Full council last night was full of hot air.
I have to admit I was a bit disappointed by the game playing and the lack of real engagement in debate by the Conservative/Libdem groups. I had to make a real effort to attend (thanks to the staff who brought me water and a fan – it made a real difference!) so it was particularly disappointing to me that the administration didn’t seem to want to any debate – even very moderate proposals such as suggesting that any changes to voluntary sector funding followed the principles of the Reading Compact (and the coalition’s stated aims), of openness, transparency and consistency were shot down and debate was closed off. Of course at the moment the Conservatives and Libdems between them have got a majority but it’s disappointing of them to use it to vote down the ability of opposition to put their case.
It was summed up for my by at the end of a very long evening the response of the Con-dems to a motion from Minster ward councillors. The motion simply asked the new administration to give the governors and parents of All Saints School time to complete their business case for expansion into a neighbouring property by postponing the sale, which the Labour administration had agreed to do. Rather than address that point they chose to talk about the national deficit. The Conservatives proposed (and Libdems seconded) an amendment that reversed the meaning of the motion from offering a delay on any decision to saying they’ll make a decision as to who they will sell the building to on 12th July (in fact it changed all the words after ‘This council’!). I was genuinely surprised by this as my understanding of the new government’s policy is that they want community involvement, academies and free schools. As far as I am aware the governors of All Saints are keen to go for something like this – certainly that’s what our new MP seems to have thought as well. Whether it is feasible or not I don’t know, but surely it’s worth giving them a chance to put their case.
I guess that the local coalition isn’t as keen on the ‘Big Society’ as the national government? Or maybe the ‘Big Society’ is a con?
I also noticed that while some members of the administration complained that we hadn’t given copies of our amendments to them in advance (and one spent more of her speech on that than actually addressing the amendment) they certainly didn’t give Labour or the Greens copies of their amendments either. I don’t have a problem with that, but it should be one rule for everyone!
On the positive side my own ‘motion on cycling postmen’ as it was described in the chamber was so widely supported it passed unanimously with virtually no debate, (it was amended very, very slightly for wording) and Cllr Willis said some kind things about it and my first speech. I did manage to get a cross-party laugh and it had the virtue of being fairly short but generally it wasn’t a very good speech, by then the heat had really taken it out of me. Of all the Conservatives Cllr Willis was the only one I spotted who managed to give a speech (on the council’s tree strategy) without suggesting that the whole world was coming to an end because of Labour not spending enough on schools/spending too much/generally being evil. Having said that at 40 weeks pregnant in 30 degree heat I may have missed something…
Photo is of a gathering of Labour and Greens united against cuts to vital services – thanks to Cllr Maskell who took the picture.