It’s a super spring day and we’re up for the last meeting of this council. There are four motions, neither of which should be contentious, and little else of substance so we should be out in reasonable time.
We start with prayers and today it’s a Moslem which is maybe timely given the events at Westminster at the end of last week. Sadly many councillors aren’t present, a mix of Tories and UKIP as far as I can see.
I suddenly find out that my motion (more later) for which I have accepted amendments from the Tories needs to be republished by me. I quickly head out into Democratic Services and make this happen.
I don’t miss much: chairman’s announcements and then group leaders thanking those of their groups who are stepping down
Public questions and it’s Anthony Carpen again. He asks a question about archives and how they are to be preserved. He suggests a more active partnership with the University.
Item 6 on the agenda is the Council’s pay policy. The salaries of the senior employees at the council are summarised in an appendix. It makes interesting reading. It’s noted that the council is still working on an analysis of gender parity and that this will be published shortly. Policy is accepted by acclamation.
The next item is about LGPS (the pension scheme) investment pooling. There are no speakers and the recommendations are approved by acclamation.
Now onto the motions. The first one is from Labour and related to nursery care and asks that we ‘demand’ that the minister changes funding policy to make sure that it is fair. Can’t argue with that but as with many of our motions writing to ministers achieves little. It seems like a good enough albeit motherhood motion but the Tories find a reason to vote against it viz because it speaks of nurseries only and ‘discriminates’ against non-nursery child care providers. Tories now ‘put the question’ because this is a ‘flawed motion’. Mover of motion now says she feels ‘attacked’ because it’s been suggested that her motion is discriminatory. This vote passed 37 to 18 so now we vote on the motion. After the mover gets to speak again of course and it seems there’s no limit on the scope of this ‘right of reply’. Motion lost 25 to 32. Lib Dems and Labour for Tories and UKIP against.
Motion number 2 is also from Labour and is about new school places and asking for another letter to be written to a minister, It’s against the ‘random’ building of Free Schools in the absence of need and it’s against the inadequate funding of new schools. Methinks it should have been two motions. The former is an important issue because if you get too many school places being offered then intake at existing schools and their associated funding goes down so instead of one moderately well funded school you get two badly funded ones.
This time there’s no immediate Tory negativity but we do have a minor detour to clarify the proposal of the Bedford Free School which is proposing to open a new free school in St Neots. And finally the Tories speak against because free schools are government policy; methinks they don’t really understand the motion. Motion lost 26 to 31. Labour and Lib Dems and a handful of others for, Tories and most UKIP against. What did I say about the motions being non-contentious?
The third motion takes us into unitary territory again. It’s a recurring theme. This time it comes from the Lib Dems and asks that the chief exec reviews options for moving to unitary models and to report back within 6 months. There’s a rather sour speech from the leader of the Indies. Tory leader speaks against because it doesn’t talk about improving outcomes (last refuge of the scoundrel?) and suggests that it’s not radical enough. Tories, especially their leader, seem committed to not going down the consensus route today. Motion carried 32 to 24. UKIP, Labour and Lib Dems in concert. Bravo!
Finally it’s my motion about ‘sustainable high streets’. It says that such high streets are good for the economy, for health and for climate change and calls on a range of partners and the council itself to be more deliberate in actions which might adversely impact on them. There’s a call for action for the chief executive to bring forward a plan within 3 months. There’s an embarrassing level of support and we go to the vote prematurely. My motion is carried by 50 to 1 (an errant UKIP councillor). Harmony at last! Click here for my motion as amended and here for my speech.
Now there’s a new item: questions about the combined authority. Nothing of significance.
Item 10 is a bunch of questions. First the Fire Authority and I ask about the proposed merger of Fire and Police. Peter Brown, Tory chair of the authority (who has been excellent) says he and the rest of the authority are against it and anyway any merger has to be approved by the upper tier authorities viz CCC and PCC who look like they would block it.
In oral questions I am asked about the recent Health Com scrutiny of the CCG’s proposal to move the South Cambs Out of Hours service from Chesterton to Addenbrooke’s.
I then asked the leader if he’d agree with me that the committee system has been largely successful if he’ll join with me in hoping that it will so continue in the new council. It’s difficult for him to be too effusive but he does agree that it has worked and defied the doomsayers who’d said we’d become a laughing stock. He agrees with me that we should work to improve it because we’re stuck with it no matter what the results of the election are.
Finally there’s a worrying question about the closure of a purpose built care home in Huntingdon which would potentially make 100 plus older people homeless.
Meeting closes at 1750.