do if you don’t know the answer? Guess, bluster or admit your ignorance? Actually, that’s quite a good name for a quiz show.

Mind you I managed to get in a pickle answering a question I did know. We were watching a telly programme when a badger came on.

“What’s that?’’ demanded Toddler T. “It’s a badger,’’ I answered confidently (and correctly). She didn’t appear convinced and then added: “It’s a mole.’’

Then, not wishing to crush her spirit I made my mistake: “Yes,’’ I agreed, “it’s like a mole. A big mole... with stripes.’’

She seemed satisfied with this compromise.

Then it dawned on me.I had absolutely no idea whether in fact a badger was a big, stripey mole or not. And the more I thought about it the more I reckoned it wasn’t.