Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Monday 27th October 7pm

Full Council

There were four motions to be debated at this meeting of the full council.

The first to be debated was the motion of no confidence in the Executive Member for Children, Young People and Learning Services brought by Independent Councillor David Theobald. Everyone was aware that Cllr. Theobald had brought this motion because of his concerns about the revised policy on Special Educational Needs (SEN) Transport currently out for consultation. However rather than following the normal course of lobbying and debate through the system Cllr. Theobald had used the Conservatives example (and wording) and filed a motion of no confidence in the Executive Member overseeing the service. This meant that the debate was actually about Cllr. Tony Brett-Young and not SEN transport. In a gentlemen’s’ agreement, in recognition of the fact that the policy was still at the consultation stage and not yet implemented, the Conservatives agreed that there would be no debate on the matter, just a few words explaining the situation. It is a shame that the gentlemanly conduct did not extend as far as Cllr. Scully’s blog where he has posted a video in which he calls Cllr. Sue Stears a “bulldog” for speaking on the motion in defence of Cllr. Tony Brett-Young.

 

Cllr. Theobald made an articulate and moving speech about the potential impact of the policy on autistic children and their parents. His concerns echoed those of many of the parent-carers I have spoken to on the transport policy, and I too have been drawing attention to these issues, but through more traditional channels, in my role as Carers Champion.

 

The policy that is now to be put to the Scrutiny Overview Committee on Tuesday 25th November has been revised to account for the results of the consultation so I hope that Cllr. Theobald will feel that his efforts, whilst controversial, have not been in vain.

 

The next item on the agenda was the Motion from the leader of the Council Sean Brennan on the Frozen Financial Deposits in UK subsidiaries of Icelandic Banks.

 

Cllr Drage spoke outlining the detailed background to the situation and the work that was being done both to ensure repayment of the funds and investigation of the circumstances that led to the freezing of the £5.5million.

 

At the time of the meeting the Audit Committee, chaired by Conservative Councillor Terry Faulds, had received a report from an independent consultant on the Council’s conduct in this matter. Cllr Faulds announced that the report exonerated the council from all blame as it had properly followed procedures and external financial advice. The council was also commended for the speed at which it made the situation known to the electorate and commissioned an inquiry – it being the first council affected by the Icelandic freeze to do so. Cllr. Faulds reported that his audit committee unanimously supported the findings of the report.

 

Next to be debated was the Conservative motion requesting the Council ‘opt in’ to the Sustainable Communities Act.

 

This Act seeks to devolve more power to local authorities and the residents they serve. The debate consisted of the Conservatives saying that this was a good thing and us as Liberal Democrats agreeing but pointing out that we were already ahead of the game and have been making efforts to put the aims of the Act into practice, most notably in the form of our Local Committees. There was some amusement as Cllr. Dave Callaghan pointed out that this has been official Liberal Democrat policy for years and he welcomed the Tories’ new found conversion to the democratic principle.

 

The Conservative deputy leader Cllr. Tony Shields was not so amused, indeed he was almost frothing at the mouth with outrage that Cllr. Callaghan, the deputy mayor, had the audacity to speak on the motion. There was a lot of blustering that the deputy mayor should not be allowed to speak whilst wearing the chains of office etc. and attempts to drown Cllr. Callaghan out with shouting. I thought that Cllr Shields might explode with apoplexy when Cllr. Callaghan stood up a second time to speak on a later motion. I worry for that man’s blood pressure! Anyway I later learnt from some of my longer serving colleagues that when the Conservatives were in the majority apparently they used to make great advantage of their deputy mayor speaking imperiously from the podium. It seems that it is one rule for them and another rule for us.

 

Finally we had the last motion which was on Communications, also moved by the Conservatives. The motion emphasised the importance of communicating with residents and conducting meaningful consultations on major policy changes. This was another opportunity for the Liberal Democrat members to point out that this has been our policy for a very long time; the principle of consultation is ingrained in our procedures. This was also my opportunity to point out the hypocrisy in the Tories’ motion and their criticisms of us. I was able to cite the example of the no smoking in children’s playgrounds policy recently agreed at the Beddington & Wallington Local Committee. Despite broad consultation on the issue, and a very strong response from the public in support of the scheme, the Conservative members of the committee all voted against the wishes of the local residents. What is the point of having consultation only to dismiss the results because, as Cllr. Scully had argued: not everyone responded to the consultation? I highlighted the fact that the people who responded would be those parents with children who use the park and so are most affected. But Cllr Scully renders their views irrelevant because there failed to be a 100% response to the consultation. Following that logic nothing would ever be able to be implemented by the council as it is widely acknowledged that a 26% return rate is considered a high consultation response.

 

I was then able to follow with another example that their own Conservative members did not appear willing to act in accordance with Cllr. Scully’s motion as the Beddington South ward councillors are refusing to allow the public to be consulted at all on a proposed cycle lane. (I have commented on this in an earlier blog posting.)

 

My conclusion was that the Conservatives are good at saying the right thing, but fail to apply their lofty words to their own actions.

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November 20, 2008 - Posted by | Committee Meeting

4 Comments »

  1. Jayne

    Thanks for your continuing special attention of my activities in the Council. Much of it, I’ll put down to playful politicking but one matter deserves further scrutiny. My comments about Cllr Stears were not directed at her defence of her colleague which was natural but not required given the lack of debate. Instead they were meant to be critical of her withering personal attack on Cllr Theobald which was inappropriate.

    Cllr Theobald had predicted that the ruling group were going to defend themselves by attacking him personally. I was sceptical after speaking to the Leader of the Council who was as keen as I was to reserve debate to a more appropriate time. Unfortunately, some couldn’t quite hold back, instead choosing to give an ex-colleague a kicking after putting his head above the parapet on an issue that he lives with every single day.

    I don’t condone Cllr Theobald’s behaviour when his passion overcomes his sense of position as a community leader. However, Cllr Stears’ words added nothing to the debate, will not engender trust from parents that may be affected by the policy and will continue to enforce the opinion of many that the Council is controlled by people who have detached themselves from the residents that they puport to serve.

    Comment by Cllr Paul Scully | November 20, 2008 | Reply

  2. And calling Cllr. Stears a bulldog is therefore acceptable?

    Comment by jaynemccoy | November 20, 2008 | Reply

  3. Hi Jayne
    I’m pretty sure you are aware of the lengths I went to in trying to warn of the perils of this proposal. Unfortunately, if you ask and no one hears you shout, if no one hears you shout you yell! I have no personal beef against Tony Brett Young and made efforts to avoid the motion but the only other option was to submit a question which would have been met with another bland and inconsequential response. I dont imitate Conservatives or any party, I regard myself as apolitical these days and enjoy the company of members of all persuasions, I merely try to do what is blatantly right and, while I try to be Emily Post, I will do what is necessary to ensure a tragedy does not occur and, you know as well as I do, this was a disastrous concept from the outset.
    With regard to Sue Stears, I am in an immensely privileged position at Council as I sit at the back with no affiliation and see a wealth of talent, not the least being yourself, on all sides of the chamber who are drawn into playing political games which hide the real and crucial issues. I’m a big boy and have been called alot worse than the contents of Sues speech but it was a bit out of context

    x

    David T

    Comment by Cllr David Theobald | November 20, 2008 | Reply

  4. p.s. It was really good to see you tonight, your insight into the SEN issue should make you very proud and I thank you, Abigail and all others involved for their efforts.

    x

    David

    Comment by Cllr David Theobald | November 21, 2008 | Reply


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