Sunday, 5 October 2008

"One mixed up chick"

Thursday night's Full Council meeting veered from party political bickering and rudeness to laughter, through to the surreal sound of Cllr Doris Jones, erstwhile scourge of the Labour Group, being applauded by members of the Labour Cabinet.

And the "mixed up chick"? Well, regular readers of this blog will recall that I moved an amendment at this year's Budget Council which would have devolved responsibility for spending £300k on minor environmental improvements to ward councillors. The amendment was ridiculed by the Stalinist tendency in the Labour Group, who all voted against it.

The recent White Paper, "Communities in Control", published by Hazel Blears, includes a commitment to give ward councillors localised budgets that they can target on ward priorities. I asked Cllr Chapman, the portfolio holder for communities and engagement, if, in the light of her Government's commitment to devolved budgets, she had changed her mind on the issue. She didn't say yes and she didn't say no, but she did say, to general amusement, that if she agreed with everything Hazel Blears said, she would be one mixed up chick.

Perhaps I'll try again at next year's budget. After all, eventually the "we know best" Darlington Labour Group is going to have to embrace modern local politics with genuine power and responsibilities being devolved to communities and their elected representatives. Though it might take a change of leader following their defeat in the 2011 local elections to achieve this.

And why was Doris the darling of the Labour Cabinet? Well, Bill Stenson, the eccentric Tory Councillor, was, so far as it is possible to interpret his speeches, highly critical of Labour for their failure to keep our drains and gullies clear. Now, this is a real problem across the Borough, but it does appear that, following an excellent report by a Task and Finish Group led by Tory Councillor Doris Jones, a new servicing and manning regime for our gully cleaner will mean it is better able to cope with this problem.

Doris got on her hind legs and laid into Bill, her Tory colleague, who probably wished he'd read his Council papers a bit better over the summer. As Doris brought her remarks to a close, senior Labour Councillors broke into spontaneous applause: a somewhat bizzare sight.

Other highlights from Council:

Cllr Chris McEwan gave an excellent speech, apologising for the secretive nature of his officers' report on individual school achievements and assuring Council that he was, and always has been, fully commited to openness.

Cllr Alan Coultas laying into Cllr Bill Dixon for his off-the-cuff, and inaccurate, remarks in Cabinet about Cleveland Terrace Post Office. Cllr Dixon dismissed the attack with a flick of the wrist: which I thought was an entirely inappropriate response to Alan's attack, particularly as Council had just heard Cllr McEwan showing grace and humility in his remarks.

The silence which descended on a suddenly thoughtful Council Chamber following an impromptu speech I made calling on the Council to do everything possible, in concert with partners and voluntary organisations in the Borough, to help local residents to cope with the worst effects of the economic crisis in which many of them will lose their jobs, their homes and fall into fuel poverty. I also called on the Labour Group to recognise the financial pressures local residents will be under this winter and not to impose another 4.9% Council Tax increase on us all in the Spring.

1 comment:

Chris Close said...

I am also told one of the Tories raised the issue as to why people heard about Victoria House first in the Echo which was not entirely accurate as I raised the issue many moons ago after I reported the terrible state of care in the Home and was roundly rubbished by Councillor Wallis.

Perhaps if Councillors want accurate information about the Town they should come to me first?