You may wonder what happens up at the Civic Centre when councillors get together. Has anything changed now Labour run a minority administration backed by Plaid and a couple of Independent councillors?
Well council meetings are much longer as we – the opposition continue to challenge decisions.
For example – in November the opposition (Torfaen People’s Coalition) opposed increases to councillors’ allowances put forward by Labour leader Bob Wellington. We believed it inappropriate at a time of financial crisis with the budget for vital services under pressure. However, Labour supported by Plaid pushed this through.
Previously we had put forward proposals to slash the Labour and Plaid Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) by 10% and invest the savings for specific projects – this was also rejected by Labour supported by Plaid.
However, the Leader is slowly learning that he cannot always have his own way. When he tried to push through appointments not listed on the Agenda in December’s meeting, he was stopped by the Mayor, who I have to say has had his work cut out this year!
Life in the Council Chamber is always full of surprises – well maybe not so surprising really.
The latest development was to change the times of Council meetings from 5pm to 10.30am. Why you may ask?
Well I’m still not really sure. What we do know is that since Labour lost overall control of the Council there has been more debate and challenges to decisions which has resulted in some meetings lasting over 5 hours. Well – that’s fine as far as I’m concerned – democracy in action.
Not fine for Labour supported by Plaid though. It seems they are too tired to make decisions after 9pm so it’s to be 10.30 in the morning
Yes this is more inconvenient for many opposition members who work. More importantly it will make it more difficult for members of the public who work to be present for public question time and presentation of petitions as well as just attending to see what is going on. Not a good day for openness and accountability in Torfaen.
Meanwhile I will continue to argue for all meetings to be held at times to make it easier for members of the public to attend.
What do you do when you’re the Leader and you run out of allowances to give out? Create a new Policy committee and give the new Chair an allowance of course! Although opposition councillors spoke out against this proposal, the Labour leadership at Torfaen was determined to push this through. As I said in the meeting – setting policy is a Cabinet responsibility . This is their job – they are paid well to do it – why do we need yet another committee? Hmmm…….
Let me know what you think –