Thursday, 20 December 2007

I am your father.......or is he????

They say you can't please all the people all the time and as a Councillor I learn that lesson on a daily basis. Nice letter in the Hartlepool Mail last night from a Mr Alan Drummond.. I have been told this is Stuart Drummond's father but not being a friend of the family I don't know if this is true.

Anyway, Mr A.Drummond is having a go at me about my position on the Tall Ships Race coming to Hartlepool. I have said on numerous occasions, and will repeat it again, that I sincerely hope the Tall Ships visit is a huge success and will give it all the support I can. However, I remain concerned that Hartlepool taxpayers may end up with a massive bill when we are continually being told Council Taxes need to rise and services must be cut because of lack of available funding.

The information I have been able to obtain about the Tall Ships has only been given to me because I ask questions. Unfortunately some people's response to being asked a question is not to answer it but to attacking the questioner. I can understand that if the question is highly personal or intrusive into your private and family life then you are under no obligation to answer and indeed I have myself refused to answer such questions. However when the question relates to spending millions of pounds of public money then I don't think expecting an answer is unreasonable.

Prior to me asking questions there was almost no information available at all about the Tall Shops Race. I'll bet not many people outside the select few insiders of the Mayor's kitchen cabinet have actually seen the submission made to the Tall Ships Organisation, let alone looked into what it means for Hartlepool. It appears to me that the Mayor has committed Hartlepool taxpayers to an open ended contract with the Tall Ships Organisers with potentially no limit to the amount of public money that this event could cost the town. None of this money was budgeted for, nor did it appear in the forward plan for the town.

The Mayor appears to expect the event will be self funding but so far over £2 million pounds of public money has been allocated to the Tall Ships race.

As a Hartlepool Councillor I therefore see it as my duty to question how Hartlepool Taxpayers money is being spent, to challenge controls being applied and promote the achievement of best value. This is not negativity. These are things I was elected to do. I am not a Councillor to be a nodding dog agreeing with everything that comes out of the Civic Centre. In my opinion if a scheme is not robust enough to stand up to challenge and scrutiny then it should have been better thought through before it was proposed. Unfortunately for the Tall Ships Race it wasn't thought through at all. The Tall Ships Organisation had to ring Hartlepool and ask them too bid! Prior to that no though whatsoever had gone into the project. The hastily put together bid was accepted and a management structure agreed by Cabinet. It then took 9 months to put together the working parties agreed in April 2007 and the"Cross Party" Group of Councillors responsible for strategic overview of the project hasn't even been constituted yet let alone had any input to the project.

I sincerely hope the Tall Ships Race is fantastic but me asking questions will not bring down the project if it is robustly managed and run.

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