COMMENT: It’s about time our councillors stopped squabbling and put the voters first

Andy Done-Johnson Mansfield Chad.
Andy Done-Johnson Mansfield Chad.

I am proud of a good few things that I’ve done or been involved with during my time on the Chad.

I broke the Wycherley Murders a couple of years ago - me, at the Chad. We beat everyone to the story and we were first with the story from start to finish. I won an award, by the way.

I felt humbled and moved to have been so closely involved with the Chad’s coverage of the tragic Amber Peat story.

I feel proud of our community for the way we rally, the way we speak out.

I feel proud of my team - my small and dedicated team here at Chad Towers.

And I’m really proud to work on the Chad. I have worked on several papers. The Chad is by far the best . . . for all our faults.

But, certainly in recent months, there is one thing that I am by far the most proud of . . .

During the General Election in May, I was accused of being politically biased . . . that I favoured one party above another, and that my coverage reflected that.

What makes me even more proud is that I was accused of being politically biased by every single major political party.

THAT . . . I hope . . . proves beyond all doubt, that in my professional life I am completely neutral.

The Labour Party accused me of political bias.

The Liberal Democrats accused me of political bias.

The Conservatives . . . UKIP . . . you get the picture?

So I’m saying this as someone who is, officially, politically neutral. That is my job.

You lot, and by that I mean all the members of Mansfield and Ashfield District Councils, need to start thinking a lot less about point scoring, and a lot more about the communities you represent.

Hardly a day goes by when we are not ‘tipped off‘ about some political indiscretion or another . . . an anonymous source who can’t get off the phone quick enough, who won’t leave his/her name in case we want to check any facts.

We hear reports of ‘payback‘ and ‘double standards‘, bias and hypocrisy, which come through on a regular basis.

We have investigated numerous stories, only to find that they are merely a political ambush . . . aimed at using the Chad, exploiting the Chad even, to further one political point of view or another.

And usually - not all the time but usually - it is nothing more than tit-for-tat game playing and point scoring.

The Lib Dems took a hiding in last week’s Chad because of something that the Labour Group concocted (if you live in Ashfield), so this week the Lib Dems need to embarrass the Labour Group enough to ensure that their follies get on the front page. Because the Lib Dems think Labour are responsible . . . and vise versa. And so it goes on.

In Mansfield they take up more time arguing about whether to ban Twitter in council meetings than the issues that impact on the people of the district day after day.

They don’t listen.

They take to social media. They abuse and insult each other.

They hide behind press

officers.

They are on the phone very quickly if they want to share some dirt on one of the opposition members.

But they are strangely aloof if the spotlight has focused on one of their own gaffes or

mistakes.

Corporately, they ‘work in partnership‘, they communicate ‘with their stakeholders‘ they say things like, ‘This is testament to our hard-working staff . . .”

Then they all get together once a month and spend an enjoyable few hours goading each other, insulting each other, embarrassing each other . . . hoping that the Chad might be in to catch somebody or other’s bad day.

It’s politics.

I get it.

Only it’s not.

It’s people’s lives.

It’s people’s piece of mind.

It’s people’s happiness.

So while our elected members are scoring points, and hurling insults, and organising set-ups, there is a great deal going on out there.

Our grass is growing and not being cut.

People are dumping rubbish in other people’s alleys, then those people are getting sued or fined for not cleaning it up.

We have rubbish street lighting.

People are dumping dirty needles in open spaces.

People are letting their dogs foul in public parks, then not picking it up.

People are destitute - really very destitute.

Our town centres are falling by the wayside. More shops are empty than open.

The new shops we get are out-of-town.

There are sprawling housing developments, sucking up our green spaces.

Our bins are getting smaller . . . to encourage responsible recycling, NOT to save money.

But that’s fine, because Councillor X managed to persuade the Chad to run this story about Councillor Y, and now Councillor Y is looking like a right plum.

It won’t get the grass cut, or the bins empties and the dog mess picked up . . . but it’s a victory nevertheless, it would seem.

So here at the Chad, we want to make sure that all of our politicians are working for the people who turned out to vote for them.

We want to take the party politics out of local government.

Have views. That’s fine.

But don’t forget that you have been elected to help the people who put you there.

This is not the Palace of Westminster. This is people’s welfare. So please . . . Grow up.