October 2010 Full Council

Finally a full council meeting rolled around. There are so few in the year that inevitably the agenda was groaning under the weight of items included – and that was before reams of public questions, deputations and petitions were added.

Once again the need for more council meetings, which start earlier, came to mind – but the Tories will have none of it, and I seem to recall Labour too being opposed last time Greens raised it.

As usual I had a number of questions to councillors which, as usual, were not properly answered. In flagging up issues with the council website I was once again promised that a new site was on its way – a new site has been imminent for the entire 3+ years I’ve been a councillor!

I also continued my attempt to win a commitment to the council using an open licence for its publications, however every time my question is misunderstood or deliberately misconceived.

My final written question was again twisted by the respondent. At a previous debate on the long delayed IRP report we were told it was being delayed because a return to the committee system was imminent. This was a pretty transparent wheeze. To pretend now that the two were unrelated was taking the proverbial biscuit.

The one oral question I’m now permitted  to ask related to how local government cuts would have a massive impact on the local economy. The answers Cllr Mears gave were, at best, tangential to the question.

The meeting saw an excellent debate on the cuts being made to the Connexions as part of public questions, a deputation, a petition and a notice of motion. I think the procedure that results in a debate when a petition has more than 1,250 signatures worked very well – it’s a welcome addition to council meetings.

At long last the Independent Remuneration Panel’s report on councillor allowances was voted on. But as I have long predicted, Labour and Tories voted together to preserve their allowances – so that Brighton & Hove continues to exceed government guidance on the number of special allowances handed out. They also voted against group leaders’ allowances being proportional to the size of their group – which would be patently much fairer than the present system. Once again, it was the old guard defending their interests.

As usual the 4 hour guillotine was activated by the Mayor to end the meeting. However to my surprise the Tories didn’t vote for it. They later revealed that they wanted a chance to rip into my amendment to their motion before going home. Of course once that had been voted on they did propose a new guillotine motion which was passed despite a very mixed vote from Labour and Tories, only Greens consistently voting to carry on with the business before us.

I will cover the two main motions I dealt with in separate posts. I think it’s high time council meetings were re-organised to happen more often. This would allow public questions and petitions to be dealt with a in a more timely way. The meetings should start an hour earlier and we should stay until the work is done. And the Conservatives should be ashamed of their approach – they continue to guillotine meetings as soon as the bits they want are done with, thereby removing the space for debate.

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