Yes, though it’s old news, it is still old news that deserves a second going over.
Having turned the corner onto Norton road, the first impression I got was that the police were expecting a riot.
“Its only a vote of no confidence,” I thought, but was assured that the three police vans were only parked outside the entrance to the Hove Town hall, because there was no of-road parking for the police, now that their old police station on Holland Road, had been sold off and they were forced to share Hove town hall with the civil servants.
At least Katy Bourne fulfilled a promise of more police visibility on the streets, regardless of whether their presence is a facade of not.
My first time at a local council meeting.
OK OK, I admit it, even though I knew Councils often met in meetings, I didn’t realise they were so exciting. I didn’t realise that what goes on at Westminster is repeated through-out the UK in Town Halls, on a regular basis.
“Councillors, Ladies and Gentlemen please be upstanding for prays,” announced
Councillor Denise Cobb, dressed in her ornamental uniform as Mayor, after everyone had settled into their allocated places.
And then we were subjected to a Buddhist sermon based on the teachings of Shanti Devi.
I looked around the public gallery on the upper floor, from which we watched the proceedings with puzzlement. Is this normal?
Evidently not, because after five minutes of Buddhist teachings based on the premise that we should “Always reach out and don’t shut out,” there was sudden silence as the Preacher picked up her notes and retreated from the council’s hall.
I couldn’t help myself but ask the stranger next to me, “Is this normal?” to which the nice young man shrugged his shoulders and replied, “This is my first time as a council meeting, I have no idea.”
“Well its refreshing to see they represent all religions,” I said, “Let’s just hope they don’t do satanism,” to which the nice young man politely agreed, that “it would be a very bad idea indeed.”
(It was later, after the meeting, that the Madam Mayor, Councillor Denise Cobb, explained that the vicar they normally use wasn’t available that night.)
And then, just like in Westminster, the Golden ornamental Rod was brought in and reverently placed on a red velveted custom made cushion.
“Raise the white screen,” someone from the gallery shouting down to Madam Mayor, complaining that the huge white screen, obscured the gigantic mirror across the back wall, reflecting all the councillors, was blocking their view.
Evidently we all wanted to look at Jason Kitcat as the daggers were stabbed into his back and front.
Boring council business ensued.
- Declarations of interests
- 12 December 2013 minutes approved
- Sad news about Chris Cooper, a security guard who suddenly passed away
- Equally sad news that Jim Marshall QPM and Esther recently passed away too
We all stood for a minutes silence, timed on a big red digital display, located to the right of the red velveted cushion which the golden rod laid.
On to a happier note about the Mayors Masquerade Valentine Ball on the 14th February, for more info email the Lady Mayor on firstname.lastname@example.org.
And that’s when I spot my favourite councillor, whom I love to hate, Graham Cox (Simon Kirby’s Fall Guy) smile embarrassingly to the councillors sitting either side of him, as he mops up a spilt glass of water with tissues. This is something I’ll come back too later.
A round of applause erupted from the floor as Jeff Broad walked up to accept an award and get his picture taken, while a resounding boo filled the air when the Madam Mayor told the councillors that the next council meeting would be held at Hove and not Brighton’s Town Hall.
The meeting moved swiftly on towards the main event.
- Written QuestionsCheck out the written questions which I haven’t covered by checking out this link http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000117/M00004705/AI00038243/$Item69MemWrittenQuestions.doc.pdf http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000117/M00004705/AI00038243/$Item69MemWrittenQuestions.doc.pdf
- Public petitions
- A deputation
- Notices of motion
(A word of warning, I may be getting the schedule of events wrong.)
For more information about Jason check this link out- http://www.jasonkitcat.com/about
A planted question.
Mr Tilley comes to the podium and asks, “What were the highlights of last year and what do you plan to do this year?”
As the nice young man sat next to me, explained, this is a classic Westminster play played out at local level, which sees a friend of the person under-fire ask a favourable question, which when answered portrays the person in a favourable light.
I see it all the time when Simon Kirby MP asks a question to David Cameron.
Though before Jason Kitcat answered the question, he cracked a joke about Councillor Janie’s taste in ties, “It is truly epic,” he said, “its brilliant,” before moving swiftly on.
