THE council, according to figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, has spent more than four grand on media training for certain members over the last three years.

As all local authorities are looking to save money, I thought I’d help.

Here in just a few hundred words is all the media training any councillor – or any other politician, for that matter – could possibly need.

My advice is suitable for councillors of all parties, with the exception of the few members who’ve long since worked out these fairly obvious points for themselves.

The first lesson is that if you put the demands of your party leadership ahead of the needs of the people who elect you, the people don’t need the media to tell them what you’re up to. Rather, they’ll call us and say they know all too well what you’re up to, and then we’ll write a story about it.

When a reporter phones you and asks, say, whether up is up, down is down and a pigpen doesn’t smell too pleasant in high summer, the best course of action is to indicate that yes indeed, up is up, down is down and a pigpen doesn’t smell too pleasant in high summer.

If you consult some oily spin merchant and then come back and tell us up is down, down is sideways and pigpens smell so nice in high summer that there ought to be Pig Pen In High Summer scented candles, don’t be surprised if ordinary people feel utter contempt for what they see as your spinelessness and blatant insulting of their intelligence. .

Oh, and if you’re caught saying something ridiculous, your best option is to say you’re sorry rather than spout some nonsense about your words being taken out of context or your being the victim of a witch hunt.

The term ‘witch hunt’ traditionally refers to the persecution of the innocent. Therefore, if you really must complain you’re the victim of one, first ensure you don’t have a pointy hat, green skin, hairy warts, a bubbling cauldron and a fondness for turning people into frogs.

On another note, be aware that there’s scarcely a function of local government which benefits in any way, shape or form from party political slanging matches.

Some of you, when talking about anything from a new bus stop to whether Bourbon biscuits or custard creams should be served during meetings, say thing like: “This clearly demonstrates that we and not our opponents have the best interests of the community at heart, as was proved when they said as much in a meeting in 1958.”

Perhaps you reckon a punter reading your comments thinks: “Well, that’s me thoroughly enlightened as to who really cares.”

Well, they don’t. What they think is: “All these people care about is scoring points off one another – they don’t give a damn about me, the community or anything else.”

Rubbishing every idea from a political opponent simply because they’re a political opponent means the place you serve is either unable to move forward at all or progresses with all the dynamism and dignity of a ruptured duck.

Another good idea is to avoid secrecy as much as possible, especially when it comes to spending large quantities of taxpayers’ cash.

If some of those taxpayers raise questions about the wisdom of the investment, treat them with respect and address their concerns rather than accusing them of wanting to sabotage everything – or blatantly trying to shift the blame to them when everything goes wrong.

Follow this guidance and you won’t have any media-related problems. More importantly, the public will like and respect you.

Some of your senior colleagues won’t be too happy, but you’ll just have to decide whether you want to serve them or the people who showed their faith in you by putting an X next to your name.

Meanwhile, people living in Kingswood Avenue are less than impressed with resurfacing work there.

Despite being completed only last October, it’s already lifting and adding to Swindon’s growing reputation as a pothole sanctuary.

There are parts of this town where motorists feel like those unfortunate Wehrmacht truck drivers in archive footage of the muddy retreat from Stalingrad.

Perplexingly, nobody in authority seems to have a full grasp of the problem.

Just a thought here, but even the most cynical among us must concede that there are more intact stretches of road than there are knackered ones.

Therefore, I suggest engineers are sent to take small core samples from some un-knackered stretches, hand them over to the resurfacing contractors and say: “We’d like it made out of that, please.”

  • NATIONWIDE asked 2,000 people aged 12 to 14 a change-related question: “What do you get if you hand over £100 for £64.23-worth of shopping?"

It did so as part of an excellent drive to improve the numeracy and financial skills of children and young people.

Only 41 per cent were able to calculate the correct answer – £35.77.
I can think of another question, one for the denizens of Westminster: “What do you get if you systematically starve a town’s education system of resources, short-changing it of vital funds while unfairly favouring other towns and cities, for decades on end?”

Here’s one answer: “A growing number of people who, in spite of being perfectly rational human beings, are unable to grasp just how badly they’re being ripped off.”

Here’s another: “A step closer to having a productive, revenue-generating yet placid and unquestioning population.”
Sometimes, just sometimes, do you ever get the feeling that some of those internet conspiracy nutters might have a point?

  •  I READ in my trusty Adver the other day that reported attacks on ambulance staff over the last year rose to 104.

I wondered what might account for such a sorry state of affairs? Drugs? Alcohol? Mental torment caused by the sheer strain of 21st century life?

Then I read on and discovered that the penalties for those successfully prosecuted have included a suspended sentence, community orders, restorative orders and fines.

Hmmm, I wonder if there’s any connection?
Nah, I’m probably just being reactionary again.