Thursday 20th June 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

Aunt Sally & Dear John

Aunt Sally & Dear John

Guest Author NORMAN MURPHY offers his views on the unpromising activities of certain former Scarborough Borough Councillors in their new roles at North Yorkshire Council.


As many of you are now aware, North Yorkshire Councillor Roberta Swiers (Conservative: Cayton) has recently been elevated from lowly nobody to the heady heights of Deputy Leader of North Yorkshire Council (NYC). Why Roberta has been given this important post, when she seems to have absolutely no idea what she is doing there, is a complete mystery.

However, my guess would be that, as a simple soul, she will make a good Aunt Sally, taking the flak for the real Leadership’s cock-ups.

Anyway, the appointment has now been made and I intend to monitor her progress with some interest (the eye of Sauron is upon you – that’s the baddy in a book called ‘The Lord of the Rings’, Roberta, in case you were wondering). Specifically, although not exclusively in this regard, I shall be giving particular scrutiny to the claim that now you have been made Deputy Chair of the new Council, you will “be in a better position to keep debates fair and varied”. Is this really a case of there is a new sheriff in town and who is going to clean up Dodge City? We shall see.

Another article published recently in the Scarborough News also quoted another former Scarborough Borough Councillor, John Ritchie (Labour: Woodlands), who had aspirations which I think might be well above his pay-grade. For some reason, Dear John had suddenly got a bee in his bonnet about cuts in the budget for Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision in Scarborough. Councillor Ritchie says that “While there are issues around SEN funding across the country, there is a significant issue in North Yorkshire”.

John’s sudden bout of outrage related to cuts in SEN funding recently made in NYC’s new budget. Officers said their best estimate was the proposed programme would deliver 315 places against the forecast shortfall of 350 places over the next three to five years”.

Basically, in an effort to balance the books, NYC had cut funding for SEN provision. Now although SEN provision is already underfunded in North Yorkshire, the new budget cuts will make the funding shortfall even worse.

That being said, of course, elected members of the new Council had their opportunity to speak out against the cuts and could have chosen not to support the cuts before they were agreed. Indeed, the time to speak out against the cuts, if you were really concerned, was during the debate prior to the Budget vote (I am certain Roberta would have made sure the debate was fair and varied).

However, Dear John, as far as is known, said absolutely nothing and voted FOR the cuts. So when he could possibly have had some token influence on the scale of the cuts, he said nothing. But once the cuts were implemented, he suddenly had “concerns”. Do I detect the whiff of hypocrisy? Methinks so!

However, don’t panic. Dear John has a plan to save the day. The Scarborough News reported that “Councillor Ritchie is hoping to work with a number of North Yorkshire Council’s committee’s to draw attention to the problems and try and find some solutions”. It might have been an idea to “work with a number of North Yorkshire Council’s committees to draw attention to the problems” before he voted to support the cuts.

The reality is that John is a lone Labour Councillor surrounded by a sea of Tories. They are no more liable to listen to him than his Labour colleagues listened to the pleas of Scarborough residents who protested, and are still protesting, against the ludicrous proposals the Labour Group have cruelly inflicted on the people of Scarborough for the last four years.

Nonetheless, I am sure John and Roberta will be happy revelling in the adulation they no doubt hope to receive from the residents of North Yorkshire and will be happily skipping round County Hall holding hands, blissfully unaware of the fact that stifling debates seriously undermines democracy and that SENs are seriously underfunded.

In this regard, Roberta and John, as I see it, what we need is action not more worthless words; over to you.

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