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Newsletter, July 2010 (Issue 180)

Alice in Fiascoland


Alice's Adventures in Fiascoland

Once upon a time not so long ago, Wonderland held its local elections. The creatures of Wonderland had no time for politics and simply voted for their favourite letter of the alphabet. Not surprisingly, the As got the most votes, closely followed by the Bs, with the Cs mopping up the remainder.

Now anyone knows that if you keep only three chickens there is a danger that one will be ganged up on by the other two. So when the Bs and Cs realised that their combined vote was bigger than the As' they formed an alliance to govern Wonderland. Protest as they might, there was nothing the As could do about it, and they were eventually excluded altogether from the Executive. The portfolios were shared out among the Bs and Cs, with Business and Economic Development going to one of the Cs, the Mock Turtle. This was very pleasing for him since the initials B&ED are such important letters of the alphabet, bringing opportunities undreamt of

Some time later, a developer applied to regenerate a derelict site near Wonderland's Waterfront. The centre piece would be a marvellous Fiasco Extra superstore with a wonderful atrium and ample car parking, with lovely hotels, new shops and smart flats, some of which would even be affordable.

As it happened, Alice fell through a rabbit hole and landed right in the middle of the Wonderland Planning and Development Committee meeting where the proposal was being considered. The Wonderland Society's Planning Officer was urging the Committee to listen to the arguments and vote accordingly, rather than alphabetically, to which the Queen of Hearts blustered, "Why, the very idea! This Committee has a distinguished record of not voting along alphabetical lines! Off with his head!"

And so the meeting progressed. Everyone agreed that the site needed regenerating, and the Queen of Hearts launched a spirited support for the proposal saying it showed that Wonderland was open for business at a time when new jobs and investment were very valuable. But the As were concerned that Wonderland's other shops would be driven out of business, leaving the creatures of Wonderland unable to buy their daily essentials without using their cars. So there would be much more traffic along the Waterfront, which was already too often gridlocked and not at all pedestrian-friendly. All in all, the proposal went against all the good consultation work that had gone into Wonderland's Local Development Framework (the LDF, whose champion had been the Mock Turtle) which wanted less traffic and a more pleasant environment for all the creatures.

This unsettled the White Rabbit who was chairing the meeting, but then the Case Officer pointed out that the LDF hadn't yet been adopted and the increase in congestion didn't sound very serious to him, and it wasn't the Committee's job to protect the other retailers, so none of those objections applied. The other Bs and Cs all agreed with the Queen of Hearts, which cheered the White Rabbit who then called for a vote. In fact, he was so excited that he cast his own casting vote prematurely, before the Mock Turtle had satisfied himself about the free car parking arrangements. "Free car parking?" exclaimed the Highways Officer. "No one told us about free car parking! That will need to be examined!" So the casting vote actually fell to the Mock Turtle who was in two minds about which way to vote. "Once," he would muse wistfully, "I was a real Turtle." So the Queen asked the developers if the car parking could be managed, though no one heard quite what, if anything, was actually agreed. But the Mock Turtle proceeded to vote in favour.

"Objection!" protested the As. "Off with their heads!" countered the Queen, adding ironically, "That Rabbit is chairing the meeting, not you!" The proposal was carried, with the votes falling alphabetically.

Alice couldn't believe her eyes and ears, so she wrote to the Bs and Cs and asked them if they had taken any notice of the As' objections, or if they simply thought the pros outweighed the cons. (She could only guess at how the Queen of Hearts would respond!) But the Committee's legal advisor must have advised against that, and instead sent Alice a reply that all representations had been taken into account and that due process had been followed.

But Alice wasn't reassured. "No jury would convict by such a slender margin, not even for stealing a few tarts, let alone a serious matter such as this. What kind of ' due process' gives approval without addressing any of the problems, and with no explanation, on a single casting vote from a portfolio holder having to oppose his own LDF, which had already been endorsed by the Wonderland Council?"

"Indeed you might wonder," said a Cheshire Cat, who had evidently appeared from nowhere. "After all, this is Wonderland. We're all mad here!" And he promptly disappeared again leaving just a sickly grin hanging in the air.

"Thank goodness this couldn't happen in the real world," thought Alice.

MIKE BRAIN

    Front cover of issue 180 Cover, issue 180

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