Rather like a football team stuck to the bottom of the league who suddenly get 3 points on the last day of the season, the LibDems used the last full council meeting of the year to good effect; in fact, from their point of view, it is a shame that few people will appreciate their strongest performance since I was elected.
We experienced a sustained attack on the Labour executive from 3 members of the public, all of whom put down questions regarding traffic calming on Mount Pleasant. I thought they did extremely well - some people don't like taking on Councillors and others waffle for ages, but this trio of residents made poor old Cllr Brian Morrey (Lab, Catton Grove) look like an idiot and made their point very effectivly. How, they asked, would the 20mph zones be enforced? Don't know, said Morrey, ask the police. So how much money is put aside for traffic calming on Mount Pleasant? 25k says Cllr Morrey - but thats for the consultation! Hang on, say residents, how much traffic calming could that buy in itself? I'd love to see more of these intelligent, articulate residents taking on a political establishment that seems to be totally divorced from reality. Well done to all of them.
We then formally nominated the BBC's Roy Waller as the new Sheriff.
I'm sure that the Treasury Management Strategy Report is vital and needs to be debated by full council, but from the general standard of questions and answers you have to wonder why. The only decent questioning, if I might be so bold, came from the Conservatives. Cllr Eve Collishaw (Con, Catton Grove) tore through the figures - actually probably so well that the breadth of questions was lost. Cllr John Wyatt (Con, Bowthorpe) asked how the council balance the ethical and financial nature of investment and I asked about the £80m debt that the councilo has and what would happen to it under unitary - "is this Norwich's final legacy to the districts around us?" Even super-clever Labour Cllr Alan Waters (Crome) couldn't answer and so an officer did. The trouble is that the political back-and-forth you could have with an Exec member isn't really possible across the chamber with an officer.
Chair of Scrutiny Cllr Stephenson (Green, Nelson) then reported back on the Year of Exercise & Sport Motion that said we didn't have the time, money or resources to complete. It was all plodding along fine, including the LibDem Brian Watkins (Eaton) who originally proposed the motion accepting the verdict when his ward colleague Judith Lubbock lept up to declare that if we stopped spending money on other things - such as the works on Unthank Rd - then we could afford this. Sadly, of course, Cllr Lubbock misses the point about budget streams but she does have a point regarding waste as council level. How curious the LibDems should discover this so close to an election!
We then turned to yet another one of Brian Morrey's hobby-motions - this time World Water Day. If it is a good cause, add the word "hour, day or week" to the end and Cllr Morrey will propose it. Of course it is right and proper to talk about water usage and supply, but as Cllr Lubbock made the point forcefully, it is barking that the council doesn't monitor its use or try to save money by cutting down. This turned from a fluffy motion, as hoped by Cllr Morrey, into a political bunfight. However, step up again Cllr Watkins who made a blistering attack on the envrionment policies of the government. If this was a pitch for the LibDem leadership, no other candidate need apply. It was excellent - well pitched and timed too. Luckily, with all this excitement, we had the other Cllr Little (Green, Town Close) to give a speech so dull some of us forgot what the motion was. Three cheers to the Lord Mayor for being so accurate with his allocated time slot...
Cllr Hereward Cooke's last motion to council - on Restorative Justice - also found cross party support and he spoke passionately for the concept. The Conservatives raised a few objections, and a few realities, but it still managed to find its way to the executive ok.
Cllr Lubbock stepped into the fray at the end of a long meeting to ask for council's support in opposing the HGV usage of the Newmarket Road bus lane. Well done her but she looked vaguely surprised when I suggested that one solution to traffic in the city was building the NDR...
It was, overall, a fun and boisterous pre-election meeting. We have another one on Wednesday to hear a damning government verdict on our accounts. 7.30 in City Hall if you are free!