Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Monday 21st July 7pm

Council Meeting

The main items of interest were the three motions – The vote of No Confidence in the Lead Councillor for the Environment as presented by the Tories, the Votes at 16 motion presented by the Liberal Democrats, and the motion about Belmont and Sutton Controlled Parking Zones presented by the Tories.


Well, what to say about this meeting? Naturally my views are not going to be impartial, and interpretation of the meeting depends upon which side of the chamber you were sitting. If you want the full, unedited, warts and all version I suggest you listen to the sound recording of the meeting at http://www.sutton.gov.uk/councilanddemocracy/

Commitee+Agenda+and+Minutes+Library/minutes.htm and form your own opinions.


For what it is worth here are my own thoughts on proceedings together with some anecdotal additions.


After mayor’s announcements we had Questions which seemed interminably long. Each question had supplementaries, and then additional supplementaries from councillors. I was already beginning to feel my will to live ebbing away.


Finally I perked up as we got to the Youth Parliament presentation. This took the form of a role playing activity highlighting that many of the arguments against votes for 16 year olds were the same as the arguments put forward against women getting the vote. I felt that this may not have been the most persuasive of approaches given the sea of men in suits facing me across the chamber! One part of the presentation got a great cheer from the Lib Dems when a student (in role) deflected the argument that they would only vote the same way as their parents by stating, “My dad is a Tory, and I would never vote Conservative”. However it is only fair to point out that the cheer drowned out the line from her fellow student who responded with, “Even worse: my mum is a Liberal Democrat!”


Because the Conservatives had dictated that the no confidence motion was to be the first to be debated it rather oddly followed next. We had submitted an amendment to the motion with the aim of deflecting a personal attack into one where we took collective responsibility. Unfortunately Cllr. Kennedy disputed the validity of the amendment. The amendment had been passed by the legal department in advance of the meeting but Stephen Lawrence the legal advisor at the meeting gave fresh advice in response to Cllr Kennedy’s query ‘to enable us to debate the motion’. I assume that this was in the knowledge that the Tories would refuse to debate the motion if the amendment was not altered. An ill-tempered truce was eventually reached, with the result that the motion was not depersonalised & so debarred Cllr. Hall from having any say in the debate. To give him credit, Cllr Scully did appear genuinely surprised when Cllr. Kennedy interrupted his opening speech to dispute the amendment.


Indeed Cllr Scully actually referred to my wee blog in his opening speech. He appeared surprised that anyone would take issue with him over the motion and made out that he was being victimised! The hypocrisy of this was astounding. Whilst my post may have been impetuous and angry, Cllr. Scully’s scapegoating of Cllr. Hall has been deliberate and relentless. This too, knowing full well that the waste reduction decision was taken by the group, in accordance with our democratic principles, and that Cllr. Hall had deliberately involved Conservatives in the drafting of the strategy knowing that it would need their support for such a major change in approach. However it was rather amusing to see Cllr Scully expressing his indignation over my blog posting whilst Lib Dem members looked to each other in bemusement and mouthed questions on the lines of ‘What is he on about?’ The majority of the people in the room were totally unaware of what I had written or that I even had a blog!


The Conservatives tried to spin a ‘catalogue of errors’ to support their motion but most of their claims were on very thin grounds. For example, they included the proposed carbon policy on cars as an example, which had been rejected as ineffective at a Scrutiny Overview Committee. I have written a previous post on the meeting where this was discussed (see under Tuesday 24th June). I thought that this actually showed the effectiveness of pre-scrutiny work. God forbid if officers are not allowed to present any new policy proposals in case they get shot down – what a paralysis of innovation that would be. Next we found ourselves labelled as ‘anti-car’. More hypocrisy here when nearby Tory-run Croydon Council is being lambasted in its local papers for its punitive parking charge policies.  We countered the motion by highlighting some of the many successes we have had in the areas listed in the motion.


Next up was the Votes at 16 motion. I seconded the motion and had prepared a five minute speech but I didn’t get the opportunity to deliver it. After all the previous shenanigans the debate ended up being cut short for lack of time and we had to proceed directly to the vote. Any Youth Parliament member who had bothered to stick around for the debate would have been very disappointed. However the motion was carried.


The motion on the CPZ also had to go direct to the vote and the motion was rejected. Another shame as it meant that we did not have the opportunity to highlight that we were one of only two London boroughs to offer any free visitors parking in CPZ zones, and the only one to offer this unconditionally.


For additional insight I can offer up the following anecdotes:


Shortly after learning of the motion of no confidence in him, Cllr Hall received a communication from a senior member of the opposition stating that they did not support the decision to present the motion. At the meeting that same politician was one of the worst offenders for ensuring that the motion was made as personal as possible. This is not the first time that I have heard of this member’s duplicity and I have made a mental note not to take a word uttered by this particular Tory at face value.


The morning after the Council meeting I received a telephone call from a resident who had attended the event. They had been angry at the green waste collection charge and having heard about the no confidence motion had decided to go along to hear what was said. The reason for the telephone call was to reassure me that they had not been part of the “rent a mob” shouting out during the course of the meeting. They had been embarrassed to find themselves in the midst of the worst offenders. This resident also made the observation that the more vocal members of the audience appeared to be “very pally” with the Conservative councillors with much conferring occurring during the evening. They also identified a hint of bias with the audience shouting down Liberal Democrat members when they overran their speaking time, but failed to dish out the same treatment to Conservative members committing the same offence.


August 20, 2008 - Posted by | Committee Meeting

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