13 Nov 2010

Orwellian votes at Full Council

Well Full Council on Thursday night led to changes to the planning delegation process - see my detailed blog written that night here. Plus a letter the Green group have written to the press is attached at the bottom of this post - but at least there was lots of healthy discussion despite the papers being a dogs dinner - two different papers presented - the one requested by Council that I helped write as part of the inquiry group was relegated to being addressed only as an amendment while the Cabinet paper took precedence.

Well that is all procedure but nevertheless an important principle as powers seem to be concentrated more in the Leader of Councils rather than the whole body - indeed we started the evening with what is billed as a Council Extraordinary Meeting (we don't get so many of these - many are short - indeed remember the one specially for this ward that I presented - see here). Anyhow this one was to vote on 'proposals to amend the Council's executive arrangements' - basically enshrining more powers in the Leader who will be elected for 4 years - billed by Labour who brought it in as the 'Strong Leader' model - other models include a mayor that there is no appetite for in this area.

When I asked what would happen if we didn't support this move I was told by the legal officer that we had to vote for it or face central government doing it for us. What are we doing? It is all a game - voting for something we have to vote for??? Well Greens didn't - I disagree with giving more powers to the Leader and centralising evermore - we lost the vote of course - had we won would the Government really have enforced - one of the things I support most about the coalition is their proposals to give more powers back to communities. Indeed as I noted at the meeting new legislation is due very soon - it has even been suggested that we could return to the Committee system where there is more of a role for all councillors.

As one of the Greens pointed out this vote had a touch of the Orwellian.

Anyway that was not all in terms of disquiet re the votes - one of the so-called Tory Independents, Nigel Studdart-Kennedy (there are I think three of them now who have left the current Tory block at the District) raised the issue about why we are just noting some reports - it has always perplexed me and it is an issue I have also raised at Scrutiny. The reason of course I know is that these are reports need to come to the attention of councillors but surely we can approve them?

After the meeting - that finished well after 11 there was much disquiet amongst opposition councillors - not just at the Tories who had formerly supported the Scrutiny report on planning being whipped into supporting the Cabinet paper instead but also the failures around scrutiny - an issue I have raised a few times before on this blog - let us hope that this and the meeting that was cut short 2 weeks ago lead to some reforms. Scrutiny has to take some responsibility re scrutiny role - there is now talk of setting up a Scrutiny Extraordinary meeting to look at it? Or maybe there is another way? Various ideas...will return again to this topic again but left the meeting this week disappointed and frustrated but slightly hopeful that this will lead to a corner turning...I hope!

Want to say more but have run out of time....

Letter sent to the press early Friday morning:


All planning applications are important to someone - even small ones can have a big affect on a local area or an individual.

We as Green Party District Councillors are disgusted by the decision of the Conservative dominated Stroud District Council to remove the right of Parish and Town Councils and District Councillors to ensure that contentious applications are decided by elected Councillors in public at the Development Control Committee. Instead more decisions will be taken behind closed doors by un-elected officers. This is not democratic, it is bad for the people of our area and is an insult to the hard and dedicated work done on planning by many of our Town and Parish Councils.

Cllr Fi Macmillan, Cllr Martin Whiteside, Cllr John Marjoram, Cllr Gwen Belcher, Cllr Sarah Lunnon, Cllr Philip Booth

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