The Novem­ber syn­drome

The Wokingham Paper - - VIEWPOINTS - Caveat.lec­[email protected]

FOR some rea­son the Novem­ber Bor­ough Coun­cil meet­ing has the odd­est con­tent of the year. Whether it’s the prospect of three months un­til the next meet­ing, the idea that this year’s In­de­pen­dent Re­mu­ner­a­tion Panel won’t re­sign, or a fit of pre-Christ­mas fever, if it’s Novem­ber then it’s please take your your seat but leave your judge­ment at the door time.

Ac­tu­ally ‘None of the Above’ were to come true – but no­body knew at the time.

Declar­ing an in­ter­est

It’s un­usual for the meet­ing to open with the Mayor ‘declar­ing an in­ter­est’. In all the other meet­ings I’ve ob­served, he’s been very in­ter­ested in what’s go­ing on.

On this oc­ca­sion ‘the in­ter­est’ was a per­sonal stake in the res­i­dents’ pe­ti­tion op­pos­ing a huge new hous­ing de­vel­op­ment in Barkham. As the sole ward mem­ber, he de­clared that he’d be rep­re­sent­ing Barkham res­i­dents’ views and would take part in the de­bate.

Imag­ine the Speaker of the House of Com­mons an­nounc­ing an in­ter­est in a de­bate about Buck­ing­ham (his con­stituency) then tak­ing part in that de­bate be­fore re­sum­ing his duty as speaker. The im­prob­a­bil­ity of this hap­pen­ing gives an idea as to the sig­nif­i­cance of the Mayor’s de­ci­sion.

Res­ig­na­tions of the first kind

Cllr Char­lotte Haitham Tay­lor made a per­sonal state­ment, giv­ing a good sum­mary of her team’s work since she was elected WBC leader in May 2017; not­ing the key is­sues; then of­fer­ing her thanks; be­fore ten­der­ing her res­ig­na­tion as leader.

Lis­ten­ing live was a bit tricky, for­tu­nately the Youtube video has ex­cel­lent sound qual­ity if you want to see and hear what she said. Al­ter­na­tively, you can read her speech verbatim on The Wok­ing­ham Pa­per’s web­site.

Her speech cov­ered many top­ics – here’s eight which stood out :

“The fi­nance brief [isn’t] in­sur­mount­ably com­plex … we aren’t the next Northamp­ton­shire”

“We are win­ning the ar­gu­ment over [the] Neg­a­tive Rate Sup­port Grant”

“Trans­parency in the de­ci­sion mak­ing … had not been seen as a pri­or­ity … still ap­pears not to be”

“We need to dis­tance our­selves from the old boys net­work style”

“We can­not slide back into the old ways. No Po­lit­i­cal Lead­er­ship, lo­cal or na­tional, can duck out of the tough de­ci­sions any­more”

“Mea­sure our progress … it should be open and trans­par­ent … some … do not share th­ese as­pi­ra­tions”

“His­tory will not be a kind judge to lead­ers who turn a blind eye to plau­si­ble com­plaints and whis­tle blow­ing”

“We have to be open-minded and pre­pared to change our minds when the facts change”.

There’s some stark warn­ings here. On the one hand, we could keep things com­pli­cated, work in cliques, take the easy way, keep it all be­hind closed doors, ig­nore re­al­ity and end up hostage to for­tune.

On the other hand if there’s to be any po­lit­i­cal ref­or­ma­tion then even the di­nosaurs might want to change their di­rec­tion in or­der to get coun­cil­lors, staff and res­i­dents all work­ing to­gether to­wards shared goals with rea­son­ably com­mon pur­pose.

Res­ig­na­tions of the sec­ond kind

Not quite so ob­vi­ous was that one front bench mem­ber … wasn’t any­more.

Cllr Richard Dolin­ski had taken his new seat at the back of the cham­ber, sit­ting be­tween the In­de­pen­dent mem­ber for Ar­bor­field and the Labour Group.

In the same way that The Wok­ing­ham Pa­per chose to re­spect the mayor’s re­quest to leave film­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy for this meet­ing to the bor­ough’s own team, it also kept to the em­bargo on Cllr Dolin­ski’s res­ig­na­tion state­ment.

In the ab­sence of his mak­ing a per­sonal state­ment to col­leagues in the cham­ber, news of his res­ig­na­tion was pub­lished on The Wok­ing­ham Pa­per’s web­site the fol­low­ing day.

Not only did he re­sign his ap­pointed role as Ex­ec­u­tive Mem­ber for Adult Ser­vices, he also re­signed his Con­ser­va­tive Party mem­ber­ship.

It’s rare in mod­ern pol­i­tics that one politi­cian’s res­ig­na­tion is so closely linked to an­other’s. But in this case, it’s a mea­sure of the in­di­vid­ual that he’s cho­sen to sit as an in­de­pen­dent in or­der to con­tinue serv­ing the Wood­ley res­i­dents who elected him.

And the third kind

As part of the Novem­ber state­ments made by front bench mem­bers, the Ex­ec­u­tive Mem­ber for High­ways and Trans­port duly gave his, dur­ing which he said:

“I was driv­ing in to Wok­ing­ham a cou­ple of weeks ago and there was an ac­ci­dent on the M4 which meant that there was prob­lems on the M4 and traf­fic was be­ing di­verted …

“There was a mur­der in Fin­champ­stead, I must ad­mit I thought Fin­champ­stead was a lot more civilised than that … but there we are …”

<<< “Wok­ing­ham With­out … Wok­ing­ham With­out … Wok­ing­ham With­out” >>> (in­ter­rup­tions from other Coun­cil­lors)

… “was it Wok­ing­ham With­out?

… “ah well, then I apol­o­gise to Fin­champ­stead for ma­lign­ing them but ob­vi­ously parts of Wok­ing­ham With­out are a lit­tle un­civilised.”

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the word ‘un­civilised’ there was an out­burst of loud and rau­cous laugh­ter from a num­ber of coun­cil­lors which only ended when the Mayor in­ter­vened to bring the meet­ing to or­der.

The Last Word

Along with oth­ers in the pub­lic gallery who’d wit­nessed this colos­sal in­sen­si­tiv­ity to­wards a re­cently de­ceased man, his close fam­ily, rel­a­tives and friends, I was ashamed to be in the same cham­ber.

Un­less it’s me who’s out of touch and its

OK for this man’s death to be­come a laugh­ing mat­ter?

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