Back at the Hall (for now): Oct 18 full council meeting

out of the EUIt’s a typical October autumn day today following summer sunshine on Saturday and a couple of days of rain: misty, moisty … We seem to be rather thin on the ground today with many apologies.

Prayers from a catholic Monsignor today starting with the full sign of the cross. Interesting how many councillors spontaneously reciprocate. Good words though about it being world food day and the need for us to think about what we can do regarding people who may go hungry this winter.

Pretty dead start to the meeting with neither public questions nor petitions. Leaves plenty of time for us to be told yet again how to use the voting machines.

Item 7 is the first substantive item and related to the mechanisms which need to be put in place to enable closer working between the County Council and Peterborough City Council. I speak and point out that Council had already asked for consideration be given to unitary council options 18 months ago and that this had been passed to the Combined Authority to take forward. I was told in response that this had been put on the back burner pending a first review of Health and Social Care. I’m not sure that that will do much to help CCC balance its books and for local government to better related to the people of Cambridgeshire. Concerns are also expressed about pay differentials between CCC and PCC and the workload of people working across the two councils.

Motion to accept carried unanimously.

Then we have the regular feature regarding the Constitution. Firstly we approve a new Monitoring Officer. Secondly we agree to some refinement of Public Question Time. And thirdly we approve the transfer of delegated authority for whistleblowing to the Council’s Audit and Accounts Committee.

Now item 9: appointment of a new monitoring officer. There’s a glitch because the report was late. There’s also been a query about process because the person to be appointed is an LGSS employee and will need to resign this post before she can take this new role. Chair’s discretion is used and we fudge this through.

We are racing through the agenda today and we continue at a pace through items on Audit & Accounts, the Pension Fund Committee, the Pension Fund Board and appointments to outside organisations.

There are four motions today. It’s now 1120 … will we be out for lunch?

Motion number 1 is the big one from the Lib Dems (it will be seconded by Labour) and asks that Council supports the People’s Vote campaign. We are of course a mixed county with strong Remain votes in the south and equally strong Brexit votes in the north. Will the north dominated Tories impose a whip or will there be a free vote? There are bitter speeches/rants (but only six) from some with a disappointing number of nodding heads. Positively one Tory talks in favour of the EU, albeit an imperfect one, but doesn’t support referenda. We even get a speech from Donald Adey erstwhile Lib Dem who now acts as a councillor from a residence in Scotland.

Motion (sadly) lost 23 to 32. Lib Dems and Labour for, Tories against (the whip worked).

The second motion is also from the Lib Dems and calls for support for Clean Air Day. I think it’s a bit limp and it gets even limper with a Tory amendment which is accepted so that the Tories will second and, presumably, support the motion. I speak asking for a more deliberate call to action and highlight the impact on people with ill health who will maybe die because they live, work or attend school close to busy roads.

Motion passed unanimously by a show of hands.

It’s 1230 looking good for lunch.

Motion number 3 is a parochial motion (nothing wrong with that) about the impact of the A14 developments on Huntingdon and asks the Chief Exec to write a letter.

Motion passed unanimously by a show of hands.

Finally we have a Labour motion about support for young people leaving care. It’s a bad motion but it has the right sentiment. Tories don’t like it because the motion goes against a committee decision (fair enough) which is why Labour leader who’s on said committee will abstain. One Tory sensibly suggests that such motions which imply extra spend should explain how that will be funded. A Lib Dem points out that care leavers leave ‘home’ much earlier than the general population and don’t have the benefit of family. And some more political speeches … it gets a bit bitchy.

Motion lost 16 to 32. Most Lib Dems and Labour for (including me), some abstentions. Tories against (that whip again).

Finally questions for the Combined Authority. There are none as my intended question would not be allowed so I agree to take it, ‘what are we going to do about Stagecoach’s effective monopoly of services on the Busway’, off-line.

There are questions for the chair of CA scrutiny. The first relates to the recent departure of the CA chief exec. A second asks another member if he thinks the matter has been blown out of proportion.

There are no questions for the Fire Authority.

To wrap up answers to written questions are tabled. I had one about the size and cost of the transformation group: 38.5 people and almost £2 million. I will do another blog post on that.

1320 and we’re out!

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