Council budget, Customer complaints, Public Participation and a few small steps.
General Fund Budget 2018 / 2019
The main event in February was the shoe horning through of the 2018/2019 General Revenue Budget, which went as predicted. Little meaningful consultation on key decisions, minority parties trampled all over and of course residents were totally ignored. Where have you heard that before?
When it came to the vote in the full council meeting on February 14th all Labour councillors voted through the proposed budget, which reduces public amenities, reduces the number of Scrutiny panels and independent members (which is really scary), takes all funding away from the Employment Rights Services (see my previous article “Another political football”), increases burial costs by up to 30% and retains the infamous climbing wall, amongst many other cuts.
There was no indication in the agenda which stated that the Labour Councillors were to follow the “whip”, but they all chose to vote the same way, despite there being many other reasonable options to consider. They are either lazy or it must be just too difficult to think independently, to stand up for themselves, or truly represent their residents.
I submitted a Customer complaint because the Budget process which was followed cannot be right, according to my reading of the Council Constitution. One particular requirement of A.12.2 – Principles of Decision Making, seems to be fundamental, though from my observations rarely applies. It states:
Good decision-making goes beyond observing the legal requirements to have regard to all relevant considerations and ignore all irrelevant factors. It involves the realistic evaluation of alternatives and due consultation through effective access for the public to decision-making and decision makers.
I received a reply which really does not provide much information, but recognises a major failing of this council, by implying that the reports were not subjected to call-in, because there was not time as they were due to be reported and debated at Council on the 14th February. Typical, no time allowed for proper review as a result of ridiculous and unworkable time scales being set for crucial meetings. Unfortunately, this is the usual outcome, and is custom and practice (though very poor practice) for the execution of council business.
I will be submitting a further Customer Complaint to escalate the issue to the next level.
I have also submitted a Freedom of Information request, seeking the written evidence from meetings etc, which supports the budget process, a response is still awaited.
I did say that the Cabinet structure can be divisive and that behaviours can be vindictive, when speaking at the Full Council meeting on February 14th. Well it did not take long for that to come home to roost!
At the same meeting, the Council leader could not contain himself when responding to a couple of questions, from members of the public. In the first instance he decided to point out that the person speaking was a past member of UKIP, which had nothing to do with the point being made. On the next occasion, when responding to the very genuine concerns being raised by a Warwickshire Employment Rights Service employee, about the withdrawal of funding, he finally spat out that the employee in question used to be a member of the Labour party but had since transferred his allegiance to the Conservative party. Was this relevant, or was it an indication as to why funding had actually been withdrawn, it had become personal, and the leader was taking one last opportunity to settle an old score, before he throws the towel in?
We have completed our first leaflet drop in the Camp Hill ward, over 5 days. Thanks to the support team, we covered approximately 85 miles, circa 185000 steps between us. It was good to be able to speak to some of the local people, meet up with a few old friends, and receive honest feedback. Unfortunately, we did not have time to be able to take up the offer from one lady in Hillcrest Road, who kindly invited us in for a cuppa, and a bit of shelter to get out of the snow showers.
I went astray on the first day, and ventured over the border into the North Warwickshire Borough, which embraces the last row of houses in Mancetter Road. As suggested by one of those residents, I have now improved my geographical knowledge of the area; it will save a few steps next time.
Whilst leafleting I also dropped my mobile phone somewhere up Bucks Hill, and located it several hours later using a `Find my Phone App`. I shouldn`t have worried, the local post man had picked it up, thankfully, and posted it through the letter box of the adjacent house. Just turned out to be the house where a relative of mine lives, spooky or what!
I also developed a love / hate relationship with letter boxes, thanking those through which leaflets easily slid, cursing those which crumpled up the leaflets and even pulled my glove off. Fortunately, I did manage to avoid losing the tips of any fingers to a few angry dogs waiting patiently, the other side of the letter box, for an amateur post man like me.
We will be back before Election Day, so they will get another chance!