“Thank you for your question Mr Tilley, we have a lot planned ahead, as you know its a difficult time for councils, but we still have big plans to invest in the future of this city, for example-
- The seafront
- Keep up the progress in air quality
- Road Safety (because we know we inherited a very poor record on that)
And may I just interject at this point to remember a chinese student Zhiying He, known as Cecilia, who tragically died on Wednesday 29th January following a collision on Lewes Road, in Brighton.
- Keep up the improvement on school GCSE results
- School expansion
- Keep moving to a more digital working in the council
- Reducing our carbon footstep
- Getting out of King’s House
- Signing the city deal
- Protecting the most vulnerable in our city
- Our proposal for a social care referendum
But finally of-course, I could go on forever but it is the case that three quarters of our manifesto commitments are either done or on course to be completed. I think its a pretty good way of doing things. We were elected on the basis of promises and now we are delivering, thank you.”
A rousing round of applause erupted as he finished, though madam Mayor didn’t look too impressed.
First up was a petition delivered by Beverly Barstow to postpone any enforcement of yellow lines in the Elm Grove Hanover area, until such time that more parking is made available.
The highlights of which were:
- Lack of Leadership
- Lack of a long term plan
- No political will to respond to the public’s needs
- Ruining the community
- Spiteful and vindictive treatment from the council aimed to punish the community
- Felt let down
- Completely lost confidence in the present administration
- “Let us park on the verges”
Again a rousing round of applause which convinced the person sitting behind me that the councillors have reacted favourable, and that their petition has a good chance of succeeding.
Another petition was put forward about the the 20mph, which was about the time an interesting thing happened. Madam Mayor interrupted the proceedings, “Hold at the moment,” she commanded, “you aren’t allowed to take pictures,” with reference to a member of the public taking a picture.
“Yes we are,” replied the person in question, to which Abraham the resident lawyer had to quickly check through the rule book to confirm that “only audio recording is allowed.”
Jason Kitcat got to address this issue during his supplementary question from Mr Tilley, he said “Everyone should be allowed to film and photos, this is one thing I agree with Eric Pickles.”
75(d) Notice of Motion – Motion Of No Confidence In The Leader And His Administration Of Brighton And Hove City Council.
Up steps an Eric Pickles look alike, to fire up the proceeds, Brighton and Hove’s Labour Leader, and man of the hour, Warren Morgan.
Like a softly spoken assassin, Warren Morgan gets on with the main event.
“Up until Thursday 16 January, my view was that it was voters who decided who should run this council, not politicians in back-room deals.
(I chuckled to myself here because he obviously doesn’t know how politics works, considering that the voters certainly never decided who would run the country at the last election, where-as the politicians certainly did decide, during their many secret back-room deals.)
And that the political group with the largest number of councillors had a mandate to run the authority until the next elections. However, it should not be forgotten that the Greens in 2011 won just 1 per cent more of the vote citywide than Labour. With the largest number of seats it was right that they be given a chance to form an administration and implement their manifesto. But having been elected on less than a third of the vote it is right too that they work with opposition parties on major challenges to the council, as with large-scale cuts to our funding and how we set our budget. Their actions, in releasing details of their above-threshold (council tax) rise and referendum plan to the national media and to Green activists around the UK before opposition councillors were consulted demonstrates clearly their intent to put party politics first and good governance second. They put what they thought would benefit the Green Party over what is right for this council and this city. That cannot be allowed to stand. Councillors, once elected, have a basic duty to set a budget and a policy direction for officers to work to.
Until 16 January, officers and opposition groups alike were working on a budget, put forward by the Green administration, based on a 2 per cent rise. Clearly something changed. From the evidence we have it appears likely that the Green left councillors issued the council leader with an ultimatum: ‘referendum or resign’. So it was either an attempt to wrong-foot the opposition, an attempt to keep their warring factions together or an attempt to pass the buck for making cuts. None of these scenarios is one where the council, the city or our residents is put first. It was obvious from the moment the Greens took office that they would need to deal with swingeing cuts imposed by the Conservative government. In three years since, they have not taken steps to prepare this council and this city for those cuts. Many Labour councils have, even at a time of austerity, and even while forced to make cuts every bit as agonising as those in Brighton and Hove, made real progress where they can in improving the lives of their citizens. Faced with the unavoidable reality of cuts, Green councillors have stepped back from hard choices, chosen opposition over administration and walked away from the responsibilities that voters gave them three years ago. Time and time again they have shown that they cannot function as a single group and with this latest action they have shown that they cannot lead the city.
