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New Forest District Council idea to list compliments from public branded 'Orwellian nonsense' by the Liberal Democrat opposition

"ORWELLIAN nonsense." That is the verdict of the Liberal Democrat opposition group to a suggestion New Forest District Council keep a log of compliments it receives from the public.

Cabinet member for economic development, Cllr Michael Harris, suggested recording praise and not just complaints since "there is a balance in life". He was backed by Grainne O’Rourke, executive head of governance and housing, who said: "That’s a really, really excellent point."

She added: "We do get lots of compliments and praise and we are not the best at recording that and disseminating that information. I think it’s something we need to pick up corporately."

Cllr Michael Harris
Cllr Michael Harris

However, the idea was savaged by Lib Dem leader Cllr Malcolm Wade, who said: "Our Conservative-led council has finally lost the plot. They want to literally count compliments.

"In the meantime waste collections have been halted. We have an appalling record on recycling. Their chairman refuses to acknowledge climate change.

"Taxpayers need efficient services delivered, not this Orwellian nonsense."

Cllr Malcolm Wade
Cllr Malcolm Wade

Cllr Jack Davies, another Lib Dem, added: "If all you want is praise, join a cult. I didn’t stand for election to boost my self-esteem, I did it because the job of a councillor is to try and solve the problems local people face."

Cllr Harris’ comment was made at the latest corporate affairs and local economy overview and scrutiny panel meeting – where a report revealed NFDC received and logged 73 complaints in total in 2020/21, five less than the year before and 24 down on the 97 received in 2018/19.

Of the 73, 40 were dealt with internally and justified and dealt with by way of an apology or a financial settlement. Six resulted in NFDC paying out financial settlements totalling £2,528.

The report added seven complainants went to the local government or housing ombudsman over the council’s conduct during the past year – with three subject to detailed investigations.

One of those was upheld; that related to NFDC planners failing to identify a breach on an initial site visit to a new build. However, the ombudsman ruled no injustice was caused.

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