Sunday, December 02, 2007

Questions & Answers

Summary of the questions asked at this month's council meeting.

Cllr Rosalind Wright (LibDem, Eaton) asked if charity shops were being charged for waste disposal. We all thought she was on to something there, but the answer from Labour frontbencher Cllr Brian Morrey was a simple no (spread over 4 paragraphs).

Bowthorpe's Councillor John Wyatt (Con) asked, if the council wanted to build houses on the site of old garages how they would work out which garages would be used. Council Leader Steve Morphew replied that the location, usage and condition were all factors. Cllr Morphew then made an unwarranted attack on Cllr Wyatt, suggesting he could have got this information by asking. Cllr Wyatt then embarrassed the council leader by revealing he had asked ... but hadn't been answered!

Cllr Morphew's bad mood spread over into his repsonse to Cllr Collishaw (Con, Catton Grove) when she asked how he felt about the £3 per passenger development tax at Norwich Airport. Cllr Morphew attacked the charge, saying it may indeed deter passengers, but also then turned on Cllr Collishaw for the use of the word "tax" when it should have been "charge". Shouldn't the Leader of the Council have more things to worry about?

Cllr Little (Con, Bowthorpe) asked if the Council would introduce freephone and freepost so that people didn't pay to contacted their own council. Moneyman Cllr Alan Waters tutted like a builder and said that this all costs money. Cllr Little asked, in principle, if he supported it if money was not a problem. Cllr Waters, in a moment of honesty, replied no.

Cllr Cooke (LibDem, Lakenham) asked when the future use of City Hall report would be made public - this is a frequent question and the LibDems have made some political headway in persuing this issue. Cllr Waters said that unitary would change all demands and the report would have to wait.

Cllr Lubbock (LibDem, Eaton) was the only member to score a direct hit during the questioning session - asking how much the doomed Unthank Road changes cost the public. Cllr Morrey confirmed it was 10% either way of £140,000. Cllr Lubbock's supplementary was an example of what can be achieved with this kind of questioning, blasting the total waste of money on the whole scheme. Cllr Morrey, who usually uses Cllr Lubbock as a political punchbag, was left looking rather foolish.

Cllr Stephen Little (Green, Town Close) asked about energy saving in housing developments and was satisfied with an answer that went above the heads of most present.

Cllr Claire Stephenson (Green, Nelson) asked how councillors could keep track of motions passed at council. Cllr Morphew replied that, short of the weekly bulletin, they couldn't. He also pointed out that the council didn't have the resources to support every motion passed at council. Cllr Stephenson then came back, asking the Leader to define the word "regular", missing the open goal of asking what the point of passing motions was if council was going to ignore them.

Cllr Bob Gledhill (Green, Nelson) asked if we could recycle aluminium. Cllr Morrey said no. Cllr Gledhill asked if we could in the future. Cllr Morrey said no. No is currently Cllr Morrey's favourite answer to questions.

Cllr Rupert Read (Green, Wensum) asked if the council kept lists of cycle thefts. Cllr Bremner, Labour Execuitve Member, replied that they didn't because the police did and to ask for those details would break the DPA. Cllr Read then started on a rambling reply which the Deputy Lord Mayor attempted to cut short. "Ask a question," she barked at Cllr Read ... "I would if you let me," replied the irrate member. Anyway, we were all so engrossed by the challenge to the authority of the Deputy Lord Mayor that we totally missed the point and answer to the question.

Next came an interesting clash of the left. Cllr Holmes (Green, Wensum) asked if the Norfolk Pension Scheme invested in any companies with a poor ethical record. Cllr Waters, a Labour member and certainly no New Labour stooge, replied that they weren't really sure, but that in general the performance of the pension scheme outweighed the need for ethics. Cllr Holmes barked a rather hysterical response about how people who lived with abuse may feel about his asnwer. Cllr Waters was in a tight spot - you either protect people in poor conditions abroad or protect the pensions of people in Norfolk. I'm sure this isn't the last we'll hear of this issue.

We flew through the next set of question with little or nothing to report - Cllr Dylan (Green, Mancroft) on democratic involvement in the council's tenant housing stock, Cllr Bearman (Green, Town Close) asked if the council were working towards "matrix" standard, Cllr Llewellyn (Green, Mancroft) asked what the council was doing to support the Families Support Unit and Cllr Jago (Green, Mancroft) asked about involvement of residents association.

Even ever-present Cllr Ramsay (Green, Nelson) was happy with the answer to his question about how inclusive the Boundary Commission report would be.

It was a shame that so many questions - overwhelmingly from the Greens - failed to ignite or hit the spot this month.

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