The Greens cannot remain in office without taking the responsibility that comes with it, as they did with the Cityclean dispute last summer. They have framed a budget of cuts which they cannot agree on or support so have handed the decision to opposition councillors or even, should it go to referendum, the residents to vote through. “I say to them you cannot wash your hands of your responsibilities. You cannot use the people of this city to play political games. You cannot pass the cost of Tory cuts on to residents.
Residents of this city want this to stop. They are tired – tired of the division, tired of the games, tired of schemes they don’t support, tired of basic services not being delivered properly. That is why we are moving this motion today, saying to the leader of the council and his committee chairs, stand down, leave office and put your case for re-election to the voters in 450 days’ time.
We propose a cross-party administration, set up under negotiations led by the chief executive, involving a small group of respected members from across all three parties in the chamber to run the city council until those elections are held. It will not be easy. It will require compromises on all sides but it is in the best interests of the city, council services and residents.
The Green administration says, ‘let the people decide.’ Labour members are knocking on doors across the city, from Portslade to Patcham to Rottingdean and everywhere else in between, and let me tell you, the people have decided. Their voice is overwhelming. They want and end to the spin, an end to the political games, an end to the division and an end to this city being a laughing stock. They want the Greens gone. To borrow from Shakespeare, city residents say go, ‘Stand not upon the order of your going, but go at once.’”
Another rousing round of applause.
And then the fun really started.
Before going on further to ridicule Warren Morgan, for moving from “Victor Meldrew to Simon Cowell” for an X Factor selection of a new administration for the remaining 450 days before the next elections.
Former Labour council leader Ken Bodfish accused of him of hypocrisy for proposing the vote of no confidence despite carrying on in the role following similar votes against him in the past.
Conservative councillor and former council leader Mary Mears started of nicely enough by sympathising with Jason Kitcat by saying, “I understand the difficulties of running a council,” but plunged the proverbial knife in with, “But I have to say in all fairness, whether from inexperience or whether from not listening as they should do, this council has come off the rails. The city is not happy. People are saying this council has come off the rails and something needs to be done about it.”
And then Councillor Graham Cox, (“oh here we go,” someone shouted from the public gallery), who I love to hate, confirmed everything I thought of him to be true, with a truly self egotistical speech, “Thank you Madam Major, Um, I had a wonderfully elegant speech (isn’t it up to the listener to decide whether its elegant and not the reader?) I was going to read out but unfortunately councillor Mears has poured water all over it, so um (laughter from the floor) you ‘ll have to get the real thing!”
“Um, the reason I’ve chosen to be on the centre right of politics, is um, actually because left wing ideas, however attractive they may be, always end up with the country going bust and the people that suffer if the country goes bust and the country runs out of money are the poor and vulnerable.
Um, I therefore also with a very very heavy heart, find myself having to support this motion, when I don’t actually want to, because if it was a motion that said, ‘Um, I’ve no confidence in the green administration, and I’ve even less confidence in a potential labour administration, perhaps I’ll be a bit happier.
I obviously can’t have confidence in a green administration that wants to to spend too much money, and if such policies were implemented on a national basis would lead us into the inevitable result which all left wing government’s end up with.
But at least their position is honourable.
They are saying they want to raise taxes in order to support and maintain services, I think often in an inefficient way, but in order to provide and maintain services.
Labour here, just like the Labour government under Gordon Brown, want to provide all of these services and all of these expensive public services but refuse to say how they’ll pay for them, and that’s how we ended up in the mess we are in. Because they wanted to provide over 50% of public services of GDP spent on public services without raising the tax levels to pay for it, which is why we ended up with the biggest peace time deficient of any developed country. And here we see them doing exactly the same.
