Sunday, July 01, 2007

Questions & Answers

As I didn't blog about the recent full council meeting I thought I would update you on the question and answers given to give you some idea about the subjects that councillors are raising.

New elected Councillor John Wyatt (Con, Bowthorpe) asked how much the council was owed in rent arrears. Labour's Executive Member for Housing, Julie Westmacott, said that the council had failed to collect £1.6m this year and this was only forcast to fall to £1.4m next year. Cllr Wyatt accused the council of being cavalier with taxpayers money and lacking ambition in wanting to tackle the problem. Council Leader Cllr Morphew said that the Tory response was predictable and that the council was getting to grips with the issues.

I then asked if the council has a "zero-tolerance" approach to anti-social behaviour from council tenants, a subject that was raised time and again at the Clover Hill residents meeting. Cllr Westmacott launched a snotty answer which accused the Conservatives of suggesting that all council tenants were engaged in ASB. In bad tempered exchanges, I then asked if they would come to a CHARM meeting and explain to hard working decent tenants why they are out of order raising this problem, as they seemed I was in putting the question. Labour's Cllr Bremner, in replying gave a list of things the council was doing to cut ASB.

Cross-party harmony then broke out as Cllr Collishaw (Con, Catton Grove) congratulated the council on looking at brownfield infilling to solve the housing crisis and asked when the council survey on the use of garages was going to be published. Cllr Morphew replied that it would be released as soon as it was done.

Cllr Hooke (LibDem, Thorpe Hamlet), fresh from his 1 vote victory over the Greens, asked what the cost of the concessionary bus fares was going to be. Executive Member Brian Morrey replied that it was estimated at £1.35m but that this figure could change.

Due to the recent arson attack on her home, Cllr Lubbock (LibDem, Eaton) wasn't there to hear the answer to her question about parking around St. Andrew's Plain. Cllr Morrey gave another stroppy answer - Lubbock faces a regular stream of these - in which he suggested that she already knew the answer. However Labour then promised a blitz on illegal parkers in the area, which I think was the point of Cllr Lubbock's question in the first place.

The Norman Centre has long been the central campaigning issue for all parties in the North of the City, and Cllr Carl Mayhew (LibDem, Mile Cross) is making a great play of this in the run up to his re-election campaign next year. However, once again, he walked into a bit of an elephant trap asking why it didn't open at weekends. Labour's Culture Member Brenda Ferris suggested he asked his LibDem colleagues - who cut the centre opening hours during their term in office in 2003. Cllr Mayhew had a rough meeting all-in-all suggestion later that councillor's shouldn't be given allowances. Oh dear. Desperate Carl then had the weight of all parties on his back...

Councillor Little (Green, Town Close) asked what consultation the City Council had done regarding the wi-fi system given the health risks. Cllr Morrey said it wasn't a city council function but that the county council thought that there were no risks. He suggested that Cllr Little write to the relevant government department.

Cllrs Watkins (LibDem, Eaton) and Dylan (Green, Mancroft) both asked about the council position on the Innes' project for the re-development of City Hall. Cllr Waters, in his usual fashion, said that members should control their enthusiasm for such schemes until the review of council property - including taking police opinions into account - were complete. He outlined the process, including a series of meetings.

Puddles occupied the mind of Cllr Bearman (Green, Town Close) this month complaining loudly (well, as loud as she gets) about puddles in the council's underground cycle store. How Cllr Waters kept a straight face answering this was beyond me - but he said that after work on the car park was complete then this would be a priority. Cllr Bearman complained that she waded through inches of water and this discouraged cycling. Cllr Waters couldn't agree more!

Cllr Hume (LibDem, University) clarified the rules of bulky collection for the elderly. Cllr Cooker, Lib Dem Leader and Lakenham Member, then asked how other group leaders would input into the renegotiation of the CityCare contract. Cllr Morphew said he had no idea but would raise it at group leaders meetings.

Housing was raised again - this time by Cllr Lowe (LibDem, Mancroft) - who asked why the length of time required to bring a house back into use had risen under Labour. Cllr Westmacott replied that the department has worked hard to address this and the time was now falling again.

Finally, the only Labour member to ask a question Cllr Cannell (Lab, Lakenham) asked what support the council gave to live music. Cllr Ferris replied "lots" and then gave an answer that I think was more planned for the media than for councillors interests. Too cynical perhaps?

And that was that for another few weeks...

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