September 2003

I have today been handed the reply received from 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA dated 2nd September 03, to a letter sent by a couple who reside in Cambridge urging Tony Blair to become involved in seeking a solution to the Happisburgh coast defence problem. This reply signals a change of tactics – our letters are not now being passed to DEFRA. It appears now that the No.10 Direct Communications Unit is peddling the DEFRA mantra.

As one has come to expect it contains the usual DEFRA bunkum about how careful they must be with taxpayers money and how they must ensure that said taxpayer gets best value for his or her money invested by H.M. Government!! I really can not believe they want to open that particularbucket of worms. Again and again people both local and from all over the UK when speaking with me have expressed their disgust at the various ways this government spends their money, the following are just some of the more popular comments:

  • Did they worry about best value when spending five million pounds on a Ruddy Duck cull?
  • Did they worry about best value when authorising four million pounds to be spent assisting the breeding of the Bittern?
  • Did they worry about best value when spending three million pounds improving the lot of the Raft Spider?
  • Did they worry about best value over the countless millions the Millennium Dome has cost us?
  • Did they worry about best value when building Yarlswood for asylum seekers and then rebuilding it? (they did try to save our money the fist time round by not putting in a fire sprinkler system!!!)
  • Do they worry about best value when it comes to the Falkland Islands and the billions of pounds that costs us?
  • Did they worry about best value for us when the new office building for MP’s at Westminster was built and how much did that cost us?

The list is endless but the answer is “not”. This Government in common with most Governments has wasted billions of pounds of our money. Not their money OUR MONEY!!! To try and plead ensuring value for taxpayers in the context of the defence of this Island Nation from the sea or rather as an excuse to not defend it from the sea is at best politically inept and an absolute insult to our intelligence. Many people are incensed over that one.

The total irony is that they would more than likely spend twice as much as our sea defences would cost to make a case for not putting them in place! Amazing isn’t it when it comes to our money being spent on US for a change to protect our homes, our commercial life and the socio-economic survival of our communities, suddenly that is not best value for us the taxpayers.

The amount that needs to be spent at Happisburgh to effectively protect our community and the northern Broads is positively minuscule when viewed alongside successive Government’s, including this one, folly with the public purse. The truth is we are the fourth richest nation in the world and could well afford effective coast defences. All that is needed is the political will to do it. If that political will were there many thousands of good honest British citizens would be spared the misery of the effects of coastal erosion and or flooding.

To return to the letter from the No.10 Direct Communications Unit, in paragraph three they say, I quote “North Norfolk District Council, the relevant authority for Happisburgh, withdrew their application for DEFRA funding of works there because they judged that the proposals were no longer economically worthwhile.” This is blatant spin. I have no doubt that is what both No.10 and DEFRA would like you to believe, but the truth is that because of the delays incurred looking at the proposals the erosion ensued at a rate way beyond all official predictions, property was lost and the proposals could not then meet the DEFRA economic criteria and had to be withdrawn. Indeed that criteria and point score system imposed by DEFRA actively seeks to prevent NNDC or any other authorities from submitting fresh proposals for a grant aided scheme, no matter how viable that scheme may be.

So come on No.10 if you are going to reply to everyone who is concerned enough to write to you about Happisburgh at least get your facts right and be honest. I would urge everyone who has had such a reply to write back and demand a full explanation and factual reply.

Finally, in a letter to our local MP dated 30th June 2003, Elliot Morley speaks of the DEFRA criteria and point score system which they have imposed and in one paragraph says, I quote “It is not based on statute, but our intention nevertheless is to apply it consistently and rigorously to all projects except where, from time to time, there may be the need to make general exceptions.”

There could be no more deserving exception than Happisburgh and the northern Broads.

Malcolm Kerby (12 September 2003)