Monday, July 17, 2006

Cabinet Meeting/ Budapest symposium

The Tory minority administration in Merton tonight approved adding the Merton Borough Conservative election manifesto title ‘Putting you First’ as the new council strapline to go alongside the Merton Council logo. However, in what seemed to be a change of view since last weeks Council meeting, they are thinking of using other straplines like ‘Working for you’, they believe it is consistent with ‘Putting you first’. I suppose if the branding gets the inevitable bad press, it will be quietly dropped and another u-turn enacted like their plan to change the Borough name to Wimbledon (hastily abandoned following a barrage of bad press). From what has been reported, it is clear that little research has been done into adopting this phrase and it is blatantly political.

The cabinet passed the delegation of responsibilities paper for the Cabinet Member for Environment and Traffic Management. This delegates responsibilities to the Chief Executive if the Cabinet member is unable to act through absence, or has a conflict of interest. If Tariq gets selected in the Tory marginal of Hove tomorrow, the Chief Executive might be using this power a great deal (a way out of difficult decisions for Tariq??) his absence could become a regular occurrence given that Hove is a marginal seat with a Labour majority of just over 400. Anyway, being the charitable person I am, I wish Tariq good luck with the selection tomorrow. With him being one of the ‘big’ Tory hitters in the cabinet, we may be shortly seeing a great deal less of him in Merton if he wins in Hove.

In terms of the other issues at Cabinet, it has been decided to put an extra £180,000 into Environmental Services. Originally the money was to have come from parking income, when the potential illegality of this was pointed out the recommendation was hastily amended to ‘debt recovery’ and other ‘efficiencies’. In their haste to get the resources agreed, it seemed they failed to check out the relevant legislation, as parking income surplus can only be spent on ‘proscribed areas’ and it seems this does not fall under this criteria. Some of their financial proposals seem to be speculative, and it is also clear that doubt needs to be cast on their ability to get the extra resources from ‘debt recovery’. Apparently, they also have more schemes lined up for this financial year. They also claimed to have evaluated various other options, though clearly it was done in secret and this seems to be another back of an envelope job given that the current proposals were only published on Friday.

Many other topics were discussed at Cabinet, they mainly went through on the nod though concern was expressed by my colleague Nick Draper in relation to the re-direction of S106 money (planning gain money) from Colliers Wood to help fund the CCTV going digital at Crown House(Merton Council's HQ in Morden).

David Williams mentioned my trip to Budapest for a Department of Communities and Local Government symposium. This should be a very useful event and will include issues like E-Government. I believe this trip will greatly assist in finding out more information about on-going developments in local government, but it should also be useful to my new position as Chair of the Way we Work panel. I will of course share the information from the Conference with other councillors who may be interested in this area.

The invitation arose out of the development of this blog, which apart from my political statements and my views on the Tory minority administration, also gives details of my activities as a Pollards Hill councillor. At times it also involves reporting on the more serious issues in my ward, including in the last few days the tragic murder of Egeli Rasta. Many councillors across the country are developing blogs and they are useful tool for communicating, even if the content is not liked in certain quarters, but that is democracy in action. I have to say setting up a councillor website has no appeal to me, and I believe that blogging is a far more effective method of trying to communicate. Hopefully, a few more Merton councillors will start blogging soon; it would be interesting to see a Tory Merton blog.

During the Budapest symposium, I hope to be able to give a full report on the blog about my activities.

I am sure most Merton Tories hope it will be a one-way trip to Budapest, but they will not get rid of me that easily.


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