Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Stockton Tories show true colours

Since the Annual Meeting of the council earlier this year it has been decided that a Cabinet of 8 is not big enough and Stockton needs 9. Wheels had to turn slowly but finally a 5th Labour member of the cabinet was appointed in July. As a result there was a vacancy for a committee chair to be decided tonight. Looking at the membership of the committee it seemed obvious that the best person for the job was the current vice-chairman, Cllr Lynne Apedaile. She was persuaded to let her name go forward in part by the Conservative leader of the council who suggested to her that his party would support her. The Liberal Democrats were prepared to support her election in the interests of having a good scrutiny committee functioning. Yesterday I was approached by the Labour leadership seeking our support for the Labour candidate who wasn't even a member of the committee and would need to be appointed to it. He hasn't a clue about the scrutiny review of services for adults which is currently partially completed. But Labour assumed that anyone they put up should get the post. I was told by some Tories that their leader had told his group that he wanted them to support Lynne. For the first time since the election last year I felt that perhaps we were going to see common sense prevail over party political expediency.
Sadly, today that hope was dashed. I was told with great glee by the Labour leader that he'd sorted the problem out and they didn't need our votes. At the end of the planning committee meeting he and the deputy leader of the Conservatives were deep in conversation and behold - we arrived at council to the news that they wouldn't be supporting Lynne after all. At least one or two of them had the grace to look embarrassed.

On the bright side, the planning committee came to a reasonable decision on Bishopsgarth Cottages, agreeing that there should be a meeting of the applicant, the ward councillors and officers to try to reach a better compromise than the one which was on offer today. Let's hope that good sense prevails. The application and its predecessors have already taken up a huge amount of time for officers, planning committee and ward councillors.

My question at Council about how many plastic carrier bags the council and its partner organisations (such as the NHS and Tristar) handed out at recent events was met by a half answer - they don't actually know in detail but the number given out by the council this year is less than last year was the gist of it. I pointed out that in the last few weeks there have been bags handed out by the council containing prizes for a competition - photograph prominent in the local press! SIRF handed out hundreds of blue plastic rain ponchos which will no doubt end up in land fill or even worse, hanging from trees and hedges after being discarded. And all this at a time when we're asking our residents to reduce their waste in order to help us meet very challenging targets on waste reduction. Joined up thinking??

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