Sunday, 8 December 2013

My week ahead, 9 - 15 December 2013

Monday – 9 December, 6pm – Labour Group meeting

Tuesday – 10 December, 1pm – Labour Friends of the Forces, meeting at the Shadow Cabinet room, Houses of Parliament

Wednesday 11 December, 5pm – Briefing by the Cabinet Office on electoral registration reforms

Thursday 12 December, 6pm – Area Committee Chairs meeting

Friday 13 December, 7pm – Labour Christmas Party, Roundwood Bowls Club

Saturday 14 December, 10am – Labour campaigning, South West Ipswich

There has been plenty written on the blogosphere and in the local paper about the cancellation of the Full Council meeting in Ipswich this week. Both Ipswich Spy and the local paper were critical of the cancellation, with ‘Spy’ giving it as yet another example of the real deficit in democracy in Ipswich and Suffolk.

But within a day the criticism turned on the weak opposition in Ipswich, the administration were right to cancel the meeting as there was no urgent business, as you can see from above there is still plenty for councillors to do and though the council meeting is cancelled we still have an important meeting the same day for all councillors about electoral registration. That for me is the real concern about democracy, that changes to electoral registration that are proposed to help reduce electoral fraud may also lead to even more residents not being able to vote,making them feel even further away from the democratic system in this country.

Whilst on the Suffolk County Council, the Labour opposition are well organised, highly motivated as so are holding the Tory Council to account in Ipswich the Tories (and their former Lib Dem partners) are just an embarrassment at times, group discipline is certainly not something they know about and there seems to be as many factions as there are Tory councillors. The Lib Dems just seem to spend all their time attempting to erase from history that they used to help run the council and agreed to building on the Northern Fringe. This week we had a Lib Dem complaining that they no longer have a group room. Forgetting to mention that she was on the executive when they came up with the plan to get rid of group rooms!
We would welcome not only a strong opposition but councillors who would like to get involved in working groups, task and finish groups, but the Tories seem to think being in opposition just gives them an excuse to turn up for Full council and that is about it. This week a Housing Working Group was marked again by the absence of Tory members.

Where we would welcome strong opposition, the Suffolk Tories fear it and more decision will be taken by the executive as they fear that their own County Councillors may fail to turn up to vote in the meeting. A recent Tory Cabinet meeting saw almost the whole Labour Group in attendance- striking more fear into Mr Bee.

But there are examples of councils being scared of democracy beyond Suffolk, this week in Kent the Tory Council published a report on the effects that welfare changes are having on Kent residents. The Tory leader, Cllr Carter had signed the report but obviously had not read it till it was on line. The report stated that welfare changes were leading to more homelessness, more crime and more people using foodbanks.

No wonder the Tories quickly ordered the report to be removed; unfortunately a local Kent Paper made a copy before they took it down. Maybe Kent County Council should be with Tory run Suffolk. Read details on the report here.

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