Wednesday was the Annual Council Meeting for Gloucestershire County Council, it is the meeting where the leadership, cabinet and committees are sorted out. It was also my first council meeting, so it was a new environment to take in and new procedures to learn. All in all it was an interesting event in itself, but also the result of the meeting that set the way ahead for the next 4 years.
The day started for us with a group meeting and then making our way to the council chamber. Having signed the roll, then signed in, declared any interests, picked up the name plate and then found a seat, we settled down for the opening events.
We had an opening prayer, and then elected the chair and vice chair of the Council. We then elected a leader, where Mark Hawthorne was elected unopposed. This was no real surprise as the chances of a rainbow coalition was not realistic, and any other organisation was scuppered by the Lib Dems deciding to go to the press before actually talking to anyone, which didn’t exactly set the right environment, however it seems the Lib Dem Group realised the issue and changed their leader.
The committees were then elected and I am now on Audit and Governance Scrutiny, and Appeals as well as full council itself. There was a bit of a commotion over the Committee chairs, and I believe this was generally a result of when the discussions were taking place about the future of the council, the Lib Dems were busy reorganising their house, so they were not impressed that they didn;t feature heavily in the Chairs. This lead to crys of a Con/Lab Coalition, which wasn’t the case.
Then there were two Motions submitted(Both by the Libs). Aparrently it is not the done thing to put motions at the Annual meeting (another thing learned) but that said, both of the motions did have a time element to them that I think made them ok. The first one was on the incinerator, which did forma great protest, but we then submitted an amendment to also give it some teeth, and resulted in an all party group to look at the way forward.
The second one was on the badger cull and in essence to write to the Government and state that we did not support the cull. There was some interesting comments from all sides, and in particular the comments made against the vaccine programme. There was so much about how they don;t work etc, but i couldn’t help but think that it seems to work in Humans well enough. We don’t resort to culling children to keep hTB under control. A silly comparison some might say, but I don’t think so. Also, the argument was made that trapping and vaccinating badgers required a lot of effort, but by the same token, so would the effort involved in ensuring a safe shot from a rifle. It got exciting when a named vote was requested, so we got to play with that process too.
I think we set out the way we want to operate over the next four years well. We will work with people to get the council moving forward, we will support where appropriate but also oppose what we don’t think is right. The job to do the next 4 years is rather stark, £120m of cuts to find over 4 years and we have to work with people in this council to do this int he right way. Therefore just opposing everything is not going to serve our residents, but from a Labour perspective we have to do all we can to protect those essential services, and ensure those things that really matter are delivered.
On reflection, having the No overall control will provide a hard 4 years for councillors, but it will be good for the residents because all the decisions can’t just get rammed through by a single party.