democracy

The uncertainties of KCC's budget. And why councillors will still enjoy a free lunch.

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, February 18 2011

Given that it has been described as KCC's greatest financial challenge in a generation, there was a curiously low key mood about at County Hall as councillors passed a budget that will see savings of £95m and some 1,500 posts disappearing over the next three to four years.

(Passions did briefly flare right at the end of a seven-hour meeting when the Lib Dems dropped a hand grenade into proceedings and proposed that members forfeit their free lunches on full council days - more on that in a bit.)

True, the opposition parties did their bit by unsuccessfully tabling a series of amendments which, in the main, seemed to revolve around taking money from the £5m KCC has set aside for its Big Society fund and diverting it into other services but the Conservatives swatted away these with inevitable ease.

My sense is that we've not really seen how some of the budget proposals will impact on services over the year. We know some, such as the proposed increase in the fee for schoolchildrens' Freedom Pass and the ending of concessionary peak time bus fares for the elderly.

But there are no figures as yet for how many jobs will go this year and scant detail on some of the income generation plans that are set out in the budget papers.  For example, over the next two years, KCC says it will bring in £740,000 extra income from schools and academies. How? We're not told. Talk to most academies in Kent and they will tell you one of the reasons they have opted out is precisely to avoid spending money with KCC.

It also sounds like there are a worrying number of 'reviews' of some services in the pipeline, which could bring further cuts. And although it was hinted at, KCC is clearly concerned that rising inflation will place some of its spending under pressure - such as rising fuel prices. Incidentally, I have hunted high and low in the budget papers for how much money KCC intends to spend on 'international affairs' in 2011-12 and can find no reference to it. Perhaps it's nothing.

The devil, as always, is in the detail. I'm just not convinced we've had all the detail yet.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I suppose I ought not to have been surprised that the one issue that did spark some rather ill-tempered exchanges during the budget was the thorny issue of whether our 84 elected representatives should continue to have a free lunch on full council days.

But it was rather telling that emotions were running high over the bid by the Lib Dem plan for members to contribute to the costs of providing these lunches, which over the year apparently cost the taxpayer some £12,000. Such was the sensitivity of this debate that the county solicitor Geoff Wild was prevailed upon to say whether it was consistent with the council's rules on debating matters that affect them directly. Really, I'm not making this up.

A highlight of the debate was Cllr Dan Daley regaling the meeting with how he had enjoyed a lunch of boeuf bourgignon and a coffee in the County Hall restaurant at a modest £6.50.

Council leader Paul Carter was particularly irate at what he saw as a bit of opportunistic gesture politics, accusing the Lib Dems of sinking to the lows of the Daily Telegraph (although he did admit that some of the lunches had been 'a bit grandiose').

"This is the only time we come together as a group and the Lib Dems want us to bring our own sandwiches and pork pies," he fumed.

Other Conservatives chipped in with support, saying how important the chairman's lunches were for socialising, with Cllr Susan Carey accusing the Lib Dems of tabling a "mean-minded" amendment.

The Lib Dems may have a point but were rather fatally under-mined when they were reminded that many of them had been spotted at such lunches over the year themselves.

Still, a bizarre and frankly surreal end to proceedings and anyone looking in via the webcast must have been left wondering what on earth was going on. 

I will look forward to seeing who avails themselves of the free lunch on offer at the next full council meeting.

 

 

Tags: , , , , ,
Categories: democracy | KCC

N-Dubz for president in Egypt?

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Thursday, February 3 2011

Preaching about the wrongs of the world can often make a rock star look like a bit of a tool.

Morrissey is viewed as a whining idiot by many, Bob Geldof for all his wonderful charity work comes across as a right moany (insert expletive) and as much as I love his band, U2's Bono has not done himself any favours by jumping on his soapbox over the years.

Yet in some cases it can be noble. When Wyclef Jean ran for the presidency of earthquake ravaged Haiti last year, it came across as a genuine bid to help his homeland in its hour of need.

So make what you will of these comments made to me yesterday by Richard "Fazer" Rawson of Camden hip hop group N-Dubz, pictured left, about the anti-government protestors in Egypt who want the president of 30 years Hosni Mubarak to step down immediately.

"To be honest with you I think the last time I watched TV was a month and a half ago man but I heard something about riots and people getting killed.

"People have got to see we are on the brink of a revolution.

"Look at what David Cameron did with cutting money to universities and the riots that happened in London. Things are about to change.

"People are not going to stand for it man. We are in a different society. Things could get dangerous."

The musings of a philosopher on modern society or the rantings of an out-of-touch pop star who doesn't know any better? For once, I am not making any judgements.

For anyone interested, N-Dubz are playing Margate's Winter Gardens on Monday, April 11 and London's O2 Arena on Saturday, April 30. Tickets on 0844 811 0051.

The full interview with Fazer will be in What's On in April.

****

Talk about striking while the iron is hot! No sooner had the news broke that Jessie J's new single Price Tag had hit No1 on the iTunes chart than she announced she was bringing forward the release date of her debut album Who We Are.

