The Bickerstaffe Record

Cotterill on the Council

Mayoral miscreance

02.28.10 | Comment?

To date, I’ve been pretty phlegmatic about the conduct of the current mayor when he chairs full council meetings.

Yes, he’s supposed to remain impartial, but he’s a Tory so it’s inevitable enough that he’ll be drawn towards favour for his own side every now and then.  I’ve no big problem with that. 

Nor have I a problem with a bit of anti-opposition banter from time to time.  Heh, the Tories are in control, and the best way to stop this banter is to win back control.   In the meantime, it’s generally ok just to live with it and move on. It’s no effect outside the council chamber.

But at Wednesday night’s budget-setting full council, he went too far, and I feel bound to raise it.   It got worse as the night went on, and his final action of the evening is just too much to take lying down.

Here’s what he got up to as the evening progressed:

1) I started my budget speech, and within a minute of starting he started heckling me.  Yup, he, the mayor started heckling me.  I asked the vice-mayor for ‘protection’.

But heh, not a problem.  I took it as a bit of a banter, distracting though it was, and even when he started to complain about how long I was speaking for I forebore from mentioning that it wouldn’t have been so long if he hadn’t made me stop.

2) He reminded me that I would only be able to speak for five minutes on the housing budget (a separate item) and referred to my first speech as a ‘diatribe’, even though my speech was actually completely to the point and took a line-by-line approach to the budget.

I was fine with that, because I had had written confirmation from the Tory portfolio holder that she did not want standing orders suspended to allow to go beyond five minutes.  That is her prerogative.

The mayor then simply allowed her to go on speaking for more than 15 minutes, in a manner completely at odds with the standing orders she had herself requested both parties be subject to.

In this manner, Labour was directly disadvantaged by the mayor’s action, because had I been allowed 15 minutes, I would have had an awful lot more to say.

But it gets worse.

When it came to the voting after the speeches and comments, the Mayor simply ignored the fact that our ‘amendment’ proposals on housing had ever been brought forward, and moved directly to vote on the Tory housing proposals. 

It was only when we offered the appropriate howls of protest that he was quietly reminded of due process and forced to take our amendment to the vote first. 

Let’s just make this clear. 

Had we not reminded him forceably of his duties, the passing of the Tory budget would have been unconstitutional, and the expense and inconvenience of a further Full Council meeting to hear this one item might have been incurred. 

With a quick shout out, Labour saved the council about £5,000 on meeting costs.

But it gets worse.

4) At 11.15pm, the mayor simply closed the meeting.

There was no debate, no opportunity to put forward views on which remaining items (all motions from councillors) might be debated. 

Or at least there was no opportunity for Labour members to comment on the possible curtailing of the meeting because of the relative lateness of the hour (though I think there is a valid debate about whether 11.15pm is actually that late at the most important meeting of the year). 

The Tory leadership may or may not have had a discussion behind closed doors about whether the mayor might like to stop the meeting so that four Labour motions, all of which showed the Tories up for their poor administration, could not be heard. 

This suspicion is highlighted by the fact that a Tory portfolio holder has subsequently distributed copies of his ‘answer’ to a Labour motion that wasn’t actually heard.  I’m not sure how he thinks that might be a legitimate course of action, but I will return to that in a separate post.

While we may take some of the motions to the next meeting, AND WOULD EXPECT THEM TO BE AT THE START OF THE AGENDA, it is unlikely that we will table our motion on the Tory county council’s decision to stop Lancashire Local meetings in their tracks – another anti-democratic move by the Tories.

This is for the simple reason that it will be too late.  The last Lancashire Local meeting will have been held, and there will be no provision for future meetings. 

Our motion will come too late to save an important part of local democracy, and all because the mayor acted in this disgraceful way.

For that is what it was.  Disgraceful.

I’m not going to make a formal complaints, because the council shoudn’t be spending time and money on that kind of thing. 

But local people need to know what’s gone.  The mayor acted wrongly, and if he has any commitment to the legitimacy of local democracy, he should ensure that it doesn’t happen again. 

In turn the Tories should ensure that the mayor’s they may choose, for the remaining period that the are in power, do their job properly.

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