I have not heard one single positive idea from the labour group in any meeting I’ve ever been to in the three years I’ve been on this council, not one idea how they will reform how its run. The inevitable choice is between being a green party who want to raise taxes, and spend some of it wastefully and a labour party who wouldn’t reform the council at all, which means there would have to be massive massive cuts because they refuse and haven’t got the courage to raise taxes, or a conservative administration that would reform the way that councils is run and the way services are developed, delivered and would freeze council tax.
Its only with a very very heavy heart and those caveats, that I’m willing to support the motion.”
As I said to him when he came out of the chamber all smiles and feeling good about himself, “I can’t believe you voted against your heart on a motion which has no legal baring to anything. God knows how you will vote on a serious life or death matter.”
His smile soon disappeared and he quickly moved away before I could say anymore.
To round this off, here are some quotes which stood out during the proceedings.
“When are we going to get rid of the greens?”
“I think 70% of people will vote against it, £230,000 to make a gesture of politics.”
“We are fed up with the current administration.”
“I must do it, even though I don’t want to, because the public want it.”
“This motion has no legal bidding, so from that point of view, its all a piece of nonsense.”
“Labour only are about the next election.”
“A rather predictable debate.”
The most passionate speech in defence of the Green party policy came from Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty, whose speech you can see, 3 hours, 35 minutes and 4 seconds into proceedings, along with all the others on the Brighton and Hove City Webcasting website here, http://www.brighton-hove.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/122618
The Vote of no Confidence.
At 6.25pm on Thursday 30th January the vote of no confidence in Jason Kitcat’s ability to run the council was counted.
Yes – 29
Abs – 2 (its interesting that a Green councillor abstained)
No – 20
Jason Kitcat is defiant in the face of adversity.
Jason Kitcat, vowed to stay in post regardless of the vote saying, “This is a grubby little motion seeking to distract from the real serious challenges this city faces and belittles this chamber.”
Warren Morgan didn’t look too happy after the vote too. I tried to ask him whether he regretted calling for the motion, in light of the ridicule he got for doing so, but he turned his gaze and made it clear he wouldn’t be discussing anything with me that night.
Brightonian Democracy at it’s best.
All in all, it was a fantastic night of Brightonian politics. I never realised such drama was being played out on a regular basis in town halls across the nation.
The next council meeting about the Budget, will be at Hove Town Hall on Thursday, 27th February, 2014, kicking of at 4.30pm and promises to be a belter.
Come early for a good seat.
Once you file in to find a seat, you’ll be handed a raffle ticket by an elderly man with LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles. This ticket ensures your space in the public gallery and like I said, on Thursday 27th February, it promises to be a belter, so I warn you all to arrive early and get yourself a ticket for the best show in town.
The Best Show in Town.
If you can’t wait until the end of the month for a dose of local democracy, why not sign up to The Big Debate, organised by the Brighton & Hove Independent newspaper on Monday, 10 February 2014 from 19:00 to 21:30 at the Hilton Metropole Hotel in Brighton.
Jason Kitcat & Warren Morgan Part Two.
Follow this link to register- https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-big-debate-tickets-10321097681
Leaving the last words to the man of the hour who proposed the motion, Warren Morgan-
“It’s appropriate that Green members and supporters have been shouting and booing during this debate because under this Green administration the city has become a pantomime with a cast of Green politicians at odds with themselves.
I say pantomime. I could equally say farce.
The farce of voting to cut down a tree, then campaigning to save it.
The farce of attempting to oust their leader, then denying it.
The farce of calling in mediators to keep their squabbling councillors together.
The farce of bins uncollected. The comedy of recycling falling.
The tragedy of housebuilding rates in this city dropping.
And all the while the Green MP (Caroline Lucas) runs on and off stage trying to associate or distance herself with whichever Green council action is in that day’s headlines.
Pantomime, comedy or farce, they are usually funny. Well no one is laughing and no one is enjoying the show except those on the Tory benches hoping that the Green collapse will see them return to office.
It is time for the curtain to come down on this miserable Green performance. The show’s over.”
For a run down of all your councillors in your area, check this useful pfd out.
After-all, they work for you.