Friday, May 15, 2009

A planned retreat?
The Council annual meeting last night (Weds 13th) held a few surprises - firstly, Deputy Mayor Alan MacCarthy was elected Mayor for the coming year with Conservative support. Usually, we oppose the Labour nomination, on the grounds that the supposedly impartial mayoralty of the Borough continues to be used as a Labour Party sinecure, with no opposition councillors being considered for the role, however well-qualified they might be.

However, Alan MacCarthy has been a long-serving councillor, devoting many years to the borough, and we felt it would be wrong to oppose him. The outgoing Mayor, Cllr. Steve Offord, was also rightly praised by several councillors for his fairness in the Chair, and for the dignity and dedication which he has brought to the office of first citizen of the Borough, ably supported by his wife Jackie. Steve's father was Mayor of the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich in the early 60s, so it's good to see the Labour Party embracing the hereditary principle in some form!

But back to the Council meeting. As can been seen from the photo above, the Labour Party did indeed back down on their shocking proposal to restrict the right of residents to oppose planning decisions (see earlier post), and issued an "addendum" to the agenda, removing it from consideration. Leader of the Council Chris Roberts even offered a half-apology for the process by which the constitutional change had been proposed. What he didn't do, however, was explain why it had been proposed in the first place. I made a short speech drawing attention to the fact that, although it had been withdrawn, the Labour proposal suggested a worrying lack of consideration for the democratic process in planning. I won't name the Labour Councillors I saw half-nodding in agreement, but there are some who were equally concerned by the proposal. Comrade Roberts spoke after me in the debate but failed to explain the issue, except to admit that the initial proposal had been to increase the number of objectors needed to 10, instead of 5, so that's all right then!

Much amusement too at the Liberal Democrats' opposition to the appointment of Cllr. Danny Thorpe as deputy representative on the Commonwealth Local Government Forum. Cllr. Thorpe is, of course, infamous as the Councillor who thought it acceptable to remain a councillor whilst spending a year away in Australia. On that basis, it might be thought he was ideal for the Commonwealth position, but it might strike his constituents as something of a bad joke.

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