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Smoke, Mirrors and Orwell's 'Localism'

A verbatim account of the meeting between the Friends of Snibston and the County Tories determined to close Leicestershire's Discovery Museum was taken down in shorthand by diligent officers of the Council.

I do hope it is published. Fans of 'Yes Minister' have already compared the leading and biased consultation to a comedy scene. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=G0ZZJXw4MTA&feature=kp  Sir Humphrey Appleby would have been impressed at the way Cllrs Blunt and Rushton stonewalled the Friends. 

Two Tory Councillors, determined to close down industrial heritage in favour of aristocratic tombs, faced a well-informed cross-party coalition of experts in Museums, Trusts and local government avoidance tactics.

There was some amusement when the embattled politicos tried to split the Friends, calling those on the right hand seats apolitical. With UKIP sitting even further to the right, and Bevanite Labour leading the charge, the Friends have achieved a Coalition not seen since WWII.

The 'Friends of Snibston' did a good job of calling the County Tories bluff. Everyone accepts the financial envelope on offer, The Tories have been claiming they 'will listen' to any realistic Trust bid that comes forward.

Hardly believable when they are trying to deny they ever commissioned a report by the nationally acclaimed legal team Winckworth Sherwood into alternative Trust models. The report was drafted and paid for - then mothballed.

The Tories are also remarkably reluctant to release detailed figures on Snibston Museum's running costs. Critics have already accused the Tories of unfairly loading back-office costs onto the Main Gallery. 

Ex-Tory heritage lead, Cllr Sprason insists that - under his watch - using Black Radley advice - LCC reduced the subsidy to £240k. Funny how the running costs have quadrupled in the last two years!

Labour PPC Jamie McMahon, veteran of many public sector battles, challenged the dubious finance projections with a detailed critique.

The County Tories refusal to release detailed running costs for the Museum, to enable a realistic Trust bid, suggests they may have some creative accounting to hide.

Enter stage left our would-be hero Andrew Bridgen MP. He has promised to bring Culture Minister Sativ Javed up to Coalville to bless the Museum with the holy waters of 'Localism'. He reckons the Friends should be given a Community Grant to take the Museum out of public ownership.

Peter Latchford, beloved by Damien Green and right wing public sector guru, says local government - faced with community ownership bids - would rather strangle an asset than let it go.

I do hope someone files the verbatim record alongside the Paxman-esque interviews conducted by Tim Parker of BBC Radio Leicester.

Cameron's Coalition promised 'Big Society' not big government. Future politics students will be able to conduct a line by line analysis. 

The Fate of Snibston is a classic example of little government Tories applying bureaucratic red-tape and information control to strangle social enterprise at birth.

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commented 2014-07-09 07:59:38 +0100
I have written to Cllr Blunt as follows:

Thank you for this letter and the enclosed Group Leaders briefing from the Chief Executive.

On the 19th February you promised Full Council that you intended to consider alternative models for Museum provision.

Considering alternative models would have provided some protection for the Council from accusations of predetermination at a Judicial Review.

Some weeks later, you became aware that a document had been received from Winckworth Sherwood and was available for your consideration. You were told that its contents had suggested alternatives to your preferred strategy.

You chose not to see this document.

You agreed to the decommissioning of this report without viewing it.

You were told that this document had been paid for.

You have now, at Full Council, denied not only this payment but the very existence of the Winckworth Sherwood document on the grounds that a document received by this Council that you have not seen is not a ‘report’.

I am appalled that you failed to examine this document before denying its existence.

I am appalled that a Member of this Council has allowed the suppression of evidence that should have been available to Scrutiny.

I am appalled that, as Heritage Lead, in dismissing the Winckworth Sherwood report, you have failed protect this Council from future accusations of predetermination with respect to your preferred Museum strategy.

I am concerned that your actions as Heritage Lead have brought this Council into disrepute.

I have referred my concerns to the County Monitoring Officer.

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