Friday, 29 February 2008

An Air of Mendacity

Yesterdays full council meeting was, by previous standards, quite a sedate affair. Beginning with the Council Tax debate, the report was moved by Councillor Wood in very self congratulating style. Councillor Elsom spoke next, and very eloquent he was to. He also managed to avoid the issue of the 5% increase he had tied the Independents to from last years proposals. Clever George, drop then in the mire than leave to avoid the flak! Unperturbed, Councillor Jane Branley covered the issue of Councillor allowances and how any rise could be negated if these payments were dropped. This view has been argued and covered many times before and it cut no ice with those present, particularly the Labour Council members who were claiming over £10,000 per year in appearance monies. Councillor WAGGGOTTT finished the proceedings, initiating a back slapping exercise as the rise went through on nod. No Liberal Democrat councillor or Conservative councillor spoke in the debate.

Moving on, with 20 public questions submitted and a residual balance of 5 from the EGM in early February, a so far unprecedented degree of “brevity” would have been needed to see them all answered. As it turned out, only 4 received a full airing, with 21 being promised answers in 7 days time. Stand out issues re the one’s that were answered included Council Leaders WAGGGOTTT’s request to instigate a politically balanced cabinet after the next election. Clearly being the only Councillor present to understand the time restraints, he answered “No” without even getting out of his chair. Performance of the week went to Councillor McAtominey, who when asked about the servicing and costs of the Town Hall clock, produced a speech which served only to cultivate boredom, and as I looked at my watch, actually stop time in its tracks! It even annoyed the Conservative Leader Councillor Potts, who was forced from his seat to plead for some form of sanity. We also had a question from Steve Pattison, prospective Independent candidate for Biddick and All saints Ward. Mr Pattison was concerned that people with hearing details were struggling to engage in the debates held within the Chamber. One Councillor claimed to have not heard the details of the supplementary question – could Mr Pattison please put his microphone on and repeat it. Sorry Councillor it is on was the reply, but thanks for proving my point!

Next on the agenda were Councillors questions, also limited to 20 minutes. Independent Councillor Steve Harrison wanted to know whether any fellow colleagues had been in trouble for the misuse of Council PC’s etc. Councillor Wood replied that this information was confidential as it could relate to legal proceedings etc – the public gallery took that as a “yes”. Councillor I Malcolm provided the next answer, the question not being the issue. In true McAtominey style, time not only stopped, but it started to run backwards. This man could actually find dust exciting, such was the sheers dourness of his prose. However, it served Labour’s purpose, as he caused nearly 14 minutes of time to disappear into thin air. If Einstein was still alive, he would have had to re write his Theory of Relativity. Indeed, if Councillor I Malcolm ever answers another question in such a way, we may go back far enough in time for Einstein to attend! With a quickie from Councillor Leask on Housing Regeneration Children and Young Persons, 20 minutes was once again up.

At some point during these questions Councillor Potts had to leave the meeting. He managed to stay for 60 minutes. Perhaps he was going out to arrange a refund on his allowance on a minute by minute basis based on his time in the Chamber. I suspect not. Never mind, at least the concerns of his wards residents and the Conservative Party in general would be represented by his remaining two colleagues, except of course they weren’t in attendance. Opposition? Oh dear, perhaps somebody should explain to the Tories what the word really means.

With question time over, committee minutes were up for approval. The usual banter followed: the Malcolm’s collectively blew gaskets every time Councillor Jane Branley rose from her chair (the must have a lot of spare “gaskets” at home, as Ed also blew one on Tuesday at the Regeneration meeting when Jane Branley attempted to speak).

One highlight which stood out from this section of the meeting was Councillor Michael Clare’s attack on a recent Independent group newsletter. He accused them of undermining South Tyneside Homes as their publicity encouraged members of the public to contact either senior officers of the ALMO, or indeed the Auditor, if they had any issues, good or bad, concerning the group. According to Clare, this was very wrong. The Council couldn’t have members of the public exercising their democratic rights by contacting directors of South Tyneside Homes with their problems, or even, god forbid, actually approaching the auditor who it just so happens, has actually requested tenants views. You see, STH is currently on the final run in to see whether they will get their 2 star rating and a pot of gold. What Councillor Clare was in effect calling for was a moratorium on complaints so that the Auditor in effect gains a false impression on the state of the ALMO. This is nothing short of municipal deception, and the public saw through it straight away. If South Tyneside Homes is doing so well and actually deserves its 2 star rating Clare and Co should have no concerns about the opposition newsletter. Clearly however, the 2 stars is not going to be achieved and the knives are out for a scapegoat.

We also had the issue of members allowance increases. What can I say? The usual arguments were had, the usual sides were taken and the usual outcome emerged – the rise went through, the Bank balances went up and certain Councillors heaved a sigh of relief. Some one somewhere, also mouthed the word “kerching”!

And that as they say, was the end of that. The Councillors retired to their cups of tea with Brenda, the Malcolm’s went home to change their gaskets, and Councillor WAGGGOTTT made the most of his final days in the Chamber.

As the public left, there was definitely the remnants of an air of mendacity – how do these Labour Councillors justify the rise which they just awarded themselves? The answer, they cant.


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter your are a joke, its about time you told the truth?

jane is in the same boat as you, she could not tell the truth if it hit her in the face.


Problem with you Mr/Mrs Anonymous is that like your Labour Spin doctors you dont like the truth. You are what i class everybody who posts anonymously on any Blog A SHITHOOSE.

New Kid on the Blog said...

I have to disagree with the comments here.

I have known Jane Branley for around 15 years, and I have always found her to be a first class councillor (both first time and second time around), committed to her constituents and she is a first class debater in the council chamber.

Jane always gives a well thought, balanced arguement she is articulate and intelligent. I only wish she was still a Labour councillor.

Yes, Jane may make political points, but isn't that the idea - she is after all a politician.