Setting a council tax is a statutory duty. It was dispiriting watching a debate dominated by trivia. The Mayor didn’t realise that he’s expected to terminate out-of-order speeches. Trivia degenerated into drivel.
The single highlight was Roger Ramsey (@ 2 hours 12 minutes in the webcast). Calm, measured and magisterial, he noted irrelevance with a weary acceptance. His focus was the demand-led Adult Social Care. That budget literally can’t be controlled. It’s a statutory obligation. Children’s services are also demand-led with huge expenditure for personalized transport during the pandemic. Massive shortfalls in government funding were highlighted. This was described as a Stealth Tax (Ray Morgon: (@ 50 minutes).
Damian White (@ 25 mins) is turning into a Socialist. He worried about the cost-of-living crisis, environmental funding, the stigma of Food Banks, and substandard KS3 achievements in schools. 400 job losses which will, amazingly, improve service delivery was used as an example of tough decisions. The government’s £150 reduction of Council Tax for bands A-D was welcomed. Belatedly he recognised that Special Responsibility Allowances (SRA) mattered in an election year and offered half-baked proposals.
Keith Darvill (@1 hour 35) talked of a perfect storm of increases in Rent, Council Tax, National Insurance and inflation, especially energy costs. Ray Morgon actually made a policy proposal. Savings from reducing SRAs would go to street cleaning. There was a lot of expectations on productivity gains from digital working. This was rubbished by David Durant (@ 3 hours 31) who discussed cyber-terrorism. Another policy proposal was by Jeff Tucker (@ 1 hour 53) who wanted fewer councillors (18) because officers made all the decisions anyway. He also proposed himself as Leader as he had ‘the most brains’.
Graham Williamson (@ 2:32) said savings on SRAs were irrelevant, being gesture politics. Gillian Ford (@2:41) did a tour d’horizon which included refugees, Green Flags in parks and Food Banks. I hoped for more.1
Jeff Tucker is absolutely right that there are too many councillors. This meeting was a disgrace and should be used as a training programme for the incoming Mayor so they understand their role in chairing a meeting. Roger Ramsey is retiring and someone needs to step up and fill his shoes as ‘the only grown-up in the room’.
1 Other speakers: Martin Goode, Chris Wilkins, Ciaran White, John Tyler, Robert Benham, Darren Wise, Bob Perry, Joshua Chapman, Graham Williamson, Reg Whitney, Ron Ower, Viddy Persaud and Dilip Patel. There may have been others but my webcast failed at 3 hours 42 and so I missed the last hour.