A very important Overview & Scrutiny meeting held last night with some food for thought.
The RNLI presentation highlighted the problems that the RNLI was having getting to the water at the moment due to local traffic blocking access. It also outlined its future plans. The Panel passed a motion calling on the relevant Cabinet Member to discuss the problems on access to the water with KCC and to report back.
Next up was a controversial discussion about EKO. Controversial for a couple of reasons. Firstly there was debate about whether all this information should be “restricted” and thus not available for the public to read (I made a point about this in my last post). Basically the argument in favour of restriction is that EKO is a joint venture and therefore TDC cannot unilaterally release the information without the agreement of KCC. For all the talk of the public need to see this restricted information, as the only person in the public gallery during that item, I didn’t feel that strongly about its release. This sort of information will come out in its own time and as was pointed out very clearly, the information put to Members were not the final version. Cllr Ian Driver raised some eyebrows by predicting the information would make its way to the press “by tomorrow morning” though made it clear he wasn't saying he was about to leak restricted information.
The more important issue brought up was over the future of EKO itself. Labour Members questioned whether there should be a future for EKO given the apparent lack of results for the substantial investment poured into it. The Membership Agreement comes up for review after 5 years. A motion was put (this wording is subject to change as the minutes are published) to say that the review should be brought forward, with a view towards TDC withdrawing from it, to “disinvest” as one Cllr put it. It was a 7-7 split with the Chair voting with the motion. This one has a long way to go…
The budget debate carried on very much as it did during the Cabinet meeting. There was some more explanation as to where the money is coming from and what is expected for the future which I found useful in framing the debate that’s been taking place. I’m not going to say too much more right now as I want to dedicate a post to it next week. That said, we had perhaps a little too enlightening a comment by Cllr Driver that “nothing turns me on more than a nice floral display”.
The motion for a Working Group about Electoral Registration was passed but with a reduced membership from 7 members to 5 instead. One point that came out of this was that the use of time through the meeting had been too heavy during the EKO and budget debates which meant that very little time was left to discuss the remainder of the agenda. I agree. It did seem to be at times a one Member meeting and that however entertaining that Member was, there were too many speeches rather than questions.
The discussion about Individual Cabinet Member Decisions aka Urgent Decisions barely happened, which is a shame because there is a real debate to be had about this. A Working Group was rejected in favour of a comprehensive report. Good call.
There are a lot of Working Groups already in existence and there needs to be proper consideration of alternative forms of scrutiny other than a Working Group. The heavy workload on those in Scrutiny has meant that there was little real choice about having one and for example with Urgent Decisions, the motion they took was in effect the only one really available.
Next meetings are Planning Committee and Full Council next week. Im hoping to do previews for both. We will see...