I went along to Sandwell Council House for a Council meeting this week. I felt I ought to because I had complained about the public address system in the public gallery and this was the first meeting since the new equipment was fitted. Very nice, with two large TV screens so that the councillor speaking can be seen clearly. The new system is better but not good. It did not pick out some of the speakers and the sound was better but still poor. Some Councillors could be heard very clearly the best being Cllr Elling the worst being Cllr Smith who had a bad hair day which showed up well on the screen. My editor in chief insists I have to be nice so some heavy re-writing as gone on here. Some of the Asian members were also difficult to hear and understand because of their heavily accented English. A good well mannered debate though. Tories did absolutely nothing positive with silly questions on swimming pools which had already been answered and of course their old chest nut THE PUBLIC. The question claimed the audit commission had said in their report the building should be moth balled or demolished. They had clearly not read the report properly because the Chief Exec had a copy and spelled out very clearly where the relevance of that item came, which is apparently a standard phrase if projects do fail and THE PUBLIC is a long way off this. There was a call from cabinet member that it was now time for cross party support for this building. I can’t see that happening somehow.
During the exchanges on extra care housing the leader of Lib Dems who is one of our councillors made an excellent response and subtlety asked for a site in our ward (we all know this is not going to happen). It was a pity she did not lead on the other liberal responses the quality of debate would have been improved. Well done Joyce and I like the top/frock.
Cllr Darren Cooper was elected leader and I wish him well in his new role. Our council have promised two new pools one for West Brom and one in Tipton the first being ready for 2011. Long overdue but a result as far as I’m concerned. There is a lot to do but I think Sandwell are doing well under the circumstances.
On the negative side a short discussion took place on a consultation about elected mayors. It was reported that only 21 people had replied. The council accepted this as public apathy. Not so councillors. I take a keen interest in local politics and I knew nothing of this consultation so I suspect a bit of slight of hand here. This matter should not be allowed to drop off the political horizon. It will be scandalous if it does.