14 Nov 2009

Green within a few votes of being elected leader of Stroud District Council

At Full Council of Stroud District Council meeting on 12th November 2009 at Ebley Mill (pictured) Green Cllr John Marjoram was put forward as leader of the Council by Labour leader Karon Cross and seconded by Independent Cllr Janet Woods. The motion fell by a handfull of votes and Cllr Francis Roden (Conservative) was elected Leader of Stroud District Council.

John Marjoram (pictured left) said after the meeting: "This was a move to try and change the way Council business is done, to be more open, involve backbench councillors more and for us to develop a Council of All Talents."

What else at Council??

Call for investigation into allowances

Well also during the evening a motion was put forward by Tory Nigel Studdart-Kennedy calling for a full investigation into some serious allegations he made about an alleged draft auditors report that implicates a particular councillor. The motion he supported failed - but only by 4 votes as a handful of Conservatives joined him in the call.

Here is what Fi MacMillan, the Green Group Leader had to say on the failure of the motion: "This is disappointing as many councillors and the public would like to know that these allegations are properly and fully investigated. The proposal by Nigel Studdart-Kennedy would allow for the most transparent and open investigation and would have come up with recommendations to improve and make the whole business of allowances much more open. Stroud District Council needs to be more accountable - it is time that all expense claims were fully published and audited - unless we can show we are open we will further loose people's faith in politics - it was at the last Council meeting in September that Greens walked out in disgust at the failure of the Council to apologies to tenants for the overspend of the housing revenue account and poor services they have been getting. It is unacceptable that again we leave the Council chamber disappointed."

The Council has agreed to look at this matter in Audit committee and I hope this will be a thorough investigation but have concerns that we learnt at the meeting that when the matter was raised at that committee recently the chair ruled it was not to be looked at. I don't think that will happen again after this Council meeting.

Indeed it is very sad that we had to spent our evening debating this issue at such length when there was a reasonable motion on the table. Stroud District faces very many serious challenges yet we heard no mention at the meeting of the recession, fuel poverty or climate change or many of the other key issues.

Glos Waste Partnership

Well at the same meeting we had to vote on accepting the recommendation to adopt a vision statement of the waste partnership. I wont go into details here as they will all be in Council papers - one question I asked was about whether they would have an opinion or say on different waste technologies - in particular a large incinerator. The answer I got from the Cabinet member was ambiguous and led to grave concerns - however in response to another Green question the former leader of the Council gave a robust answer saying we would still have a chance to comment on whether we wanted a large incinerator if that was proposed - however I do have concerns about what that might really mean - comment perhaps but how much real say??

Voluntary 25p per mile gained

Earlier this year Green party District councillors failed to get a motion passed to ensure that councillors only get 25p per mile for car journeys rather than up to 58.7p per mile for larger cars which Greens considered excessive. They were then refused a voluntary arrangement when they sought to claim only 25p. At Full Council this Thursday they were informed they could claim 25p.

Martin Whiteside, who raised the issue again at the meeting, said afterwards: "We are very clear that councillors should be reimbursed for key expenses otherwise we will further limit who is able to stand as a councillor, but the 58.7p car mileage rate is excessive. Greens think around 25p a mile to run a small fuel efficient car is reasonable. Greens have agreed they will voluntarily claim 25p but are disappointed that the Council has still failed to support the 25p being fixed for all councillors."

Anyway there was much else discussed from anti-money laundering to licensing but I have to say, as noted above, not many real issues.

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