Monday, 27 October 2008

Northampton Borough Council Meeting

Quite a while since I've been to one of these.
I believe that this was the first meeting that members of the public had submitted questions during the "questions" item on the agenda.
It was quite a surprise to see the shambles that a Council meeting could descend into. Members of the public had not been given answers by portfolio holders despite protestations to the contrary and the Council had to allow time during the meeting for members of the public to read through answers (some of these stretched to over a page), all utilising precious minutes of the half hour allotted to this agenda item.
It also seemed that as a lowly member of the general public, I had been cast in the role of "el diablo" in not only questions that I submitted but also questions that other members of the public had submitted.
In one question about support for people with disabilities in their own homes, despite a member of the general public requesting me to raise this issue in Council, I was accused of trying to make political capital on the situation. Of course it would have nothing to do with the inactivity of the existing Borough Councillors for the area. The Borough Council portfolio holder sees the real problems as caused by previous administrations. Nearly, eighteen months following the current adminstration coming to power that excuse doesn't quite wash.
I raised a question about equality impact assessments by the Borough Council with the case law emerging from the High Court from Lord Justice Moses over the summer. Despite the admission that equality impact assessments in grant aid decisions were not taken before the decisions had been made (and thus decisions being made outside of the law) the administration did not seem to want to champion the cause of justice or even the legal way of doing business.
In the question by Kathy Smith about the rent charges to the Thorplands Brook Community Co-op and the Kings Heath Need"Know shop, despite proclaiming this as a Lib Dem victory in a "Focus" before the 2007 Borough elections, the Borough administration have painted this as a rash and potentially destabilishing attempt by little old me (presumably me and me alone - no mention of the other councillors who voted in favour of it) to throw the Borough budget off course. It seems that the Lib Dems are quite ashamed of their part in the two community spaces getting 2007/8 as rent free. They still don't seem to answer the question as to why in 2008/9 the two community spaces received information in August of this year that they would be expected to pay £15,000 rent for the spaces. Must be neighbourhood renewal the Lib Dem way.
Quite intrigingly, at various points in the meeting I was referred to as Councillor Roy. I did ask for the allowance but perhaps with the debate on the increase in allowances later on in the meeting, they might have decided that it was a bridge too far given the £7.2 deficit.
Lib Dem Portfolio holder, Sally Beardsworth suggested that I might be PPC (I'm going to really glad when we can actually tell people who gets that badge of honour) before being corrected.

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