Friday, April 27, 2007

Council Report

Having survived the travel chaos caused by the Deptford fire yesterday, I neglected to report on Wednesday's Full Council meeting, so here goes.

Firstly, it should be noted that the meeting itself was at risk of cancellation (as with last year's cancellation of democracy) , after Labour put forward no substantive business for the agenda. I'm glad the Mayor chose not to do this, however, as the meeting was in fact extremely worthwhile.

Members of the public submitted around a dozen written questions to the meeting - mostly from residents of the Ferrier Estate, complaining about their treatment by the Council during the 'decant' (a dreadful term) process. All those who wished to were able to ask supplementary questions of the Cabinet, and whilst they may not have been satisfied with what they heard, they were at least able to air their concerns.

In the Conservative Group we also sought to make the most of the opportunity to hold the ruling Party to account, submitting a total of around 20 written questions on local issues, including the Blackwall tunnel traffic alterations, school building plans and NHS cuts at the QE Hospital. My colleague Cllr Alex Wilson also asked whether the Council would consider webcasting meetings to open up democracy to local people - a suggestion which Deputy Council Leader Cllr. Angela Cornforth said would horrify some people (well, she said it!).

For my part, I asked the Cabinet Member for Culture, Cllr. John Fahy, what measures the Council is taking to promote cycling. Given my experiences over the last two weeks, and in view of the Mayor's cycle ride this Sunday, I thought it was a good opportunity. I received a fairly comprehensive three-page written answer setting out a range of initiatives, which all sound fairly worthy. The Borough is also playing host to the Tour de France later this year, when it passes through in July, and several events are planned around that. In response to my follow-up question, Cllr. Fahy told me the Borough does plan to introduce additional cycle lanes in the coming years - something I welcome, as although Greenwich is by no means the worst place for cycling, there is still very patchy provision across London, and ill-thought out schemes which sometimes achieve the hat-trick of annoying cyclists, drivers and pedestrians simultaneously. I will be following this up to see how the process of designing future routes goes.

I also asked about provision of residential care for adults with severe learning difficulties in the Borough. This follows an emotive case in my ward with which I have been helping recently, and which I am pleased to say seems now to have been sorted out. The Cabinet member, Cllr. David Grant, confirmed that the draft adult care strategy will aim to improve the choices available for those concerned, and give them greater access to infomation during the process. Both he and the senior council officer responsible also spared time for a private chat about the issue after the meeting, for which I am grateful.

In all, a worthwhile (if short) Council meeting, proving that even if the Labour executive do not see fit to bring issues before the Borough's elected representatives, we can still at least try to hold them to account.

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