AT Dudley Council’s budget meeting, Councillor Steve Waltho engaged in histrionics over the savings that St Thomas’s Network need to make.

The result of these savings is mainly that the chief executive will have to leave her highly paid post.

My election literature mentions my support for St Thomas’s Network and I stand by this.

Councillor Waltho produced a copy of my leaflet and while dramatically waving the document in the air. and then theatrically pointing at me as I sat in the viewing gallery, he chose to indulge in childish name calling.

Unfortunately, as I was in the gallery and not in the chamber, etiquette would not allow me to respond.

Since then I have tried to contact Councillor Waltho several times to challenge him to a public debate but unfortunately he has chosen not to reply.

As Councillor Waltho seems unwilling to have a public debate on the issues, I would like to state my position here.

The St Thomas’s Network does do a lot of very good work.

The staff are, by and large, very committed and caring.

Unfortunately, the management of the network and the ward councillors seem to be more keen on publishing literature promoting the Labour party and forming some kind of Ian Austin fan club.

They have lost sight of what they should really be doing. Many times I have heard them refer to the network as a “hidden gem”.

Well, in my view it should have been their duty to make sure this gem was available to the community at large and no longer so well hidden.

The St Thomas’s network, like any other modern organisation, needs to be providing great, quantifiable, results and superb value for money.

Right now, it is not doing that and the blame lies fairly and squarely with the management.

I suggest Councillor Waltho spends less time with his theatrics and more time walking the streets of his ward.

I organised a litter pick yesterday in Kates Hill and was utterly horrified by the levels of litter around the place. Indeed, many locals complained of infestation by rats.

Once more I challenge Councillor Waltho to a public debate at a venue within the St Thomas ward when the public can decide who really cares about their day-today difficulties and who is simply playing at politics.

Bill Etheridge Conservative Candidate St Thomas Ward Dudley