Labour got its Budget, the Conservatives got their way over Ian Driver's lost seat and Margate FC fans got a serious case of arse ache… Good to see Tony Flaig standing sentry in the Chamber last night. Always nice to have fellow bloggers appearing. Even better to see a full house in the Chamber.
The public gallery was the vast majority Margate FC fans so logic would dictate that Margate FCs lease item should really come first. Instead the agenda was followed strictly and the fans had to wait considerable time before their time came. I see no reason why mercy couldn’t have been shown there and the item bunged up the agenda, after the A&E item. We knew the Budget was going to take a good while anyway.
First up the A&E presentation from Stuart Bain. There was concern from Members about the distance and how this would impact upon the effective treatment of those patients being rushed to Ashford. Best question was the sobering one from Cllr M Tomlinson asking whether he would have survived his cardiac arrest years ago with this new system.
That one done with general agreement about it, we moved onto the meat of the meet starting with the Leader’s Report, or not, as it was withdrawn from the agenda. Chair Cllr Doug Clark decided that as this was an Extraordinary Council meeting, it wasn’t necessary.
Then onto the Budget debate. This debate dragged on for an hour and 40 minutes so bear with me. First up the starting statements which were in essence the same speeches I’ve heard in past meetings. The Red Rose had her say about how money should be used to help the most vulnerable and brought in a bunch of documents including a 2001 anti-poverty strategy, the Portas report and others (Iris?) for others to read though throwing them on the table in front was a tad overly-dramatic.
Hart made a truly grandstanding speech. Very old style Labour speaking directly to his own Group rather than the Conservatives, including a comment that people were being “hoodwinked by the Big Society game”. This I will definitely come back to in a future blog. Cllrs Harrison, Fenner and Poole continued this Socialist theme as expected with attacks over “Tory bankers” and comments about whether private or public money was better.
The Conservatives in response argued that there is real concern about “top-slicing” and therefore the money should be kept as a reserve in order to fill a possible funding gap. Cllr Gideon again made a very good point that civic pride isn’t always about fundraising. The Conservatives proposed an amendment to go back to the original budget. Labour tried to have it thrown out as they didn’t have the document on them even though they had to have read it at some point when coming up with their own changes to it. Eventually the Chief Exec listed the differences of which every single one had already been talked about in previous debates.
The amendment was defeated and the meeting was to move onto the next item until another amendment was proposed to redirect the £185,000 being used from the New Homes Bonus fund to go towards services for vulnerable people, unemployed and wider community. This one didn’t really have much traction and was defeated after some sharp debate, revolved around advice given on whether the NHB could be used to pay for someone to be employed. Cllr Wise being accused of recording the meeting on his phone by Cllr Poole. In fact he was looking for a message relating to that topic. Yes, that was the sort of behaviour last night…
Some comments were made regarding the subsidising of EKO. I missed that section, so I hope a Councillor will fill me in obviously bearing in mind the rules about restricted info. Along with that I’d love to know what NHB money had already been spent by the Conservatives [19 Hawley Square bought from Orbit for £75k - living nearby, I definitely agree with that decision. Difference is that the money can be recouped with its eventual sale].
In the end Labour got their Budget passed, and the Margate FC fans were able to have their moment. A lot of debate over who/what was to blame for the delay in dealing with the leases. We’ve seen the arguments online so I won’t bore you with them. Margate FC’s press release gives the results which now return to Cabinet (as the decision makers) for final sign off. It was stated during the meeting that an offer had been made to Cllr Binks to work with the Labour leadership in helping with this. Whether this cross party working is a sign of the future, it remains to be seen.
I know fans really want to see the 125 year lease, seeing that without it the development cannot go ahead. I’ve said before and I still think it’s the case that once a first lease is granted and the thing built, it’s extremely unlikely that TDC would refuse a lease again on the site. That’s why I think that the length of the lease is perhaps a red herring.
The final item of what to do with a problem like Ian. Labour proposed as expected to lose a Member in Licensing, the Conservatives proposed Overview and Scrutiny. Cllr King made the best contribution as you’d expect from the OSP Chair, arguing that given Labour has the Chair of the Council and the Cabinet, the Opposition should have the lead on Scrutiny to balance it. This was supplemented by Cllr Bayford’s point that it should be an “effective watchdog”. Cllr Johnston made the point that voting is all too often along Party lines, which while true, is not exactly groundbreaking political analysis. When it came to the vote, there was surprise when Labour failed to get a majority of the Independents to back them. The Conservatives now have a 7-6-1 lead on Overview which spices things up, providing a counter-weight to the Cabinet.
I’d be remissed if I didn’t talk about Cllr Worrow, an issue I’ve deliberately avoided comment on recently. With John’s blog disappearing along with what was said about the NTCA and its membership, what was said in the past month is just that. I fully understand that this may well be a lull before another storm and if it re-emerges I will deal with it then. I hope readers will respect what I say and treat Worrow as they would any other Councillor. What’s done is done.