Meeting of the Council held on Thursday 23rd July 2015 (up, down, up, down, up, down, up down)
July 24, 2015 1 Comment
Five hours of debate last night at Full Council, and my abiding memory is of the farcical attempts to get a named vote. Named votes are very important as it records how every councillor votes on a particular issue.
I cannot help but be left with the impression that the rules are designed to make the whole process look arcane, and it is quite difficult to get the numbers and timing right. In the end the Labour group must have looked ridiculous. The rules are obstructive to democratic processes and are in sore need of revision. I would prefer a system where there is a presumption of a named vote, or at least a sensible chance of getting one.
In the discussion on minute 121 (Blenheim Park Pavilion Proposal) Cllr Courtenay (Conservative, Blenheim Park) called Cllr Longley (Liberal Democrat, Blenheim Park) “a liar”. Although a rather limp apology was extracted by the mayor, Cllr Courtenay really ought to curb his hot-headedness. I am objecting to the proposal because I fear that this will lead to the loss of public open space. I also worry about the proposed sale of alcohol here, which is not only new to the area (no pubs or clubs in the near vicinity) but is also right next to two schools.
I was quite surprised that the third councillor for this ward, UKIP’s Cllr Waterworth, did not make a contribution to this debate.
My urban wood idea got a couple of mentions in the debate on minute (In depth Scrutiny project – 2015 / 16). I had to chuckle when Cllr Aylen (Independent Group, Belfairs) called me “Wares Lane” – this took me back to my bedsit days (perhaps more on that on another day).
Minute 135 (Delaware & Priory Update) was the cue for the Conservatives to indulge in political point scoring. They expressed (faux) concern over the terms and conditions being given to new employees in this venture; somewhat rich given their Government’s sustained attacks on the very poorest in our society. I pointed out that the Government’s cuts had caused all sorts of problems, and asked the portfolio holder to confirm that “notwithstanding the cuts the project is still on target and, unlike the plans of the previous administration, we are still to provide a council-run care service”. Cllr Moyies (Southend Independence, West Shoebury) was able to confirm this. Responding to concerns about the wages of the apprentices likely to be used, Anne Jones (Labour, Kursaal) referred to “a wage for the future” – a nice catchphrase.
Agenda item 22 was the Review of Members’ Allowances. In the end we voted for no increase in allowances, anywhere, and some modest reductions in some places too. For a majority losing free ink, paper and stamps was a step too far though. I voted to accept the recommendation in this regard, but this was lost by 18 votes to 25. It seems that for most councillors their allowances being used to purchase paper and ink, etc, was untenable.
I proposed that all increases to special responsibility allowances be rejected, and that any proposed reductions be accepted. This was effectively the reverse of a proposal by Cllr Ayling (Independent Group, St Luke’s), who wanted the allowances to rise as recommended (as a recipient of an SRA, Cllr Ayling of course has no personal interest in this!). My amendment was carried 28 -17.
We then got onto what I thought was a very interesting item: Revised Contracts Procedure Rules and Financial Procedure Rules. I have been pressing for changes here for some time, and whether the council will admit that the revisions are down to me or not, I am claiming a victory of sorts. I do think the types and bandings could be revisited, but it is a start. I also hoped that there would be an explicit bias in favour of local businesses in Southend-on-Sea. Cllr Walker (Conservative, Eastwood Park) saw fit to make a particularly inane comment, and thus demonstrated his ineffectiveness as a scrutiniser of council business.
In Part Two we had the debate on the Adult Social Care Local Authority Trading Company. I cannot report on the debate, but I can report that on the vote on whether to accept this three Conservative councillors abstained, effectively a vote to reject this. They were Cllrs Jarvis (West Shoebury), Lamb (West Leigh) and Phillips (West Leigh). That is three Tories (at least) who are opposed to the administrations at trying to save the council care homes. Shameful.
And finally, it is very noticeable that we end meetings with fewer councillors present than we start with. The Labour Group in its entirety stayed to the end, all nine of us. This is not true of other groups. I am not about to name names, but I do wonder why so many find it acceptable to leave whilst business is still going on. This not only lets their residents down, it lets their parties and themselves down. Of course, in extremis leaving earlier is entirely justified. But if you cannot last the course then you should not seek public office.