At full council on Thursday 17 December 2020, the item below, 1.0 Summary, appeared as a matter of routine addressing the matter raised by Leader of the Council Peter Nutting, who holds that title as leader of the majority political group on Shropshire Council, the Conservative group. The distinction is an important one and goes some way to explaining why it seriously pisses me off to see headlines that say: “Shropshire Council voted to…”, instead of: “the ruling group at Shropshire Council voted to…”, or: “a majority of Shropshire councillors voted to…”.
Shropshire Council is ALL of its elected Members, not a portion of them and lumping us all together creates the impression that no one had either voted against or abstained. In short, it is not a homogeneus body moving as one towards a single outcome.
But that is democracy at work. No one has said it’s perfect, just better than most.
Anyway, this is what appeared…
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE FROM MEMBERS
1.1 To consider amendments to Part 4 the Constitution (Council Procedure Rules) relating to questions on notice from members at meetings of the Council.
2.1 That Part 4 of the Constitution, Council Procedure Rules, be amended by the deletion of the second paragraph of 15.3, “Questions on Notice at Committees and Sub-Committees,” and the insertion of an additional para graph after 15.4 “Notice of Questions” as follows:
15.5 Number of questions
A period of up to 30 minutes shall be set aside at each meeting when normally up to six questions will be heard. If notice is received of more than six questions for the same meeting, priority will be given to questions in accordance with the order in which they were received. At any one meeting, no Member may submit more than two questions.
There is currently no limit on the number of questions from members that can be asked at full Council which can lead to the member question session becoming cumbersome and repetitive.
The current limit on the number of questions on notice that can be asked at any one meeting of a Committee or Sub Committee contained in Part 4 of the Constitution at Paragraph 15.3 may be appropriate to apply also to full meetings of the Council.
In order to ensure more than one Member has the opportunity to ask questions, it is proposed also to limit the number of questions any one member can ask at any meeting to two.
Now, quite apart from admiring the ingenuity of what at first glance might appear to be sanctimoniousness, the council’s ruling group could, with this formula – if they so choose – create the opportunity to effectively block all but their own agendas by simply submitting a list of questions guaranteed to take up all available time. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.
I opposed the motion.
It’s worth looking at what prompted the move and to do that we have to take a closer look at the two main opposition political groups, Labour and the Lib Dems, particularly the former whose leader is renowned for a monotone delivery that is without inflection and modulated only in volume. Dedicated to his socialism, once into his pace, he is guaranteed to bore for England on behalf of his Party. If he ever found himself at the head of a revolution, the guillotine wouldn’t be needed because the unbelievers would have died of boredom when he was reading out their death sentences.
Whereas the leader of the Lib Dems, a nice bloke, is so intent on making his points that he will repeat them over and over until he is sure that no one has missed the finer points of the issues he is desperately keen to have us all understand the full import of. Nothing wrong with that and commendable – up to a point – but I’m often left wondering if the point where he eventually stops and sits down is when even he realises he’s heard it all before just minutes ago. But like I said, he’s a nice guy, guilty only of caring too much.
How does a Lib Dem think? Like a Lib Dem and you only realise you’re not thinking like a Lib Dem when you get the disapproving look from one of their number. They’re good at that. I remember back when the ‘Syrian refugee crisis’ kicked off and David Cameron was committing to bringing in asylum seekers direct from the refugee camps in that benighted country.
I was concerned that the only mention of refugees was about Muslims escaping ISIS and, having read an open letter in the national press and broadcasts on the media from Archbishops Carey and Welby (hardly the most xenophobic right-wing of clerics) pleading that CHRISTIAN refugees be given EQUAL (not greater, equal) asylum status to Muslims, I circulated their open letter to all councillors before the Full Council debate on what Shropshire was prepared to do.
During a later debate that morning I had to go to the loo and in the corridor outside the toilets passed Lib Dem Charlotte Barnes (no longer with the council) – if she’d had a knife, despite her caring Lib Dem heart she would happily have plunged it deep into what she obviously thought of as my black soul.
For circulating a letter from two Christian archbishops? What had I missed?
Meanwhile, the media was reporting officially recorded cases of Syrian Christian refugees not only being thrown out of refugee camps but finding themselves heading for Turkey sharing a leaky boat with muslim refugees and unable, when challenged, to quote passages from the Koran from memory, were being summarily thrown overboard together with their children.
Fast forward to this January and the last meeting of the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee. Directors of service were there to answer queries about moving Shirehall to the Pride Hill shopping centre in Shrewsbury, in the process moving virtually all in-house-administered operations to a virtual platform, Covid and the need to work from home having “shown that it can be done”.
I asked first of all why the Executive thought that Shropshire Council was immune to the kind of online cyber attack that had crippled the NHS. Answer came there none.
Having more or less accepted the inevitability of the move to Pride Hill, given that work had already started on the process, I had a second question about what provision had been made for disabled parking because (following the green agenda) there has been a move to “discourage” use of private vehicles, the implication (clearly signalled) being to promote the use of public transport.
Now I genuinely don’t have a problem with “going green” (just the way the Green Party has politicised it with their particular strain of socialism), but I do have concerns since I am now disabled because cancer has eaten away part of my spine and I was particularly anxious to ensure that disabled members of the public – on those occasions when they have to attend a council office on official business – could depend on finding a parking place and, from there, make their way to whichever administrative office they needed to attend. Not a question of particular significance to most people, but one that needed asking because no one else had!
Part way through that second question, the leader of Shropshire Council’s Labour group obviously started to panic because my own question to the officers who were there to justify the move from Shirehall to Pride Hill was taking up time that he wanted.
Ignoring all protocols he started shouting over the top of me, face filling the screen.
Taken completely by surprise (as was everyone else in the meeting), I was so angry at the outburst that at first I could only stare at the screen in disbelief. But then Mosley’s rant broke through the shock and I shouted back: “Christ, Mosley, you’re a piece of work”, told the chair I was leaving the meeting and switched off before I completely lost it. I was shaking with rage for a good hour afterwards.
He’s an interesting character is Alan Mosley. Very aware of his position as leader of the Labour groups at both Shrewsbury Town Council and Shropshire Council, where the group trails way behind that of the Lib Dems (and trailing in the dust of the Tories), it’s a different story at Shrewsbury Town Council where the Labour group are in the majority, which makes Alan Mosley the ‘de facto’ leader of the town council in the same way that Peter Nutting is referenced as the leader of the county council.
Shrewsbury Town Council have a Mayor who is the ‘face of the council’ during their year in office, but given the ceremonial role of mayors they’re largely irrelevant in the power-brokering stakes, especially when you have someone like Alan Mosley pushing all the back-office buttons.
Tellingly, ex-mayor Labour councillor Jane Mackenzie gave up the Labour Party whip…
It’s interesting to see how Councillor Mosely uses his position at town hall to bolster his standing at Shirehall, actually playing on the interests of Labour’s limited power base in and around urban Shrewsbury and at Shrewsbury Town Council and – an interesting tactical mutuality which few observers have noted – sharing self-interests with those North Shropshire Tories neighbouring Shrewsbury to the disadvantage of the rest of Shropshire, as evidence the massive discrepancy in funding between the north and south of the county, with the north getting ten times more funding than the south.
But it isn’t just the south of the county that can find itself losing out, as residents neighbouring a local Shrewsbury recreation ground have found out. But that’s another story.