ELY STANDARD COLUMN: An apology

PUBLISHED: 11:30 04 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:30 04 September 2018

In the Ely Standard of August 16, our columnist Rosemary Westwell wrote that East Cambridgeshire District Council “has spent our taxpayers’ money sending households in the district self-congratulatory propaganda”.

The column also went on to make other statements in relation to the survey that contained factual errors.

The statements are incorrect and give a misleading picture to our readers for which we offer an unreserved apology.

The survey was privately funded, in its entirety, by serving Conservative district councillors at East Cambs District Council. The survey was quite clearly branded as a Conservative piece of literature with an imprint and data protection information that made it perfectly clear that it was coming from the Conservative party; no district council funds or resources were used in any way.

The Ely Standard apologises to local Conservative councillors and to the district council for the false impression given by our columnist.

THE FULL TEXT OF A LETTER FROM COUNCILLOR ANNA BAILEY, DEPUTY LEADER OF EAST CAMBRIDGESHIRE DISTRICT COUNCIL, IS PRINTED BELOW.

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Rarely have I read such a lot of nonsense as that written by Rosemary Westwell in her column this week. It demonstrates a spectacular ignorance of the basic facts across the range of subjects.

The survey, which has been delivered to every registered voter in East Cambs, has been personally paid for by serving Conservative District Councillors. Not a single penny has come from the tax payer’s purse. It is an expensive and time consuming task and shows the huge commitment that our Councillors have to the voters of East Cambs - we respect their opinions and want to hear from them.

Rosemary Westwell should understand that, whilst she doesn’t appreciate the survey, we have had many complimentary comments saying how great it is that we are asking people what they think.

The survey is a genuine attempt by us, to try to work out what our residents’ priorities in East Cambs are, and to do our best to represent people and deliver what people tell us they want. It is, of course, also an opportunity to tell people what we have been doing with their (tax payer’s) money over the last three years.

We carried out a similar survey in 2014, and when Conservatives were voted in as the administration in 2015 we set about delivering what people told us they wanted. We have worked hard at the District Council over the last three years - it is a record that I am incredibly proud of and am unashamed to tell people about.

Rosemary Westwell could easily educate herself about the community led, genuinely affordable housing that we are helping communities to deliver across the district through Community Land Trusts. In Stretham, for example, local working people with ties to the village are living in CLT homes and paying, on average, significantly below the 80% of market rent that normal social housing is let at. She should talk to some of the tenants there.

Rosemary could also easily check the facts about the Barton Road car park - when the building work has finished there will be one less car parking space, and we have already delivered new extra spaces in other central Ely car parks to more than make up for this loss. The Barton Road development, which is being delivered by the Council’s own trading company, is set to deliver around £1.7m back to tax payers, which helps finance projects such as the new leisure centre.

Rosemary fails to understand that the new position of Mayor has not taken money away from Cambridgeshire Councils - quite the opposite. The position has brought hundreds of millions of pounds of new money into our county which will deliver badly needed infrastructure such as the A10 upgrade.

I have been astonished in the past how often Dr Westwell gets basic information wrong about which Cambridgeshire Council holds responsibility for what. A simple search on the internet would ascertain the correct position, and as a serving Parish Councillor with a level of journalistic responsibility to readers of the Ely Standard I would expect better.

It seems Rosemary Westwell simply can’t be bothered, doesn’t care, or worse, is deliberately seeking to confuse your readers. Given her past moral stance that “We must admit mistakes...” (Westwell Column, 19th March 2018) I look forward to a full and detailed apology from her.

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