20th May

Off to be trained in the mysteries of Planning by officers of that Department. No one could become a Planning Committee member until three sessions had been completed. We worked though a complex Code of Conduct and listened with amazement when we were firmly told it was our duty not to speak for or against a project before the matter had gone to committee and we should obey the recommendations of officers. As a Director of the Save the Family Charity, I knew that considerable anxiety had been raised by the professional expert helping the Charity to obtain residential consent needed to turn an old disused chapel into accommodation for homeless families. One councillor had been particularly vocal in expressing an opinion, even to the Press and the Committee had apparently overturned not only the recommendations of Country Planning Officers who favoured acceptance within certain boundaries, but also the findings of an Inspector from the Welsh Assembly. The sad end was loss of vital homeless accommodation and approximately £500.000 in Lottery and other grants that fizzled out when the change of status was rejected! All very rum! I clearly need the full training package before I can understand this seeming glaring anomaly between reality and practise! Headed back to County Hall to visit the Members Help Office and saw my bursting mail box. I had almost forgotten the ritual of checking regularly. The Member Coffee lounge beckoned and browsing newspapers, my concentration was shattered by Cllr. Patrick Heesom angry voice announcing, “Alison, you’ve accused me of being a criminal in your Blog. I will be taking it up with my solicitor”! I jumped as did two lady cllrs who looked startled but not so much as I did. “Patrick, I wouldn’t do that. I know of all people that one is innocent until proved guilty”. “Well it’s in your blog or email and I’m surprised at you”. Shocked that anyone had read this recent blog, I went over to him. “Patrick, if I am wrong, then you have my unreserved apology”. His mood softened at once and we did a little bear hug. “Ring XX from the Chronicle and tell him you’ve apologised. I don’t want it run in the Press”. He gave me the number and I did just that. Journalist was relaxed. “No names were mentioned but I got a tip off to read your blog.” “Amazed anyone would read it” I countered. “You’d be surprised who reads what”, he hinted archly. I checked with a trusted friend who always put any blog on my site. “I’ve hit a raw nerve, tell me if I’ve got it wrong”, I pleaded. Trusted friend soon back with the “offensive para.” Nothing wrong! “Seems silly to elect a leader who is then distracted by possible legal investigation”. If Patrick’s tone was aggressive and accusatory then, (friend argued), he Patrick could be accused of hectoring or bullying me!”. “Hasn’t he got enough on his plate?” I was relieved trusted friend had “found for me”. At the time of apologising, I told Patrick that I felt very sorry for his unfortunate position. “I’ve always supported you all those years ago. I begged the Labour Bigwigs to take you back into the Party but they refused”. I had always recognised his intelligence, his capacity and his commitment to serving his public. Had we not explored the option of my standing as an Independent and had I not kindly rejected Patrick’s appealing offer after much thought? I believed the Blog issue had been resolved between us. Time would show it was not to be and this now infamous Blog had been passed to the top.

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