Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Ignorant git

I need to leave the leaflet top ten themes for a couple of days because of events which are not outside my control that I want to address.
Last night I went to a council meeting and sat in the public gallery listening to the debate. It’s been a long time since I attended one of these. The debate was to accept the budget for this year. Our new councillor for Newton proudly took his seat for the first time. I was surprised by the number of opposition members who were absent, I counted eleven. I suppose many of them are up for election and don’t expect to be re elected. Our two Lib Dem councillors who claim to be a strong voice on the council were missing. This is the second major meeting they have missed recently.
On a point of order one councillor it was alleged had come for dinner signed the register and then left. Not a good start but it got worse. The Mayor who I know and greatly respect is quietly spoken and mumbled so that he could not be heard in the public gallery. During the debate when the opposition were talking the labour benches continuously and noisily interrupted. When the opposition did the same “on a point of order” the deputy leader objected. The council leader made it clear that with their massive majority they could do more or less what they pleased because they had a mandate to do it. I don’t know what orbit the council are in but it is a different one to the planet Sandwell that I live on. The deputy leader made his case for 2.9% increase in council tax but the opposition never tabled an alternative budget or voted against it. I think it is sad that Conservative Central Office could not assist with such a vital document. It left the debate flat and our opposition parties looking as they are: ineffectual. The debate ended for me when the deputy leader called the Tory leader that ignorant git opposite. The mayor never challenged this or asked him to apologise and the Tory leader although he complained, meekly accepted it. Labour lost the debate for me at this point and I left shortly afterwards.
Verdict: very disappointing, must do better. I think I’m going to attend a lot more of these over the coming months and report on the blog the antics.


Bob Piper said...

Not the most dignified episode in Sandwell Council history, I grant you. However... the Deputy Leader had worked very hard over a period of several months to produce a detailed budget and the best part of 100 pages of supporting information and business planning. The Conservative Leader had obviously done no work at all, stumbled through two pages of text which had clearly been written by someone else and made just two ridiculous proposals (one of which was to get rid of sandwiches for councillors immediately after filling his face in the Council House restaurant) and said they would have had a 0% council tax increase.

The fact that this attracted derision is hardly surprising.

He then preceded to try to cover up his embarrassment by continually interrupt the Deputy Leader's reply to a question from another Conservative councillor.

Whilst I don't agree with the Deputy Leader's use of the phrase "ignorant git" (I think he should withdraw the word 'git' and apologise) I think it was used under fairly severe provocation.

Bob the Black Country Brummie said...

As I remember it there was plenty of labour banter before this but I agree their opposition was very poor. If the deputy leader does want to apologise I guess we will both give him the opportunity on the blog. I think he should publicly. This is not the first time a member of the cabinet has made an unacceptable remark I remember Bob Badham at West Brom Town Committee with the famous under achiever comment.
The Tories need a new leader and the opposition need to re group so that they can collectively form a coherent movement. The people of Sandwell need an effective opposition.

Bob Piper said...

I agree the Conservatives need a new leader. Tony Ward is a nice enough chap, but clearly way out of his depth. But where do they look? Frankly, I can see no-one even half capable of stringing together a coherent sentence or argument on their benches.

As for the Liberal Democrats, I'm not sure whether they have lost direction, enthusiasm or the will to go on since they have lost Martyn. Without him I can see them disappearing altogether.

What you do not see in public, Bob, is that there are those of us in the Labour Group who actually comprise the official opposition, and we do it more effectively that the Tories or Lib Dems. But in a sense, I agree with you, we could do with a decent opposition and the people of Sandwell are badly served by the current lot.

Incidentally, whilst technically the statement you attribute to Councillor Thomas is true, it is not exactly what he said, although he did make it clear that recent by-election victories had confirmed his view that we must be doing something right... and that is difficult to disagree with actually.

Bob the Black Country Brummie said...

I have been concerned for some time now about the quality of representation here in Newton Ward. Martyn was a good councillor and Tony Fowler did an excellent job. Tony is still leading on Great Barr & Newton Community Forum. Dave Hosell is a very committed and capable man who I believe will be able to represent us well. I do hope his commitment is not drowned by politics. He is a Newtonian first and a politician second. I hope it stays that way. As for you lot being the opposition I can see why you think it necessary but I’m a little nervous that it can ever be practical.
I will start to attend council meeting more regularly. If the Lib dems dare to claim they are a strong voice for Newton this time I’ll put out my own leaflet denouncing it or lobby David to make it headline news in his. This will be covered more fully in my later postings on leaflets.