This month’s cabinet meeting was back in the usual meeting rooms, after it was displaced by the disruptive filming that was taking place at the Civic Centre last month. Fortunately, that also permitted @graemeneale to stream the session live on Twitter – and you can follow him by clicking on his twitter name above.
The evening opened with a brief video top celebrate the council leaping leaping up to 153th place in the Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index – which ranks the best employers for improving equality in the workplace. Improvement was the only option, given the council was hovering around the 400th place a year ago, so it could hardly have got much worse. Top local authority for 2017 is Leicestershire County Council , which came 36th.
If you missed the evening, you can watch the video here. Be warned, the sound track seems to have been cooked up by an Ibiza DJ off his tits on coke and smack.
Movie over, we cracked on. No petitions this month, a couple of public questions, and then – a shocker – we had a Labour councillor, Cllr Barry Kendler, asking the Labour administration a question. Whether this was to burn up time in the 15 minutes allotted for Councillor Questions, a dog and pony show (more of that later) or what really wasn’t clear. But it wasted the maximum-possible five minutes or so, gave Cllr Shah a chance to puff his chest up, and almost (but not quite) came across as spontaneous. We’re not a huge fan of Cllr Kendler (and suspect we’re not the only ones who’d have difficulty in choosing between him and a dose of the salts), so when he left, within seconds of getting his pre-planned answer, it would be difficult to say anybody noticed.
The Conservatives lobbed in 90+ questions again, after getting a bit of a spanking from Leader Shah for doing exactly the same last month. However, it seems the strategy is paying off: the Labour administration have to provide written answers – far more public than 15 minutes of audio recording (when it’s not censored by the council, of course) and well worth the effort to read.
At this point, husband-and-wife duo, Cllrs Jean Lamiman and John Hinkley also seemed to have had enough, and took the opportunity to sneak out the committee room, and head off.
The surprise of the night was Cllr David Perry, ex-leader of the council, asking a few questions. Absolutely, some of them were set up, but just once or twice, Cllr Shah’s soapy grin dropped, just a smidge, leading to suspicions that the act wasn’t as friendly and chummy as it might seem at first glance. “Bloody expensive questions,” observed Cllr Paul Osborn, noting that Clly Perry was a cabinet member without portfolio – and paid rather handsomely too for those few questions.
A disappointing turnout from Roxbourne’s by-election candidates – none of them appeared to be present in the public gallery that evening. Although if they did sneak in unobserved, we’d (a) apologise to them, and (b) like to know about it. Even more surprising that Mrs Henson wasn’t there to cheer on husband Cllr Graham – and if she gets in, at least he’s assured of another vote when he goes in for the leadership challenge that Shah could be facing.
Rumour has it that the administration may be looking to reduce the number of cabinet meetings going forward, either in an effort to reduce cost, reduce democracy, reduce flak or because they simply can’t be bothered. One or those anyway.
Other observations: Michael Lockwood, the council’s lucky Chief Executive, isn’t looking at all well these days; Cllr David Perry has either been working out or is still carrying a few pounds after the Christmas holidays; even the security guard at the back of the room was flicking through the cabinet papers with boredom.