We’re promised 30 degrees plus and with no air con it’s going to get pretty warm in the Council Chamber and that’s before the hot air from councillor speeches. Is the chair going to say ‘gentlemen may remove their jackets’? If so it’ll be wasted on me because I’m not wearing one.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) is here again (we have the plastics strategy on the agenda) and have just unfurled their banner from the public gallery: ACT NOW!
We start with prayers, rather traditional today with a C of E reverend. At the end she asked for us to join in the Lord’s Prayer with which I felt slightly uncomfortable. I’d identify as a Christian but is reciting this in public maybe virtue signalling or excluding those of other faiths?
Then it’s announcements and we’ve sadly got another minute’s silence to observe and then a presentation to an officer retiring after over 40 years’s service.
There are 2 public questions.
Number 1 from Dave Fox, proudly sporting an XR T-shirt, asks CCC to implement a car free day in Cambridge. Council Leader uses his answer to avoid the question and to simply talk up the council’s progress regarding its approach to climate change. He could have said ‘that’s a great idea let’s see how we can do that’ but he didn’t.
Number 2 is about the earth works and the monument on the Shire Hall site. Alison New asks about securing and enabling access when Shire Hall is sold (actually it’s not going to be sold but the concern is nonetheless relevant). There’s a fair answer explaining how CCC will work with Brookgate, the site developers, to ensure this. In a supplementary the questioner asks what contractual commitments have been agreed with Brookgate. Answer: none yet.
The full wording of both questions is on the web-site at http://bit.ly/2LBFs1a.
There are no petitions.
First substantive item is to approve the Council’s plastics strategy. It does have cross party support and the challenge now is to resource it and to give it momentum. The point is made that it’s important not avoid the hard stuff and highlights tyre dust which is a major contributor to marine pollution. How do you address that? Strategy is approved by acclamation.
Rather disappointingly the XR crew went home half way through the debate on this item.
Then it’s the Treasury Management Report. Approval again by acclamation.
Now it’s updates from Constitution & Ethics. There are 5 items 4 of which are accepted but there’s a concern about one relating to social media which apparently prevents councillors from being critical of the council on social media (which many of us do all the time!). I had spoken against this at the committee so it’s good to see second thoughts. A proposed amendment is approved by acclamation so that all of the updates can be approved similarly
There are four motions today. Two from Labour and two from the Lib Dem’s. But we’re making good speed at present so maybe we’ll be out by lunch.
Motion number 1 is about policing from Labour and is unfortunately Cambridge biased and a little misguided so there’s a Lib Dem amendment to ‘improve it’. The mover makes the oft repeated Labour mistake of over complicating her motion and spending too much time weaving in national issues. And given that all the Labour councillors are Cambridge people it unsurprisingly focuses on the city. There’s a classic mealy mouthed response from the Tories unwilling to accept someone else’s motion (or amendment) despite some declared empathy with it. Amendment duly lost Lib Dems for Labour and Tories against.
We have a brief (?) interruption because the big TV screen which displays the results of votes isn’t working. Now it is.
Now we debate the main motion and we’re beginning to use up time. Finally we get there. Vote lost: Labour for, Tories against and Lib Dem’s abstain (we liked the sentiment but felt that the motion was misguided).
The second motion is also from Labour and calls on the Council to pay the Real Living Wage, to require its contractors to do the same and to seek accreditation to the Real Living Wage Foundation. First there’s an alteration which Council accepts. The mover of the motion then agrees to accept a Lib Dem amendment subject to a minor modification. This results in the Council not being stuck with higher employment costs if they would come at the expense of services. All agreed, bravo.
There’s lots of worthy speeches from Labour and attack dog speeches from the Tories. And not unsurprisingly vote lost, Labour and Lib Dems for and Tories against.
Then we break at 1300. Back at 1330 the Chair instructs sternly. So much for being out by lunch.
The third motion is mine and in essence asks for an update on Local Government Reorganisation as requested some time ago and a confirmation that current joint working with Peterborough would not preclude any preferred solution. There’s a good briefing paper which means that an amendment deleting an action relating to the latter point could be accepted. Trouble is the Tories reckon that asking the Chief Exec to get an update and ask what the end date is likely to be is confusing and one Tory suggests it’s a trap. So an amendment deleting both action points is carried (Lib Dems against, Tories and Labour for). Then on the basis that a glass half full is better than no glass I agree to vote for the motion as amended so that’s carried unanimously.
Now for a big surprise. Motion number 4 is withdrawn. It’s about the underfunding of Adult Social Care and to the alarm and disappointment of the Tories who’d tabled a substantial, political (they’d bizarrely blamed Brexit for the lack of progress with respect to ‘fairer funding’)and semi-literate amendment it’s withdrawn.
So we end with questions for the Combined Authority and its Overview & Scrutiny Committee: there are none.
There were two written questions: one about primary schools closing for half days for budgetary reasons and the other about ‘wilding’ grass verges. Answers to these questions are on the web-site at http://bit.ly/2XXflrS