County Council meeting Mar 18: as it happened

2018-03-20 09.36.32 cropFor the full video go to https://youtu.be/ndH63Dxp7TY.

It’s a spring day but a cold one. At least the snow and ice and the biting wind of earlier in the month are no more.

And it’s another county council meeting with a full agenda: 8 motions plus other potentially contentious stuff. It may be a long day.

We start with prayers … from a humanist celebrant who assures us that they are not prayers.

We start with public questions. There are 4. The first (Nicky Massey) seems to be about cuts in general and asks that CCC uses the moneys to be put in the smoothing reserve to address them.

The second (Carla McQueen) is about youth facilities in East Chesterton which have recently lost funding.

And the last one (Baiju Varkey), a fourth questioner  did not show, asks about arrangements for running and managing LGSS and where its people are based given the current uncertainties at Northamptonshire and the increasing closeness of the County Council and Peterborough City Council. It was really a challenge to the agreement to move out of Shire Hall.

After the questions there’s a petition regarding the Citi8 bus service. I helped the petitioner put her petition together and it received over 700 signatures. It was the first e-petition to be put to the Council. Now we wait for the leader of the council’s ‘written reponse’.

Now we’re into the meat of the agenda (it’s already 1100) with the Council’s pay policy and gender pay gap reporting. To be fair the picture is not bad: the ratio of top to median pay is ‘only’ 7 and the mean gender pay gaps is ‘only’ 13%. However despite CCC being an employer which employs well over 50% women there are distinctly fewer women employed in the highest grades. The Chief Executive is of course a woman so I guess that’s a good start. There’s a vote. All in favour. Bravo!

Item 7 is about the Shire Hall move (proposed). There’s a massive saving to be made and this is enabled by moving to a ‘hub and spoke’ (actually a sun and planets) model. I support but unfortunately the proposal is to allow C&I Com to make the final ‘where?’ decision which seems inappropriate give its significance so there’s a Lib Dem amendment addressing this and also proposing that in future council meetings move so that people get more access to them. I spoke (click here). Both amendments are lost with a Tory block vote (that’s going to repeat later in the day I’m sure) against aided and abetted by Labour.

In the debate on the main motion there is strangely a Tory voice against because it’s premature given a pending local government review. Labour speaks against mainly because of the delegation to C&ICom. In which case why didn’t they support the Lib Dem amendment? There are lots of speeches but nothing really new or enlightening. The vote in favour is carried with Lib Dems (against delegation to C&ICom) and Labour (against the move) plus one Tory against.

It’s 1300 and we break for lunch. This is going to go on all day.

Item 8a is constitutional changes and the first part relates to LGSS. Given the problems at NCC and the existence of a new LGSS interim chief exec who has specific short-term priorities which involve questioning LGSS’ operating model and culture it seems inappropriate at this time. I spoke referring to input from the LGSS chief exec at LGSS scrutiny yesterday. We go to the vote and the changes are approved with the Tories voting for and Lib Dems and Labour abstaining.

8b is about CCC constitutional changes and these are approved by acclamation. Most people vote for (including me), most Lib Dem’s abstain.

We skip item 9 (appointments to outside organisations), there’s a new name for Combined Authority scrutiny), and now the motions. First is a Lib Dem motion against charging for computer use at libraries. Vote lost 34 Tories against everyone else for.

The next motion is a strange diatribe against UK Power Networks from a Tory. It seems more like case work to me. Vote won Tories and Labour, Lib Dems abstain.

Motion 3 is back to the libraries with a Labour motion repeating motion 1, but in rather more words, and also arguing against a ‘premium membership’ proposal. Tories ask to go directly to the vote without debate. Vote lost Tories against, Labour for and Lib Dems mainly abstain.

And now for something completely different and important. It’s a Labour motion about spending on the Cambridgeshire Race, Equality and Diversity Service which has been cut. Tories ask that the motion be withdrawn but the proposer declines. Motion lost Tories 33 against everyone else for.

The fifth motion, from the Lib Dems, relates to the recent decision taken at C&ICom to exit the Cambridgeshire Catering and Cleaning Services business. I’m a member of C&ICom and agree with the decision but agree with the proposal at the meeting to review it in consultation with the Children’s and Health committees. This was outvoted then and this motion revisits it. I spoke with some passion (click here) about the way in which C&ICom made, communicated and implemented its decision. Motion lost Tories against all others for.

Motion number 6, also from the Lib Dems, is about the proposed move of the Cambridgeshire Magistrates’ Court recently announced by Lucy Frazer, Tory Justice Minister and MP for SE Cambs. It asks Council to object to the proposal. Motion lost Tories against all others for. I’m seeing a bit of a pattern here.

It’s 1530 and we’ve got lots still to do.

The seventh motion is a radically altered motion from Labour about Academies and ‘pressure’ on primary schools to convert. The motion asks that better consultation take place and that CCC provide information to such schools. Unfortunately the alterations agreed with the Tories have taken the sharpness out of the motion which initially had asked that schools be advised that remaining under LEA control remains an option. That looks like a sell-out to me. However the motion was now soft enough to be carried unanimously.

Finally it’s my motion calling for CCC to face up to its highways maintenance challenge. Click here for the video) I had thought it was quite reasonable. It set out a problem (running out of money) and asked that this be quantified so that a plan of action might be developed. Sadly I committed the cardinal sin of running out of time to make my points.

Disappointingly the Tories were reluctant to support my motion, that block vote again, and the meeting got rather heated. Two of my Lib Dem colleagues made important points:

  • If it’s CCC policy to underfund highways maintenance and to allow ‘managed decline’ can it please be articulated to that I can inform my residents?
  • Surely it’s a good idea to quantify the magnitude of the challenge so that we are then in a position to support any request for exceptional funding?

Unsurprisingly the motion was lost. Tories against (that block vote again), all other for.

We’re finished by 1630.

It was a sad end to the day but it hadn’t been a good meeting from the start. Too many motions, too much voting by the whip and too little attention given to the needs of our residents.

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