MP’s Offer for Help Over WWI Centenary Snubbed by Norfolk County Council

(Left) Miss Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North and (Right) Mrs. Margaret Wilkinson, Labor cabinet member of Norfolk County Council.
(Left) Miss Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North and (Right) Mrs. Margaret Wilkinson, Labor cabinet member of Norfolk County Council.

Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North, was very saddened at the negative response she got from Norfolk County Council when she wrote to them offering her help with the council’s plans for the commemoration of the WWI centenary.

In her letter, Miss Smith had offered to discuss the council’s plans for the said upcoming event, which is set for November next year, but in the council’s reply, Labour cabinet member Margaret Wilkinson refused the offer stating that the MP had “kicked the council in the teeth”.

Miss Smith’s letter contained the following excerpt:

“As you know, 2014 will mark a momentous milestone in British history: 100 years since the outbreak of World War I.

“I would very much like to work with you to mark the centenary locally.

“The Prime Minister announced that support will be available to projects and initiatives large and small, in local communities across the UK in the form of Heritage Lottery Grants.

“I would be delighted to meet to discuss your plans further.”

Full Hands

But in her reply, Mrs. Wilkinson stated that the council is flatly refusing the offer citing two current problems as the reason why the WWI centenary commemoration is far from their minds, as of the moment – withdrawal of a 169 million-pound government fund for its proposed waste incinerator and a warning from the government that it would intervene if the council’s children’s services showed no improvements after a series of cutting reports from Ofsted.

“World War I is indeed an important anniversary which we will mark.

“However, as you should appreciate, more than most, the problem that I and my cabinet colleagues have inherited in the field of children’s services, together with the massive cut in government grant and the kick in the teeth which the council has just received from its MPs in the form of the withdrawal of PFI (private finance initiative) credits mean that we have a rather full diary at the moment.

“However, if you have any concrete proposals that can repair the damage that has been done to our finances I would be pleased to hear them,” Mrs. Wilkinson wrote.

Feeble Politics

Miss Smith expressed her disappointment at Mrs. Wilkinson’s reply saying it’s “downright discourteous to veterans and serving members of the armed forces if the Labor administration at County Hall doesn’t have the time or the gumption to commemorate World War I.”

She added that her letter had laid out the funds the government had made available for the commemoration and that she had proposed the terms in a polite and constructive way as to the means she and the council could work together for the county.

“What seems to have come back is pathetic party politics which shows utter disrespect for my constituents who do want to mark the centenary. Is this what Labor really thinks of those who have sacrificed so much for their country?” Miss Smith lamented.

On the other hand, the Broadband District Council had shown a different reaction to the same letter sent by Miss Smith to their district – they expressed “sensible interest” to her suggestion.

George Nobbs, labor leader of Norfolk County Council, had stated that they would be marking the centenary and that he had been talking with Keith Simpson, Conservative MP for Broadland and military historian, for the plans on how to do it.

“I look forward to working with Keith, who has some interesting ideas about how to mark this important occasion,” he stated.

Mrs. Wilkinson, meanwhile, was unreachable for comment as of the time of this report.

BBC News reports

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE