I try to do one of these reports after each County Council meeting but it is getting difficult to keep up with events.
I think the main thing of general interest that happened at the County Council meeting was that the Ashfield Independents put forward a motion on the cost of living. They called on council leaders to send a cross-party letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask him to scrap the rise in NI which we know hits some of the least well-paid worst. The Labour group put forward an amendment which was accepted, that would have included a request for a windfall tax on energy suppliers and producers.
The quality of the subsequent debate was embarrassing. First the Tories said there was no point writing letters as ‘the ministers never reply’. Well, this seems to be true. At the end of last year, the Tory Chair of the County’s Health Scrutiny Committee wrote to Sajid Javid about the situation with the NUH maternity services. This is a non-political matter of critical local importance – yet he completely ignored the questions from local elected representatives who are working hard to understand what is happening locally, and who are tasked with holding the NHS to account locally. As far as I am aware, the Secretary of State for Health never replied.
So, I believe the Tories when they tell us that ministers NEVER find time to respond to elected councillors making representations about important local issues. Somehow, I expect they can find time to talk to paid lobbyists or their financial backers.
Meanwhile Ben Bradley (leader of Notts County Council, Councillor for Mansfield North, MP for Mansfield, and member of East Midlands Councils Executive Board) had to miss a critical Council Policy Committee meeting to be in London for a 3 line whip vote (on tax). He said this was fine as he knew he could delegate to others in the Council! Since being elected I have delegated aspects of my University job, but to do so I felt it was only fair that I went part time at the University.
Ben is also on record as saying he can do all these jobs ‘because they overlap’. In that case his payments from all these jobs should be reduced by the amount of overlap. I think it quite okay for MPs to have other roles outside parliament, but I do not think it is appropriate for them to be drawing multiple salaries – since when push comes to shove, their primary responsibility will always be to parliament (hence Ben couldn’t miss the 3-line whip) and should be to their constituents.
We are told that the advantage of Ben having all these jobs is that it means that he has the ear of central government ministers, so he can lobby on our behalf. That doesn’t really fit with him telling us that they will never reply to letters from the council.
I asked a question about the cut to the no 19 bus from Melton to Nottingham (run by Centrebus). If I understood the answer correctly, the Chair of the Transport and Environment Committee wasn’t warned of the decision before it was announced, which highlights the need for an integrated regional transport service. That said, I am delighted to see that joint ticketing is available now on most bus providers across the Nottingham area (excluding Trent Barton at the moment).
Since the meeting…
- I’m an old-fashioned feminist and I am always annoyed if people assume that I can’t make a decision without my husband. But I also know that my finances are completely entwined with my husband’s (that is, after all, what the legal aspects of marriage and civil partnership are about), and so I completely understand that when I am asked to declare conflicts of interest as a councillor, or even as a scientist, these include both my own activities and my husband’s. Many people reading this will have had similar experiences. Rishi Sunak can spare me his ‘pseudo-feminist’ argument that his wife’s affairs are none of his business. When he changes tax laws so that they benefit his wife, his whole household benefits.
- A student in Nottingham was fined £10000 in days, and kicked out of university, for holding a party during lockdown. Party gate should have been dealt with once and for all at Christmas, how can the police be taking so long? This is a good example of ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’.
- The war carries on and is appalling for the people of Ukraine but will also impact on everyone in Nottingham – most importantly upon the poorest – as the price of food and fuel keep going up. I am pleased we are starting to welcome refugees from Ukraine, but tonight I hear we are going to send some other refugees to Rwanda. How can some people be ‘acceptable’ and others not be? I am heartbroken at what has become of my country.