Unlike last months full Council meeting, today’s gathering of South Tyneside’s political tribes was a very entertaining affair, with the 7 minute debacle of the previous shindig being added to by a mighty two hours. No doubt several Councillors’ beers went flat as they were automatically poured by expectant barmen in local watering holes: they were after all only following the age long order of “have them lined up by 3.15 p.m. my good man!”
Jokes to one side, today’s public gallery was packed, with the first questions being directed to the Council concerning the Gypsies Green development. I actually opened with a request for details on funding applications, the information emerging that over the last five years no external funding has been applied for to improve the facilities. The implication? Gypsies Green was doomed years ago.
With a strong contingent, the Save Our Seafront Association also fielded some pertinent enquiries. It emerged that no capital expenditure had been accumulated by the Stadium for approximately ten years. The implication? Gypsies Green was doomed years ago.
I note that no "pro's" turned up to field questions to the Council. No doubt they were elsewhere at the time. perhaps walking along our lovely sea front by perchance?
The scandal over the missing ballot boxes also dominated. With the Branley duo asking some probing questions, the Council hierarchy had to mount a classic rear guard action. By putting the Election Officer, the legal evangelist Brian T. Scott in the Mastermind Chair, the elected officials managed to distance themselves from any accountability on this issue. Why put an unelected official up for grilling? Because the questionnaire cannot ask a supplementary question. Very clever, because it also allows the man in the chair to make an irrelevant statement about the whole fiasco! This was a tactic which was ably spotted by Councillor Alan Branley, who with equal dignity and oratory was astute enough to deal with such prevarications. In NHS terms, he knocked the teeth out of defence! However his reasoned and acceptable argument was greeted with equal ferocity by the gum less Deputy Leader Councillor Ian Malcolm, who clearly sitting on hot coals, couldn’t wait to leap up with the “Madam Mayor etc etc etc” argument. Poor old Ian, somebody must have lined your under pants with itching powder, such were your “leaps” over this issue. On so the argument went on……..
(As a side issue, a source close to this newspaper revealed that existing councillors have decided AGAINST any further action on the ballot case, and remain extremely embarrassed that other retail outlets may have indicated otherwise…..especially with regards to the next issue)
On the problem of “BRENDA”, the debate was very quite. Indeed, you could almost hear a “(s)pin” drop! Though the questions were asked i.e. where did the internet address originate from, the reply was always “whilst investigations go on, the Data Protection Act and all that applies”. Luckily, this answer has a short shelf life, so the truth will emerge. However, looking at the amount of shoe gazing by Councillors, “BRENDA” has stood on a “turd”, but nobody wants to admit to the smell! This is an issue which will run till its end conclusion, such is the tenacity of all those involved. When the source is finally revealed, heads will roll.
So what happened next? To be honest and to my shame I can’t tell you. Based on previous accounts, I only took 1 hr 30 mns off work, and by the time I left, the time on my meter were well and truly exhausted.
So let’s have some quick observations:
1. There is no opposition to this Council apart from certain Independents who dominate and challenge contentious issues on a regular basis
2. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives sat like lap dogs whilst the public gallery challenged issue after issue
3. The next meeting? Sources tell me the itching powder will be on every Labour, Conservative and Liberal seat next month. Such is the anticipated level of public questioning, over night allowances may have to be claimed by Councillors.
Now there’s something worth scratching!