Who would want to run a local authority in 2018?

Who would want to run a local authority in 2018?

Who would be Canterbury City Council leader theses days?

After a fairly quiet start to his leadership in 2015, the increasingly prickly Simon Cook finds himself today fighting battles on numerous fronts.

When he’s not doing this, for reasons which I am unable to fathom, the Conservative finds time to bicker with voters on Facebook.

Maybe he should learn from his predecessor John Gilbey’s political style guide: Stand tall, puff your chest out and let the bullets ricochet off you.

After all, the fronts the council is fighting on are myriad. There’s the unpopular Local Plan, essentially created to fulfil government demands on housing, but bearing the Canterbury City Council hallmark.

There’s the multi-storey car park in Station Road West, for which there appears to be little public appetite.

Residents continue to raise issues connected to bin collections and general cleanliness, for which the council has its contractor Serco to thank for a number of headaches.

Money from central government, meanwhile, is dwindling.

And then there are the twin cyclones of traffic and air quality which have been blowing through city hall this week.

This prompted the authority to release a detailed set of proposals to try to deal with them. It came after noisy protests at the Guildhall last week by activists who want cleaner air and argue that building a multi-storey car park is not the way to go about achieving it.

The last time we saw such a turn out for a roads issue was over the Westgate Towers traffic trial.

Here we ought not lose sight of the fact that regardless of its consequences, the trial was an attempt to deal with pollution and congestion by discouraging drivers from the St Dunstan’s area.

The problem was it didn’t work. It didn’t discourage people from the area or from using their cars.

All that happened was that the routes which remained open become more congested and more polluted. It was a disaster and scrapped by Kent County Council in 2013.

Fast forward five years and we find our local authority once again grappling with pollution caused by traffic.

And here Cllr Cook and the officers at city hall deserve credit for formulating such a wide range of far-reaching proposals.

As Cllr Cook pointed out during a Monday briefing for newsmen, there is not one great big solution to this problem. There are just lots of things lots of people and organisations could be doing.

Therefore, the question isn’t just “what can the council do about air quality”, but “what can we, the district’s population, do about air quality?”

A cleaner, greener Canterbury is surely in all our interests – and if it arrives then, who knows, perhaps even the faintest semblance of a smile will flicker across our leader’s face…


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