Saturday, 27 July 2013

Full Council, Rochester airport, theatre, waste and local politics

Thursday night I went to the theatre. I wasn't watching a musical or Shakespeare or even or one of those modern ones where everyone speaks Dutch and it turns out that lead character is actually a moose. Unfortunately I was at Medway Full Council meeting.

It was awfully entertaining and a member of Democratic services showed me to my seat. I was nervous as I had a question to ask with a supplementary etched out if the answer failed to hit the right point.

The pageantry began on time when we were upstanding for the gold mace, officers and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. All took their place at the table overlooking the Councillors and the audience quickly followed by opening prayers.

The whistle blew and kick off began with a short debate on the length of Public questions. Vince Maple, leader of the Labour group, argued for 45 minutes instead of the usual 30 due to the number who had come or until we got to question 25 so everyone got to ask at least one. It took enough time for three questions to reach a consensus and then it began. After the preliminaries it got to the public questions.

Up stepped the villains of the piece; Cllrs Chitty and Jarrett. They quashed repeated questions and concerns about the development of Rochester airport. Cllr Chitty has shifted all safety concerns to the CAA and swatted away safety concerns by saying that they would look at the safety measures fully as part of a crash investigation. Cllr Jarrett conducted himself in a boorish manner akin to Herman Göring with refusals to repeat himself and answering with blunt disregard to the situation. At this early stage I could tell that no matter what anyone else thought or said.

The Audience got to participate too with traditional calls of "Oh no its not!"
As well as new ones like;

"Utter Crap!" (my favourite) and "Have you read it?!" referring to a particular safety report that Cllr Chitty seems to be ignoring.

Then it was my turn. Clutching my scribbled notes I stepped up before the bench and tried to steel myself with the Anglo-Germanic Sams stubbornness and belligerence. I was not here for political reasons but first and fore most as a concerned parent.

Cllr Mike O'Brien answered my question politely and concisely and in the manner I should have expected but with the added sting that the 40% cut figure I had been lead to believe was true was in fact false. (proper blogpost will follow when I receive the written answer.)

"Do you have a supplementary question Mr Sams?"

My mouth dry, my notes irrelevant and my resolve crumbling into full retreat I stared at the microphone for what seemed an eternity before shaking my head and fleeing back to my seat mentally berating my cowardice.

The back and forth restarted and when the 45 minutes were up a further debate was had as to whether or
not they could just press ahead and get question 24 and 25 done and with much heaving and sighing it was agreed.

Cllr Chambers' report
When this was all dealt with and some of the public drifted away Cllr Chambers rose to his feet and like Chancellor Palpatine gave his report, soft and gentle, barely audible in the public gallery but full of barbs and excuses - It isn't our fault the schools were rated badly it is because Ofsted moved the goal posts! It is the press only reporting the negative things on us - we're doing a good job really...

Vince Maple spoke well and welcomed Commrades Stamp and Cooper to the mix and spoke scathingly of Tory failings on sure starts and waste on Rochester airport when other services were in danger. Clearly he was very much the hero of the piece.

Cllr Juby spoke briefly agreeing on some points with Cllr Chambers and disagreeing on others but the real limelight was being reserved for Cllr Jarrett's return.

A couple of sly swipes at Cllr Stamp for defecting (again) and continued bluster that impressed no one and made him no more friends in the audience but to be honest I don't think he cares.

Other bit part players came on with Cllr Stamp whining that Cllr Jarrett was making cheap political and personal shots at his expense which gained at least two scoffs from the audience (one being me, get a sense of humour or some thicker skin Andy, as my sister would say "get over yourself"). Cllr Osborne got up and, though I agreed with most of what he said, channelled the party political broadcast. He spoke like an air raid siren droning on and on and addressing the audience more than the opposition in a style that sounded like a party rally or hustings event rather than full council and it washed like a wave over pretty much everyone with no effect.

I admit that I don't know much about what is going on with the airport, I have been to busy worrying about my own problems and the Nursery situation that almost stopped my wife going back to work. However as a layman watching I thought Cllr Murray's amendments to slow agreeing on the future of the airport until after the consultation was finished was a good one. In the past the Council have been accused of holding consultations because they had to and that a decission had already been made. Such was an accusation about the Care homes like Nelson's court where it was pushed through and assurances have been found to be built on sand. Having seen Cllr Jarrett's and Chitty's performances on Thursday I think it is already a done deal no matter what the residents of the Davis estate (who live under the flight path) think or what the rest of us who have had services cut think of the £4.4m that is being allocated to this. Cllrs Cooper (lab), Juby (ld), Gilroy (Lab) Griffiths (lab) and others spoke at length about the services that could benefit with this money especially the elderly and children. Cllr Stamp argued that the Strand that is used by thousands a year could have the sea defences repaired (having fallen into the sea and are dangerous) and the whole area spruced up or a hundred people could benefit from the new airport improvements. Both opposition parties were united and voted in favour but the Tory administration shrugged and voted it down.

I had drifted off into my own world not long after that but Cllr Tollhurst's (con) defence of the airport plans woke me up. She was very passionate about it and condemning the Labour group for what happend some fifteen years ago and their aims to still concrete it over. She argued that if you were against it then you were "Knocking Medway" and we should be proud of the airport - I left not long afterwards somewhat confused and cross.

I've spent time asking myself if I really want to be elected to this theatre and as yet I still haven't found a really compelling answer yet. The only thing I keep coming back to is that things must change. I saw very little representation of the people of Medway there last night. A lot of the bit parts did, some of the leads such as Vince Maple did, probably under all the hot air and party bluster, Cllr Osborne did maybe, Cllr Juby and Smith spoke of it too but the top two or three Conservatives I... I just couldn't see it. They seem to be bulldozing ahead with the scheme and that is it, they know what is best and we will have to agree and see that they're right - yet again just like the bus station, Medway tunnel etc... etc...

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