28/05/2011 Leave a comment
It was a bit of a marathon session on Thursday which lasted over 4 and half hours with the changing over of the Chairman and Vice Chairman, a speech of note by the new Leader Mark Bee, the announcement that I will continue in my role as will the rest of the cabinet, a brief but important moment to me anyway, and then a number of public questions and petitions; not to mentions the usual political showboating of the liberals, but I’ll come to that.
The Bishop of Saint Edmundsbury the Right Reverend William Nigel Stock spoke about attending Barack Obama’s speech to the joints Houses of Parliament gathered in Westminster Hall the day before and the importance that politics and indeed politicians do have in peoples lives and the need for those making the decisions to do so in the full knowledge of their impact; his was an excellent thought and prayer for the day and most relevant picking up on our role and indeed the public questions and presentation of the petitions to come.
Cllr. Eddy Alcock spoke about his year in office and he handed over the reigns of power to his vice chairman last year Cllr. Patricia O’Brien and I was delighted to then see Jeremy Pembroke installed as Vice-Chairman. When Jeremy retired as Leader he also announced that he would retire as a Councillor at the next County elections so it will be a fitting time as he will be the Chairman in his last year but also during this Country and indeed this county’s high ceremonial summer of 2012. I read somewhere yesterday that spoke of his failure and resignation, well he did not resign he retired.
Now no one is suggesting that the cuts have hardly met with universal approval, lets face it they were never going to, nor indeed has the New Stratergic Direction captured the public’s imagination nor been particularly understood as a way to protect services when there will be less money. But I tell you what if retiring at 70 from a high pressure high profile, public role; after a life in the city, which culmulated in becoming a Director of Hambros, then becoming Leader of the Conservative Group on the County Council, winning a stunning victory from the Liberals and Labour in 2005; overseeing the sorting out of a basket Authority with 11.9% and 18.5% rises in two years under Labour and the lib dems mismanagement; driving forward saving over £70M in back-office re-organisation in the process. Leading his party to winning a second term with a land slide of 55 out of 75 Councillors with the labour group reduced from 18 to 4; demanding and delivering the lowest council taxes rises in the Council’s history with 2.5%, 2.45% and 0% in the last three years alone and last but not least as witnessed by the recent county by-election, that others care to ignore because it does not fit with their themes, where the conservative candidate won over 50% of the vote share; well if that is failure, then bring it on.
Cllr. Mark Bee was then elected unopposed as Leader and gave a speech which I think blended the need for us to explain what the problems are and talk with people more in their own communities to come up with the solutions. He also made the point that the savings we have to make are not theoretical but a reality and whilst we want to work with and take people with us we still have to make those savings.
Next we had a string of public questions and three petitions, to my mind the most moving of the various speeches were those made around the explore card and the role it plays in young peoples lives as the take those first few steps of independence from their parents and the role it plays in their education as well. We simply cannot provide the service we did, we have to make cuts but there really is a need to look at how we can mitigate the impact of this for those least able to afford to pay the full fares. With the cuts we face the only universal things we can do must be around keeping Council tax as low as we possibly can; in most other area’s with the savings we are having to make Local Government needs to be focused on providing our support on helping those who most need our support.
And finally I come to the liberals political show-boating, now maybe I am being unkind but I think not! As we discussed the first Petition they put in a motion and then went on to quote the Constitution, that they just happened to have the relevant pages to hand, that it says this and that and how unsatisfactory the next steps or lack of them. Now to the best of my knowledge of 4 years on the Constitution working party where they have been fully represented, as we have discussed and approved the procedure on petitions they have not once disagreed with amendments proposed to be put to full council, not least because it is custom and practice to only propose what is fully agree in that forum. I also do not recall at any full Council meeting where amendments have been proposed have been anything other than unanimously voted in favour; now from all that I take it they have always been fully in favour. But clearly not! with petitioners in the room they were ‘confused’, ‘upset’ and now ‘challenging’ the procedure, as I said pure political show-boating, very disappointing but not surprising.