Personal opinion by ALAN FRANKLIN

I always think it strange when people ask me if I "mean" what I write. If I didn't I would write something different, obviously!

So into my sights this week walks Conservative council candidate Colin Balchin, a very long serving member of Rushmoor Council.

Last week I responded to some nonsense from veteran Socialist Jim White, who seemed to think my colleague John Walton and I had favourites in the local council elections. I told him that we didn't give a hoot who won his ward and that there seemed little to inspire voters in the list of candidates facing them in Manor Park, Aldershot.

Coun. Balchin finds this comment crass, but it is a mild version of what I really think.

Interestingly, two hundred Manor Park voters have not written in to me saying that they find their candidates fizzing balls of charisma, dedicated men and women to whom the appeal of attractive fees for attending council meetings is but a distraction to their real aim of selflessly serving the community.

The truth is, Colin, that senior politicians have told me privately that they regard some on their lists of candidates as dreary in the extreme, with makeweight, second - rate candidates filling up the lists. It's not for me, of course, to pick out who they mean. I'll leave that to the perceptive electors….However, some candidates are a lot better than others and, with the help of our voters' guide at the end of the column, I suggest you find out which best suits your views- and get out and vote next Thursday.

Now let's turn to a second group of public servants who too often forget the "servant" aspect of their jobs - local council planners.

Week after week they stick their noses into matters that do not - or should not - concern them.

There's a prime example in our story on page two this week. A resident of Alexandra Road wants to cut down three weed trees. These sycamores, which grow where they blow and are an alien species in Britain, are now 60 feet high and blocking light into the gardens of at least two residents.

Enter, heavily footed from stage right, Keith Holland and the not so merry men of Rushmoor's planning department.

What the lady can do in her own back garden then became their business. Because these pieces of leafy rubbish "contribute to the greening of the area" the tinpot town hall dictators insist they must stay.

Never mind the owner's quality of life.

Week after week we have to put up with the dictatorship of people who are supposed to be there to serve us.

The previous week a reader pointed out that in the plans for Farnborough Station there is a reduction in the number of spaces for people who drop off or pick up passengers, to only seven spaces. A child could work out that this is ridiculously inadequate, but professional planners say otherwise, it seems.

I await with interest the decision of Rushmoor's own planners, vice chairman of whom is none other than Coun. Balchin.

Polling day is next Thursday in Hart and Rushmoor.

And finally, a good word for a Rushmoor Council official.

One of the things I do is attend meetings of a traffic advisory committee in Rushmoor. The pay is quite a nice line in sausage rolls and the chance to look eyeball to eyeball with Jim Pettitt and co of Rushmoor Highways.

Last week they were telling us how they listen to all our views , blah blah, when a woman pointed out that in the Boxalls Lane "improvement" scheme one entryway to a side road was so narrow that two vehicles could hardly pass.

Immediately a Rushmoor official pointed out that this couldn't be so, as an expert had been out to check it, just as they had hired an expert to check the much criticised "build out" at the top of Aldershot High Street outside The Queen - where the artics regularly run over the flower beds to get round the bend.

At this point I could take no more, pointed out that their experts were useless and accused all the council bods present of never admitting their mistakes. Jim Pettitt, Rushmoor's Head of Highways Services, took up the challenge and on Monday he and I met to take another look at this tightest of bends.

He saw that many large trucks cannot make the corner-evidenced by the tracks over the flower beds. He took my point-echoed by many others- and said he would see what could be done to shave the kerb.

For my part I admitted that my misgivings about the road safety schemes in Aldershot High Street and Grosvenor Road had proved false - they work well. There, both a Rushmoor official and a journalist admitting in one week that they may perhaps have been wrong. What more do you want out of one column?

Questions to ask

In the next few days assorted candidates will be out canvassing for your votes. Here are some questions to ask on the doorstep.

1 Do you have a full time job?

2 What is your employment record?

3 Are you a member of any secret organisation?

4 What is your educational background? A-levels? University?

5 If you are already on the council, how much did you collect in allowances last year?

6 What will you do about all the build-outs blocking up our roads?

7 What will you do about council bureaucrats who stop people cutting down their own trees when they become a nuisance?

8 How will you cut council spending?