I had a weeks holiday this week, enjoying some beautiful weather, camping with family and friends in the Forest of Dean. That said, I was back in Gloucester on Wednesday to attend the County Council Full Council meeting. It was certainly interesting, with the Labour Group gaining significant traction on the ideas of Unitary Authority, as well as seeing the Lib Dem group seemingly tear itself apart as we watch the tussle between the old and new leadership. It was also the first time I had actually spoken, two supplementary questions, and comments regarding the Lib Dem motion.
I had submitted 2 groups of questions, the first regarding child safety when walking to and from school and the second on how GCC deal with travellers. The Child safety question came from a number of emails I received from residents in my ward who were concerned about shrinking road safety budgets and also the reduction in the number of Lollipop people helping our children on their way to school. The Travellers question was based on the experiences of Kingsway residents recently having an incursion of Travelling families into the Business Park area around the Community Centre.
Once we got into the motions, Labour Councillor Steve Lydon proposed that the County Council set up a group to look into the idea of Unitary Working, the big idea being that we abolish City/Borough tiers and have a single council that deals with everything, rather than 7 separate (6 borough and 1 County) spread over 2 tiers. This may save a lot of duplication, money and remove that need to work out which council is responsible for what service. After some discussion over where would be the best committee to look after this, it was unanimously voted through. I think this is a great step, it was a major headline in the Labour County Manifesto and being able to push these issues forward is good work.
The Liberal Democrat motion essentially wanted to ring-fence the budget of Trading Standards, “if possible”. To be honest I couldn’t really believe what I was reading or hearing. I think trading standards do a great job, it is a tier of protection for the consumer and quite right for their role to be applauded, but how can we possibly ring-fence their budget, when there are functions like Adult Social Care, the Fire Service, Youth Provision etc, which are all important and equally worthy of ring fencing. And then to have the phrase “if possible” just made it a shambles really, it didn’t direct the council in any way, even if the motion was passed, the Conservatives could (and would) just say something along the lines of “terribly sorry, it just wasn’t possible”.
There was some good news, there had been a windfall of £1m put into the Highways budget, the Lib Dems had been quite vocal about this and took this as their victory which would have been fair enough, but then they moaned that they didn’t know about it. Didn’t stop them putting out the press release though 😉
There was a lot of information and reporting back on issues raised at scrutiny meetings, SHE reports and presentation on Corporate Parenting (not in that order). The final element was where we entered a closed session, while not great to work behind closed doors, it was necessary to ensure the privacy of those residents involved.
Overall, it was quite a good meeting. I get a strong feeling that we will be able to get stuff done through the term of this council, it’s not going to be easy as there are hard challenges ahead but I and the rest of my Labour colleagues are certainly up for that challenge!
To see the agenda and minutes (when published) click here