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The new “Cabinet” of the District Council met for the first time last Thursday evening at 7:30 . It’s official title is the “Executive Board” but we think most people will call it a cabinet.
Basically, most of the power of the council has been passed to 9 Tory councillors, and they will decide most of the big policy decisions. They are restricted in some ways – some decisions will have to be made by the full council, for example, but these 9 will really be in control. (One major exception is planning applications – all 39 councillors will still deal with those)
So the first meeting kicked off last week. Four ‘ordinary’ members of the council came along to watch – Chris Black, Ron Oatham, Heather Glynn and Jim Grey. The first difference was that we ordinary members of the council were treated as though we didn’t exist – we weren’t allowed to sit next to the cabinet, or to speak or ask questions.
This was a bit of a shock, but perhaps a healthy reminder to us of what it’s like to watch from the public gallery. Chris thought “Do I sound as self-satisfied as that lot when I’m speaking?”. Heather Glynn couldn’t hear what everyone was saying and she wasn’t allowed to ask anyone to speak louder.
Most of the meeting was extremely dull. The cabinet had 224 pages to get through, and it included stuff with juicy titles like “The Transition From Comprehensive Performance Assessment to Comprehensive Area Assessment”
Tory leader Cllr Terry Cutmore was his usual affable self, but maybe a bit stricter than normal. For example Cllr Mavis Webster wanted to talk about Cherry Orchard Country Park, and Cllr Derek Stansby wanted to talk about tourism, but he cut both of them short. Terry Cutmore generally spoke the most – by comparison, Cllr John Pullen only spoke twice in the whole evening.
The meeting only came to life over one issue – what time to have future meetings. The Tory deputy leader Cllr Keith Hudson proposed moving the time to 3:30 on Thursday afternoons. He said that we could have more officers present in the afternoon and added ” Non-members of the board are not in a position to contribute – we are best served by the time that suits us ” He also said ” If the majority prefer an afternoon , then that is what it should be – it should be at the whim of the people doing the business, I find it strange that it should be any other way”.
This was politely opposed by Cllr Colin Seagers, who is one of the minority of cabinet members who works. He said he would try to alter his working week to fit around this, but “This is not a good idea, it makes it much more difficult to attract people from all walks of life, or for the public to come. It’s not what was originally envisaged”
Terry Cutmore said that he would be happy with either arrangement.
Then Cllr Hudson came out with the surprising news that he had trouble getting to Thursday evening meetings – if the cabinet perpetually met on Thursday nights, he couldn’t stay on it.
The end result was that they decided to try meeting on Wednesday evenings.