|Counting 'On Fingers And Toes' At Budget Meeting|
Local councillor Sam Hearn's blog about his week
Cllr Sam Hearn who represents the Riverside ward in Chiswick, is chairman of the Chiswick Area Forum. He has written this account of his week as a busy local councillor
Friday 19th February: Chasing up a few issues after the Ward AGM. I hear on the grapevine that Cllr Todd may not make it to Tuesday’s Borough Council meeting. He has been leading the detailed work on our response to the Labour Group’s Budget.
Saturday 20th February: Into the Civic Centre to pick up the papers for the Borough Council meeting that I have been looking at on-line. Canvassing and delivering for Zac for a couple of hours in Isleworth. Nice to see Mary Macleod in fine form as well as James Cracknell. I headed off with a delivery team led by Tony Arbour our GLA Member just as more volunteers arrived. Home via a colleague’s house to drop off papers for next week’s meetings.
Sunday 21st February: Sorting out the delivery of Zac’s leaflets in my own Ward. Try to log on to my I-Pad and discover that problems I was experiencing on Friday had not gone away and that once again my password had “dropped out” and that I will have to go into the Civic Centre to be “re-synced”. This is deeply depressing as I have a busy few days ahead of me with little time to spare. I need to follow up on some residents’ enquiries and complaints but will have to find another way of doing this.
Monday 22nd February: Group Meeting at the Civic Centre. We start with a genuinely interesting briefing on the Zac Goldsmith Mayoral Campaign. The main business of the meeting is however how to respond to the Labour Group’s Budget for 2016/17. John Todd has provided us all with detailed briefing notes and suggested options. These annual discussions are always a little artificial. At this stage the ruling group’s budget proposals are pretty well set in stone and we have already poked and probed much of the detail at Scrutiny Committee meetings and the Area Forum and elsewhere. Labour are proposing to keep the council tax at the same level. This is a huge tribute to our pioneering work in the 2006 – 2010. They insist that key council services will not be unduly affected by what is planned. Clearly there was far more “fat” in the system than even we realised.
Tuesday 23rd February: There are no members of the public in the Council Chamber for the Budget meeting. The Labour Group’s Lead Member for Finance assures us (I think a total of four times) that he is “a socialist who can count”. I have never doubted him but assume that he needs to reassure his colleagues who this evening have become his comrades. I am plagued by the weird image of him explaining the budget to his colleagues/comrades. They are in my mind’s eye all sitting around in their bare feet so that they can use their toes as well as their fingers when he explains some of the really big numbers to them. Our counter proposals are practical given the limitations of a budget that “Titanic-like” is ready to be launched down the slipway. We propose reallocating a £1m from a mysterious innovations fund to adult social care and special educational needs. This is rejected with some esoteric flourishes from the Labour Group about decimal points.
Wednesday 24th February: Trying to chase up what can be done about my I-Pad. Hounslow’s new IT Director, Balvinder Haran, is apparently keen to talk to me.Thursday 25th February: Into the Civic Centre to get my council I-Pad re-synced so that I can receive my emails. I was impressed by the way that the new Ms Heran handled my complaint. This makes me a little more hopeful that the Council’s planned expenditure on IT (a massive £20m) will be well spent. I slip into a committee room to observe the deliberations of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. As a regular member of council complaints panels I am interested in the performance update on how LBH handles complaints. It is surprising that there are no statistics on complainants’ satisfaction with how their complaints have been dealt with. A closed case is apparently a good result regardless of how the complainant feels. I duck out and head on to sit in on the Brentford Ward Conservatives AGM. I arrive a little late. Everyone seems in good heart. There are a few new faces which is encouraging. I finished the evening back in my Ward drinking a nice pinot noir at a cosmetics party. I am not quite sure how that happened.
February 26, 2016