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Paul on Politics: Getting ready for road maps out of lockdown and the cycle lane fiasco rages on


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Boris prepares his route map out of Covid19; the pop up cycle lane that cost more to take out than put in and what's a semi-urgent decision?

Our political editor Paul Francis reviews the week in politics.

Boris Johnson will be addressing the nation on Monday
Boris Johnson will be addressing the nation on Monday

One Direction: About the only thing we know about Boris Johnson’s road map out of the corona crisis is that he is plotting a route in which there will be no room for u-turns, detours and alternative roads to bypass awkward backbenchers in the Covid Recovery Group.

At least that is what he plans to put in the political satnav.

The starting point is not as important as the final destination, which is, of course, the sunny uplands of a coronavirus-free UK and the easing of restrictions after lockdown.

To underline his determination that the third lockdown will be the last, he introduced the concept of ‘cautious irreversibility’ - a phrase that raises the question of whether there can be degrees of irreversibility or not.

To which the answer is no, you can’t. So, the route map is only one way: if things go awry, the only thing the PM can do is, it seems, to squeeze on the brakes. There is no reverse gear.

KCC hq (44500720)
KCC hq (44500720)

A matter of urgency: While we are on the subject of appropriate language, a report published by the county council on various decisions to be taken by the Conservative cabinet introduces the concept of a “semi-urgent” decision.

Is there some kind of urgency classification table which you can calibrate different degrees of urgency? We think we should be told. As a matter of semi-urgency.

Reading Material: There has been some confusion - just for a change - about the fate of libraries in Kent once the lockdown does come to an end.

With an election round the corner, opposition county councillors have been fanning the flames of uncertainty with pointed questions seeking reassurances that libraries will survive intact.

The politician in charge, Cllr Mike Hill, has denied there are any closure plans.

Those in the opposition camp now include the former Conservative county councillor Eric Hotson, who quit the Tory group after failing to be reselected as candidate for his Maidstone division.

He now sits as an independent and will be contesting the seat in May. We imagine that fears over the future of local libraries will soon be on an election leaflet.

The Duke of Edinburgh being taken to hospital over shadowed Sir Keir this week
The Duke of Edinburgh being taken to hospital over shadowed Sir Keir this week

Where’s Keir? Labour leader Keir Starmer sought to put himself back in the political ring this week with what parties like to dress up as a set-piece speech, setting out the direction he is going and outlining keynote pledges and ideas.

It was not his fault that the news agenda was focused heavily on a top private hospital in central London, where someone very important is a patient.

Amid all the white noise, it was a speech that rather got drowned out. While he has been good at holding the PM to account, you do get a sense that there is some impatience among party activists about where the party is heading ideologically.

And in Kent, how he intends to win over voters in key seats that the party needs if it is to have any chance of forming a government.

The Covid-19 pop-up cycle lanes proved controversial
The Covid-19 pop-up cycle lanes proved controversial

On Your Bike: The introduction of a clutch of pop up cycle lanes last year provoked widespread criticism and KCC has endeavoured to draw a line under it all. But the release of the costs associated with the cycle lanes and their removal has raised eyebrows.

One of the cycle lanes in Dover cost more to uninstall than it did to put in, according to a response to our Freedom of Information request. That takes some doing.

Kite Flying: If you live in Dartford, consider yourself fortunate: the council is freezing council tax.

So, how has the council managed that while all around, others are raising bills and scrabbling around for ways to save money and dipping into their reserves?

According to council leader Jeremy Kite it's all down to sound financial planning.

"I don’t think councils should be building up reserves when there are so many things that residents rightly want us to do.

"Our approach is to be as open as possible with local taxpayers about when we can freeze tax or when we need to put it up, and when we need to draw down reserves and when we don't."

Head to our politics page for expert analysis and all the latest news from your politicians and councils.

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