The Bickerstaffe Record
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Being Labour, Cotterill on the Council

Speed review of full council

04.19.10 | 1 Comment

Yes, I know it was last week.  Yes, I know I should have done this earlier.   But I am kind of busy you know.

Anyway, full council last week was a bit like other full councils.  Lots of points made by the Labour side, lots of stuff ignored by complacent Tories. 

The main difference this time around was that there wasn’t actually anything at all on the agenda from the Tory administration other than a) allowing the Chief Executive to go off and be chair to a committee in his own time b) changing the name of a building.

Yes, that was it.  The Tories really don’t seem to do much anymore.

All that was left on the agenda were a few Labour motions, three of them left over from last time when the Mayor couldn’t be bothered to carry on.

All of them got turned down by the Tory majority.  No big surprise there.  Well one sort of got through, on the basis of a mutually acceptable Tory amendment about the demise of Lancashire Locals, as the amendment at least accepted that there was absolutely nothing to replace the democratic set-up so casually abandoned by the county council Tories.

In respect of the others, the most noteworthy rubbish spoken by the Tories on the night was as follows , in my view:

On lots of motions from Labour

Two of the main Tories sought to take us to task on presenting so many motions, describing it as a waste of time.  This was garbage on several counts. 

First, all the motions related to services delivered the council about which we had concerns or wanted to see improvements.  If there was one waste-of-time motion, it was the Tories’ one on naming a building. 

Second, it was Tories who wasted time spouting on irrelevantly about the price of gold (and I’ll come to that in another post, as they raised it); we focused on the matter in hand.

Third, there’d have been less motion last week if the mayor hadn’t closed the meeting early previously.

Motion on leisure facility management and governance

The main defence from the Tories was that the auditors had already done their job both on the council and Serco, and that no more needed to be done.

As I said on the night, it’s a bit rich to refer to auditors on the one hand, but then on the other to conveniently ignore what the Audit Commission has to say about the council’s overall performance (see below).

Further, it is ridiculous to suggest that the matters of concern we raised had been adequately covered and dealt with by the auditors, who are there to examine financial probity (which we did not question) not overall management and governance issues.

Audit Commission rating

As expected, out assertion, that carrying the ‘excellent’ rating from 2007 on the website/letterhead etc., (despite a subsequent report downgrading the council) might be ‘misleading’, was rejected by the Tories.

This is just a nonsense, and I think secretly they know it is.  Imagine a school doing the same – keeping an old Ofsted rating on its website after a new one has downgraded it.  There would be hell to pay. 

Quite simply, the Tories should be ashamed.

Outsourcing of IT-related services

This is another one of which the Tories should be simply ashamed.  They go on and on about how they value their staff, and this is how they treat them!

Their main defence to the motion was that nothing had been decided yet so it didn’t need to be discussed in public.  This is a ridiculously arogant assertion, as it more or less says that cabinet and council are irrelevant to any decision the Tory administration makes.

The fact is that under the plans, kept as secret as possible by the administration, the services (and it is not just IT services, it is all those related to ‘customer access’) will be outsourced as early as October 2010.  Yet in the Key Decision Forward Plan published two days after full council, there is no intention to take any decision on the matter before the end of August 2010).

Worse, there is no plan to consult staff and their unions on what may be massive changes to their contracts.

Finally, we were told by the leader that in the ‘& Days’ email  sent to staff on 04 December 2009 position in respect of this outsourcing project had been set out.  I see no such reference in that email and I have requested clarification from the Chief Executive.

Tory housing failures

The main Tory defence here was that Shelter had used inaccurate data in compiling their report.  This totally ignored the substantive point that, whatever data is used, the Tories have failed to provide affordable housing in the borough.  Simple as.

Worse, by simply rejecting our motion, they have simply rejected our call to commit to applying for more government funds for council housing, in the same way as they simply failed to apply for the second round of funding recently.   They simply don’t care about public housing.  Simple as.

Integrated Transport Authority

The mayor finally had his way on this one.  After several unsuccessful attempts to deny me my constitutional right to sum up my own motion, he managed to slip this one by officers and by my waving hand and move on the next agenda item.   

This disgraceful bias meant that I could not mention a Mr Lenton, of the West Lanashire Pensioners’ Association, whose persistence (and copy emails) had enabled the Labour side to ascertain for sure that the original instruction to officers by full council on this matter (July 2009) had not been complied with.  That is, the council failed to ask the county council to investigate properly the possibility of a transport authority arrangement with Greater Manchester and/or Merseyside.

The Tories fobbed us off with the excuse that they were due to have a meeting about stuff.  About what stuff, I remain unclear, but what I am clear about is that the democratically legitimate instructions of the council have been simply ignored by the Tory administration. 

That’s it.  No time for hyperlinks now. I’ll do them later.  If journos want to call for more info, they know where I am.

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