Anger over slur on leader’s role

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THURROCK’S Council leader John Kent has responded angrily to criticism by his opposition counterpart that he is not doing enough to bring prosperity to the Borough.

Cllr Kent (left) described himself as “almost incandescent” with anger after top Tory Phil Anderson issued a press release this week condemning Cllr Kent over his efforts to bring regeneration cash to our region.

Cllr Kent not only strongly denied the claims, but produced a list of times, dates and outcomes that rebutted the allegations and roundly condemned Conservatives for their “unfounded slur”. And he went on to condemn Thurrock Conservatives for their lack of support and interest in the South East Local Enterprise Partnership , the body at the centre of Cllr Anderson’s accusations.

He said: “Despite the fact that the South East Local Enterprise Partnership meets in Thurrock neither Cllr Anderson or any other Thurrock Conservative has attended a single meeting nor shown the slightest interest in the workings of the LEP until this latest slur.

“All council leaders have competing calls on their time – that is why alternates are allowed to attend LEP meetings in their place and all County and Unitary leaders take advantage of this. A look at the attendance records of the LEP shows that it is just plain wrong to claim that I ‘rarely attend.’

“We are fortunate in Thurrock that we have Andy Smith – himself a former leader of this council – as the portfolio holder for regeneration and my alternate for any LEP meetings I am unable to attend.

“The difference between Thurrock’s Labour cabinet members and many of Cllr Anderson’s shadow colleagues is that Labour members can be relied upon to understand their portfolios.

“We all remember that for the whole time Cllr Anderson’s party controlled the Council, and ran the cabinet, the vast majority of portfolio holders made it clear – on a monthly basis – they didn’t have a clue what was happening in their own portfolios. That’s why they had to ask so many embarrassing questions in public.

“What Cllr Anderson also fails to understand or acknowledge is how much of the SELEP discussions go on behind the scenes in telephone calls and one-to-one meetings. Often attending

the meeting and speaking to the agenda, as one of among more than 40 members, is the final step in a lengthy process.

“For absolute clarity, nobody at the LEP or among our SELEP partners is in the slightest doubt about where Thurrock stands on this issue – or any other. They are fully aware and equally, we know what our partners think too – that’s the way the “top table” works.”

Cllr Kent also issued a list of meeting attendances, saying: “I have attended LEP Executive Committee meetings on the following dates; 10/02/12, 18/05/12, 07/09/12, 16/11/12, 06/09/13 and Full Board meetings on 07/12/11, 23/03/12, 22/06/12, 12/10/12, 28/06/13.

“I was unable to attend the Executive Committee meeting held on 08/02/13 as I was attending an East of England LGA meeting in Cambridge. I was unable to attend the Executive Committee meeting held on 24/05/13 as I was attending an OECD Transport Conference in Leipzig. I was unable to attend the Full Board on 07/12/12 as I was meeting the Chief Executive of ‘Chess in Schools and Communities in London’ and I was unable to attend the Full Board held on 15/03/13 as I was attending the Assembly of East of England Leaders in Cambridge.

“As meetings of the Local Transport Board follow on from other scheduled meetings I was unable to attend the meetings of 15 March and 24 May for the reasons stated above. I can find no record of a Transport Board meeting being held in January 2013.

“For each of these meetings Cllr Andy Smith has attended in my place.”

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