I SHAN’T offer any excuses for councillor Alan Smith’s unmuted comment as reported in the Times & Star online but I do wonder about the mock indignation of some fellow councillors who are, apparently, disgusted.

The phrase was at worst discourteous and, by today’s standards, certainly if Parliament is anything to go by, not that offensive. If Coun Smith thinks the Mayor is a ‘daft cow’ he is entitled to think that. Indeed, he has the right to say it and his right is enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. But, perhaps, on reflection and on this occasion, he might have kept his big gob shut.

However, if either councillors Kemp or Greaney think this was disgusting may I remind them that there are many more important things in the world, let alone Maryport, that would be more deserving of their revulsion.

While Coun Smith may have been a daft ass for not muting his microphone and discourteous in his choice of language, highlighting that he is a ‘former leader’, which is not, I understand a formal title, simply demonstrates it was their political noses that were out of joint while the mayor, from their own independent group, has shown much leadership by accepting the apology given and refusing to be drawn into a silly public argument when there are more important things for the council to focus on.

I bet she will ‘have a word’ next time they meet!



Our NHS bypassed

It is disturbing to see the Covid-19 testing system being called ‘NHS Test and Trace’. Unfortunately, it has little to do with the NHS.

At a cost of over £10billion, contracts have been taken up by 22 private companies, including Serco (facilities management), G4S (facilities management), Amazon (logistics), Deloitte (management and appointments), Boots (test supervision), and Server Labs (‘digital solutions’), plus 18 other private companies doing various tasks, often not clearly described.

In July 2019, Serco was fined £19.2m for fraud and false accounting. G4S provides security services, and doesn’t seem to have any expertise in the medical field. It also has its own list of scandals.

A central part of Test and Trace is run by Lighthouse Labs, also privately run. Serco is involved in this too. NHS’s 52 labs were sidelined.

Question have been asked about the training of personnel who work in Lighthouse Labs and the Tory government’s under-funding of NHS services before private companies were invited to ‘help’. (See the British Medical Association’s private outsourcing report July 2020, available online).

Billions have been spent on the testing system. It is unclear why existing NHS services were marginalised and replaced by private companies who are clearly failing to provide the service. Press reports have indicated that contract details for many of these companies are not available for scrutiny and many were awarded without being put out to tender. Serco and G4S are also among the companies who will benefit from Boris Johnson’s £100 billion plan for the ‘Project Moonshot’ Covid testing system. £100 billion is a debt that will take generations to pay off.

We must stop calling the system ‘NHS Test and Trace’. Perhaps ‘Serco Test and Trace’ would be more accurate. And we must demand transparency and justification for spending such enormous sums of money.



United we stand

A SUPPOSED second wave of the coronavirus has brought misinformation and contention to an already depressed and fearful community.

There is rarely a balance of opinion in these columns on this subject. Contention is not helpful. We don’t even know whether this is a second wave.

Anti-government dissent is par for the course in any democracy but not when a Covid-19 life-saving strategy is being sought and implementing.

The two most often used words in English Literature and the Bible is ‘fear not’. Does the anniversary of our soldiers and airmen leaving for a war zone mean nothing? United with one purpose, they marched off to save the nation. Did anyone ask them if they had a preference of theatre in which to fight? Go to the nearest cenotaph and reverently ask them.

We have a fight on our hands too! United we stand, divided we fall. This is not the time to squabble and score points.

BBC interviews are a disgrace to the nation, squeezing discontent and complaint out of every interviewee. This is an emergency, a pandemic, but fear not, elected people are in positional authority, guided by the Academic & Research Community. United, together, this is a war we will win for everyone.

Insipid neutrality, does not excite us. We want to enter the fray, make our point, sometimes stir things up with a big wooden spoon.

Ask me about Republicanism, Socialism, or God Save The Queen. Try Brexit and you’ll be sorry you asked. Does it matter if I still read the Bible everyday? It matters what we think and say about Donald Trump or Extinction Rebellion! Ask me about Liverpool FC, or climate change and I will talk your head off.

Everyone agrees, these are strange times. Beating Covid-19 will require compliance and less criticism from all of us, a time to be silent and to listen rather than speak, like our amazing soldiers, sailors and airmen, standing in support of those who are empowered to act.



Driving motorhome owners away

I HAVE been a campervan and motorhome owner for over 30 years.

Amongst the 250,000 motorhome and campervan owners in the UK, Allerdale is rightly perceived as being anti-motorhome due to the lack of daytime and overnight parking facilities available to them.

Many motorhomers are retired with big spending power, equating to a potential £1.1 million per day, based on the average £45 daily spend by 10 per cent of owners, yet they are practically forced to take their holidays in Europe where they are welcomed and provided for with Aires (motorhome parking areas) offering overnight parking, fresh water and waste water disposal at the very least. Most towns and villages have these, because they realise that it brings revenue into their area.

The modern motorhome is self-contained (with their own sanitation, showers and power) and owners are reluctant to pay campsite fees for facilities they neither need nor use such as toilet blocks and playgrounds.

Also, campsites are generally miles away from the local pubs, restaurants and bars where the motorhome owners would love to be able to spend their money.

Thanks to the pandemic, many more of us are holidaying in the UK both this year and next, and motorhome sales are on the rise. Isn’t it about time Allerdale Borough Council took advantage of this rapidly growing form of tourism rather than driving people away?

The provision of overnight parking spaces would not only benefit the Council with increased revenue from parking, but also the struggling businesses on our high streets.