by Owen Temple on 22 March, 2017
It felt like the end of term at today’s final council meeting of this four year electoral cycle.
It started off in jovial mood, with jokes cracked and some councillors taking selfies, but soon we moved into “questions from AAPs”. This is where a council officer from one of the area action partnerships reads out a question, only to have a cabinet member read out a very long answer which has almost certainly been written by another council officer. It’s a tedious process with very little informational value (and even less informational value). It is probably most effective as a risk free form of anaesthesia.
The mood that followed was low key, but with a surprising amount of sweetness and light around. I was lulled into believing that perhaps the disallowing of my motion to rescind the sacking of teaching assistants really was because it was too political at such a sensitive time. Perhaps we were really going to have a meeting where councillors would speak only of fluffy kittens and spring flowers.
I even mentioned that I felt a little unnerved by the accord and harmony within the chamber.
I hope that wasn’t what kicked it off, but I can’t help feeling that I must be to blame. Shortly after I had spoken supportively about why the council had to have a meaningful seat at the table when the NHS was making plans for health and social care, an inflamed Labour councillor (he mentioned that he hadn’t been planning to speak but had been provoked by Lib Dems and Conservatives holding supportive opinions since they were solely responsible for all the ills of the world) launched into a carefully prepared political speech.
After that it was downhill all the way as normal service (aka the bear garden) was resumed. In what was clearly a wholly non-political debate about an alleged government “raid” on the Mineworkers’ Pension Fund tempers frayed, councillors bayed and the rhetoric ramped up.
The irony is that, despite the slanging match, we nearly all voted the same way. That of course is entirely typical of politics. We may share a view, or even values, but will defend to the last our right to abuse our opponents for sharing those views.
So term ends, but no holiday happens. Instead we’ll be out there inflicting local politics on you all until May 4th. I suppose the big question is, which bears will be in the garden after May? That’s in the lap of the voters.