The public gallery was full for this council meeting with people angry at the closure of community halls. Watch the meeting on the webcast.
Cllr Mohammed Pervez (0:14:18) began with an announcement of more cuts to come, another £50 million over 2 years, no surprise there then. He only spoke out about the speed of the cuts though, typical Labour.
City Independent Cllr Dave Conway (0:25:49) pointed out that the Labour council leaders can't blame government for borrowing £40 million to pay £50 million back in the wasteful move of the civic centre to Hanley and also that the Labour council leaders only kept children's centres to avoid the government claw back and would have closed them otherwise. Cllr Conway said he expected to see their spin in 'Our City' magazine, he accused them of mismanagement and asked them to resign.
Conservative Cllr Abi Brown (0:30:15) accused Labour of preventing regeneration in the Potteries Shopping Centre and having empty buildings not for sale whilst selling buildings people want to keep.
Lord Mayor Terry Crowe (0:31:00) announced that the next meeting has been moved from 6th to 20th December. I wonder what they are trying play down by having a meeting when many people are distracted by arrangements for Christmas with their families? Or am I being too suspicious?
There was just one petition, Neil Hawkins asked the council to revisit their plans for community hall closures and accused the council of being negligent. I mentioned in my blog on the 5/7/12 council meeting that Cllr Ruth Rosenau had indicated most or all would likely be closed soon.
The 'usual' procedure followed; City Independent Cllr Randy Conteh (0:38:49) moved a motion to refer the issue to the City Renewal Overview and Scrutiny Committee (the point of this is it would allow the lead petitioner and councillors to discuss things in detail). Conservative Cllr Jack Brereton (0:40:06) seconded it. Then the councillors had a go at each other and inevitably the Labour majority voted the motion down.
There were 7 public questions including one from Angela Maxfield on criteria for schools admission, which is a particular interest of mine. There were 3 supplementary questions.
Mike Barnes, question 3, had asked about information passed to councillors following a report finding the council "failing in its statutory duty to ensure an appropriate level of preparedness" in the case of an emergency such as rioting. Cllr Olwen Hamer had detailed which committees and councillors this had gone to including the cabinet member for transformation. Mike (1:26:49) asked, given that the report stated "the City Council is no longer prepared to be able to continue to deliver all of its critical services in the event of an incident", but Cllr Paul Shotton had dismissed disclosure of the report as administrative, who is misleading the public? Cllr Hamer (1:27:57) responded that nobody was, improvements have been made and Mike has been sent the report.
Gabrielle Hoban, question 6, had asked what the point is of asking supplementary questions in public when responses are not made in public. Cllr Mohammed Pervez had said if a detailed response is required a written response after the meeting may be better. Gabrielle (1:29:34) asked why she is still waiting for responses to two questions raised in 2011! Good question. I'm no fan of our council leader but his response was correct this time; Cllr Pervez (1:30:11) apologised and said if the questions are forwarded to him he will provide answers. I hope, despite past performance not boding well, that Gabrielle does indeed receive her answers.
Mike Barnes, question 7, had followed up an announcement of £500,000 of tax payer's money to improve swimming facilities at Dimensions, by asking about progress. The answer from Cllr Mark Meredith had been rather noncommital and said whilst a new 25m pool at Dimensions is desirable, available funding is not enough. So, another example of highly spun council announcements with little substance then. Mike (1:30:34) said some buildings had been redacted on a list of buildings to be sold to help fund the transfer of the civic centre to Hanley and asked if Dimensions was one of them. I could see the answer coming; Cllr Meredith (1:31:34) said that as information was redacted he can't answer the question. So much for an open and transparent council then.