People Scrutiny

Two hours and twenty minutes of Tuesday evening was taken up by People Scrutiny. I was a substitute for Cllr Borton (Victoria) who had another engagement.

I am not keen on the idea of Opposition members chairing scrutiny committees, and Cllr Salter (Conservative, Belfairs) demonstrated why. Cllr Salter is an able interrogator, a good performer amongst those in her party, and she clearly wanted to make a contribution to the debate. Whilst she did her best from the Chair, I think her contribution would have been stronger had she not had this role. If we are to have Opposition Chairs, then I would encourage the Conservatives to select less able contributors to undertake this role, freeing up their big guns for the cut and thrust of their vital role in holding the administration to account.

On the item Delaware and Priory Update we had the contradiction of some pretty obvious political point scoring from the Conservative members, and then Cllr Buckley (Conservative, St Laurence) complaining that “this is all too political” when Administration members responded. I think Cllr Buckley needs reminding that like it or not he is now a politician. Of course, this may be a precursor to him going ‘independent’, although I doubt it.

I asked two questions here. I asked the portfolio holder whether the biggest threat to the project (the setting up of a Local Authority Trading Company to deal with the proposed care campus) was the savage cuts being imposed on this local authority by the Conservative Government. I also asked whether the use of low wage earners was necessitated by these same savage cuts. I can report the agreement of the portfolio holder with my view on this (that the cuts are a threat).

In responding to the debate on In-depth Scrutiny Project – How the Council assists and excites individuals and community groups to achieve healthier lifestyles (and a healthier lifestyle is definitely something I am in need of) Cllr Moyies (SIG, West Shoebury) mentioned the 8% Government budget cut. Inexplicably (or perhaps not so) Cllr Salter from the Chair ruled that budgets could not be mentioned. I wondered whether she lived in a world where finance was unimportant, and I disagreed with her decision. I spoke up about this, resulting in the Chair’s suggestion that I could be expelled from the meeting. I have to say that money is a very relevant issue, and Cllr Salter’s attempt to stifle discussion in this way was regrettable.

I am pleased to note that in the Monthly Performance Report, indicator CP 4.9 (The % of children in good or outstanding Schools (Monthly Snapshot)) shows an improvement on last year, and this is a testament to the good work of the Joint Administration.

UKIP’s representative, Cllr Waterworth (Blenheim Park) left early, something he regularly does. This was a reasonably short meeting, certainly when compared to the previous evening’s Place Scrutiny. I know he is reluctant to contribute, but surely he owes it to those who elected him to stay the course.

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