Monday, July 26, 2010

Liverpool City Council - full council meeting July 2010

A very difficult meeting

It began with a tribute to Councillor Rose Bailey who died suddenly and unexpectedly, as she began her period as Deputy Lord Mayor, while she was looking forward to being the LM in 12 months time. All Labour Councillors wore a red rose, as did the Lord Mayor and a further rose was pinned to Rose's seat on the Labour benches and another laid in her vacant DLM seat. There were tears for such a strong, feisty, hard-working dedicated councillor who gave everything to her city and her ward. The Lord Mayor, Councillor Hazel Williams (Liberal Party) read out a poem she had written.

Then we got on to the politics. The splits are already visible on the LibDem benches as the majority of the opposition voted to fight BSF cuts (and all praise to them) while two Councillors - the Deputy Leader of the LibDems, Cllr Flo Clucas, and the Leader of the LibDems in Local Government, Cllr Richard Kemp absented themselves to drink tea in the tea room. We had some very good contributions from pupils from various city schools who now sit on the schools parliament, explaining why the BSF programme to the education of our children now and in the future.

And many members were mute in horror at the size and scale, and more importantly the nature of the cuts facing the council this year - targetting funds set aside through the ABG - area based grant - ring-fenced money found by the Labour Government to support various vulnerable groups but now to be slashed by the new Tory LibDem Government.

We had debates around the cuts, particularly around the free swimming for children, young people and pensioners. It was good news to hear that my colleague Wendy Simon has been able to find the money to keep the swimming going for an extra month to ensure that kids can swim for free in the summer holidays. But what a hammer blow that this vital programme has been scrapped by the Tories and LibDems in coalition.

There was the inevitable row about the new Leader of the council increasing his allowance so that he could become a full-time leader and give up his social work post - although even with this increase he will still be £19k out of pocket I understand. The old leader claimed he managed to be a full time leader and a fire fighter simultaneously and that it was not necessary for Joe to make this move. I think he thought (Warren) that this was somehow a slight on him and the way he managed his time as a leader, but Joe Anderson made it clear that this was not the case. This was not about how hard Warren had worked - and he said he thought Warren had worked hard - but that it was a recognition that the job of leading a core city needs someone available all the time. You can see some of the politics of envy coming to the fore in comments on this blog by David Bartlett.

There was some petty squabbles about stuff that went on 30 odd years ago, as there always is, but you could see the shock and upset and discomfort on so many LibDem faces. I think Warren Bradley is right, the LibDems in areas like Liverpool are really going to struggle to win any support from voters with their leaders propping up this terrible Government.

The meeting went on for 5 or 6 hours and was at times very fraught, well done to those members of the public who sat it out until the bitter end.

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