Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Conflate and Confound

I see that Medway Labour continue to peddle the (frankly desperate) line that our council's investment in Rochester Airport somehow relates to perceived effects on front-line services. Like other dishonest propagandists, they are hoping that most of the public will not understand how (and why) these things operate, so will be taken in. Several vital points show the (deliberate? Almost certainly) falsity of local Labour's message...

1. Capital has nothing to do with revenue

One-off capital investment in projects, especially with existing council-held assets that are in danger of losing the council money through degradation, is encouraged by all parties in government – including the previous Labour government, for one notable example. Indeed, Medway Council's then finance spokesman, councillor Glyn Griffiths, often pushed this message even more strongly than the Conservative Administration of the council did – and we were no slouches on this ourselves.

2. Legal matters

Capital funding comes from a separate fund from ongoing 'revenue' expenditure – and it is illegal to use one fund for the other, though there are occasions when certain seemingly revenue items (usually only very small amounts) are able to be 'capitalised'. We here in Medway have seen this with recycling sacks, for example, which – as they are an alternative provision to the decidedly capital-spend recycling boxes – do fit the profile, though are a slight anomaly and don't quite fit either category. Still, the auditors were happy with that...

Whatever happens, the funding stream is separate, including government grants for specific projects that have nothing to do with the revenue provision. Often, capital projects will be partly or (sometimes) fully funded from capital funds raised by the disposal of old assets that are no longer required. An example that springs to mind from my own time on the Council was a pair of houses in The Tideway, Rochester. All sides agreed they needed to go anyway...

.3. Capital is once-off, revenue is not

There is no point in taking capital funding for revenue purposes anyway, even if it were legals to do so, as it comes as a single amount (though sometimes spread over a period, as appropriate to the specific project's needs) and then that's it. Revenue spending goes on year after year.

Medway Labour has been caught out by their woolly thinking in this regard several times in recent years, and still they don't seem to be able to 'get it'. What's wrong with them? The rest of us can understand this from our own budgeting, even though we don't necessarily have separate accounts for (say) shopping and bills, and one-off purchases.

We know how and why it works, and we apply our own sense to such things. It is hardly surprising that auditors (especially the independent firm and the National Audit Office) apply a rigorous policy along the same lines to our councils. Only Labour seem to think it doesn't apply to them – which no doubt helps to account for the numerous stories of financial mismanagement that emerge from Labour-run councils on an almost regular basis.

4. The airport plan is nothing new

Labour always wished to close Rochester Airport, against the wishes of many thousands of residents. Take it from someone who helped with the severely time-limited campaign to lodge objections to the relevant policy (S11) in the then Deposit Local Plan, back in August/September 1999. There were thousands, just from the Davis Estate (which was all the Residents Association covered), and hardly anyone did not wish to support the airport's retention. They knew!

The plan that is now being opposed by Medway Labour – and the claque they regularly bring to Medway Council meetings – and they are trying to suggest that public opinion has suddenly turned to face the exact opposite way. Well, over the years, on the doorstep and elsewhere, I have consistently found ongoing support. especially when I explained to residents (including those living in Cloisterham Park) what the intended changes would do. After all, it is almost the same as what was being proposed a good decade ago.

Briefly: the paved runway allows 'planes that can use it to take off sooner so that they are quite a lot higher by the time they pass over residential areas, and their effect therefore much quieter than ever before. Secondly, modern mini-jets will be able to use it, and they are quite a bit quieter than the propeller 'planes. Thirdly, the same has been done at other small airports already, producing these very benefits; and it is easy enough to check what the views of residents in those airports' vicinities have noticed since the changes were made there.

In conclusion

Thus it is actually not exactly difficult to (a) debunk the emotive non-story that Medway Labour are putting out, and (b) allay fears about what the planned changes will mean in reality. Scaremongering is for those who have no real credibility: the rest of us just have to wise up and see it for what is is. Don't ever let Labour manipulate your and your thinking – it only encourages them to do it again and again...

UPDATE at 2135 hrs: local Labour councillor Tristan Osborne has unintentionally (through his lack of understanding) bolstered my position considerably. The Twitter conversation can be followed here, and I think it is self-explanatory.

He is trying desperately hard to 'manufacture' something, including (glaringly obvious) diversionary tactics, as usual – but it's not working. Watch how the wriggling and squirming progresses as this goes on: it'll no doubt be entertaining to observe... It was; and he finally gave up around 2200 hrs.

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