The Bickerstaffe Record
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Cotterill on the Council

More double standards at Council night

04.25.08 | Comment?

More double standards from the Tories at Council on Wednesday night, with a basic lack of understanding thrown in……. 

The big set piece of the Council meeting on Wednesday night was my colleague Mary’s motion deploring the actions of the Tory Finance Portfolio Holder in closing down cash offices, and seeking a pause and consultation.  For the full motion see http://webdocs.westlancsdc.gov.uk/coins/Agenda.asp?meetingid=585

This is the kind of motion which has no real chance of being passed and effected, and is  put forward to raise the debate in public (though sadly there was not a single member of the press present). 

I didn’t throw my tuppence into the debate myself, mostly because I remain a pretty rubbish speaker in this formal context, but well done to Mary – a newbie like myself – for having a real crack.   Certainly she did a good deal better than when I put a motion calling for proper investment in junior football pitches – nothing wrong with the motion, more a case of jumbled up words and a jumbled up Chairman (who completely forgot that I had the right to sum up before the vote, took the vote, and then asked me to sum up on the Chief Executive insistence). Mary’s motion took its course, with the Tories lauding the Portfolio holder for his great financial acumen, and Labour colleagues suggesting that cutting a service used by the most financially vulnerable (e.g. 96,000 financial transactions at the Skem cash office last year, principally for rent and Council tax payments) and other issues about cash security I won’t go on about here in case blog-readers with criminal tendencies pick up some ideas (maybe it’s just as well the press weren’t there!). 

It was all pretty predictable in terms of who said what, but two things stood out about the way the Tories addressed the issue – two things which are symptomatic of the fundamental difference in the Tory and Labour mindsets/traditions. First, there’s the double standards.  The motion before the one Mary’s was about supporting the campaign to keep Newburgh Post Office open – a campaign being able led by our Labour colleague and Newburgh Parish Council Chair Jacky Citarella and with the full and explicit support of our MP Rosie Cooper.  Labour would have fully supported this motion had it not been for a late amendment from one of the nuttier Tories attacking Rosie for her support (all very strange!).  The Tories were full of the importance of the service provided by the Post Office, what a sense of community it brings, and the difficulties it would bring for vulnerable and older people were it to close (I don’t remember them being quite so vociferous about the closure in 2000 of the Bickerstaffe Post Office, but then they didn’t think it might be a vote winner then). 

It’s not rocket science to conclude that exactly the same things could and should be said about the cash offices as about post offices, but with knobs on……but the inconsistency of opposing closure of one run and delivering closure of another seemed lost on the Tories.  Second, and related to this, is that many of the Tories simply don’t understand what the cash offices do, and indeed why they are called cash offices.  One Tory said that that is where Council tax is paid, apparently unaware that people in Council housing have to pay rent.  They then went on about how payments can be made in different ways (they all have debit and credit cards) and in different places.  They have no conception that some people do not have bank accounts – have they never even heard of the term ‘financial exclusion’ and the fact that it takes four or five days for payments at post offices and other payment places to clear, means that people on weekly incomes go straight into arrears even though they try to pay on time.  And all this is quite aside from the fact that the cash offices create the ‘footfall’ to make one stop shop services valid. Anyway, well done Mary and the others who spoke up against this outrage.

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