Price Tag was released a little over 48 hours ago but has already raced to the top of the midweek charts. Her debut single Do It Like A Dude is still lodged in the top 10 after peaking at No2, which certainly makes the move understandable.

But the speed and scale is pretty impressive. She is bringing the release date a whole month forward to Monday, February 28. Bringing a release date forward is pretty rare in the music business. The last act to do so were Take That with their latest album Progress but it was only moved a week ahead of schedule.

“Stomp Stomp, I’ve arrived” was Jessie’s battle cry on Do It Like A Dude. Whatever you make of her music, you wouldn't want to bet against the Critics Choice Brit Award and BBC Sound Of 2011 Poll winner sticking around for a long time to come.

Tags:
Categories: Celebrities | democracy | dictators | election | Entertainment | Equal Rights | Government | Politics | Showbiz

The humiliation of 'Saint' Vince

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, December 22 2010

There are two schools of thought about what has happened to the business secretary Vince Cable.

One view is that he has been humiliated and humbled and was foolish to be so outspoken - albeit in comments he thought would never enter the public domain. He's been stripped of certain responsibilities and is a lesser figure than he was.

Politicians cherish and guard their power more than anything and he has been stripped of much of his. So, he's a diminished politician and a busted flush. As the BBC's Nick Robinson put it, he pushed the nuclear button but only managed to blow himself up.

The other theory goes that in articulating his views about the Murdoch deal and other matters, he has strengthened his position - at least for the Liberal Democrats - as the party's and coalition's conscience.

That may be the case but the net result of his entrapment is that he has been left with no clout over the issue he appeared most concerned about. And for a politician, that's not a good outcome.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Did The Telegraph cross the line in recording MPs? I'm not sure - some are questioning whether there was a genuine public interest case in doing so and whether the tactic exposed genuine wrong-doing or misconduct and not just indiscrete comments about policy differences.

I do know that it is likely to make politicians even more wary of talking to people and being candid about their views. One Kent MP told me today that he would now be extra-cautious when constituents came to see him and that the climate in which any comment or off-the-cuff remark could be turned into a headline made it all the more difficult to do talk freely.

Which is not necessarily beneficial for politics.  

 

 

Tags: , , ,
Categories: democracy | Politics | Resignation

Labour's by-election win. Plus the debate on the debate that didn't take place at County Hall

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, December 17 2010

It's been a pretty grim couple of years on the electoral front for Labour in the county over the last two years. Routed at the 2009 KCC election, where they lost 20 of their 22 seats, the party was wiped off the map completely when it contrived to lose every single MP in May.

So I don't suppose we should be surprised that it is rather gleeful about a modest victory in the county council by-election  in the Dover Town division yesterday, caused by the death of Roger Frayne.

They narrowly pipped the Conservatives to make a gain, bringing their number to three on the county council. Whether this represents anything really significant on the political landscape of the county is a moot point. The turnout was pathetic at 15 per cent but I guess the weather and the approach of Christmas meant people had other things on their mind.

I'm not sure, as Labour group leader at KCC Les Christie has suggested, that this represents "the beginning of the return of the Labour Party to holding its traditional seats of power in Kent" and the result "is a clear reaction to the slash and burn policies of the coalition government.”

But a win is a win. And Labour has been short of that for a while. And one interesting consequence is that it means that Labour should now qualify as a political group at County  Hall, meaning it will get more representation on some committees.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

There was a debate at County Hall yesterday about the fact that there was not a debate. It's in the nature of the weird way local politics works and the constitutional quirks of council meetings that such things can happen.

The debate that did take place focused on why there was to be no debate on Ofsted's highly critical report into KCC's inadequacy in dealing with vulnerable children. Opposition parties quizzed the Conservative administration why the report was not to be the subject of a separate debate at the full council meeting, arguing that the findings were so serious that it deserved to be.

I'm inclined to think they had a point although quite whether any such debate would have materially altered anything in terms of how KCC is responding is open to question.

But maybe that wasn't the point. Sometimes our politicians need to be seen to be taking certain issues seriously and there can hardly be a more serious issue. The paradox is that in having a debate about whether there should have been a debate, the issue did indirectly get a hearing anyway.

Labour made a half-hearted call for resignations and made much about councillors being stifled. For the Conservatives, leader Paul Carter left no-one in any doubt that action is being taken - including the appointment of three interim senior managers from outside the authority to address the situation.

If there are to be resignations, it won't be now. KCC has given itself a year to turn things around. If it hasn't heads are bound to roll but I get the impression that the council is really trying to get to grips with the challenge.

 

Tags: , ,
Categories: Conservatives | democracy | Local Politics | Politics

Got a bee in your bonnet?

Bloggy BeeIf you have a voice, and would like it to be heard, why not consider writing a blog for our site?

Click here to send us a message and let us know!

Welcome to our blogs!

Tag cloud

Top Posts of the Week

Topics of Conversation