Thursday, November 26, 2009

This evening's cabinet meeting had a very full agenda and much of it was interesting or important or both.
There was wifi in schools, three select committee reports including the Environment one which I presented, school standards, a review of voluntary sector funding, budget pressures, economic climate and how to choose the best form of executive arrangements for Stockton.
All the controversial stuff had been sorted out in advance of course by the Labour/Tory coalition as is their way. One of the most interesting items to us as councillors, though probably not to most residents, was the item on future executive arrangements. At present Stockton Council elects a leader each year at the annual meeting. Naturally, that person is the leader of the largest group or the leader of some other coalition which commands a majority vote. The government thinks that the council would be better if that person was elected for 4 years at a time or if we had an elected mayor instead. After the next election (2011) Stockton has to change to one of these. In August the cabinet was happy to recommend that the way to decide between them was to have a referendum. Now, in November, apparently a referendum is too expensive so we'll have a postal consultation instead and then the council will decide, based on the result.
I'm not particularly wanting to have a referendum. I think it is expensive and I also think that the issues are quite likely to get mixed up with general election issues and the overall dislike of politicians following the parliamentary expenses scandal, but I am amazed that we have a cabinet so wally that it makes one decision in August and goes back on it in November. Yet another proof that the only reason Stockton is such a good council is because good officers do the necessary decision making. If we had this sort of decisiveness over such matters as finance and road sweeping nothing would ever get done.

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