by Alan Dean on 26 February, 2018
Consensus or conflict? Take your pick from last Thursday’s Full Council Meeting at Uttlesford.
There was near unanimity on the budget for 2018/19. A 2.99% council tax (CT) rise was agreed with little dissent, though I did tell the finance portfolio holder (who agreed) that there needs to be a clearer explanation, perhaps pictorially, of why CT should rise to offset massive cuts in central government funding to all councils. The Lib Dems were pleased that the Tory administration had accepted their proposal of last year to boost funding to pay for more Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs). £37,000 has been added to the budget for the next five years. Parish and town councils will need to get together and match fund UDC’s money if it is going to work. It looks like Stansted Parish Council will make the grade in cooperation with Elsenham and Henham parish councils. Other places are considering the same. The Lib Dems issued a press release on PCSOs this morning.
So endeth consensus.
Despite the importance of setting the annual budget, the big issue of the evening was a motion to remove the Chairman of the Standards Committee for remarks made in two radio interviews about the goings on in January at a charitable fundraising event at London’s Dorchester Hotel. The motion from the Conservative Leader of the Council, Howard Rolfe, is here at item 25 of the meeting agenda. I seconded the motion, in part to demonstrate that this was not a party-political item, but rather one in support of the all-party standards process and code of conduct that underpins elected members’ behaviour. This is what I said in seconding the motion.
It was disappointing to me that the matter could not have been resolved without the need to sack in a very public way my old friend Tina Knight. I (and I think a significant majority of the council and public present) was deeply disappointed with the antics of the Residents for Uttlesford Group. They appeared to be more interested in grandstanding over a motion about an Equalities Committee taken as is normal at the end of the meeting. Extraordinarily, they sat on their hands (they abstained) when it came to the vote on the motion that included the following fundamental principles of public life:
“Uttlesford District Council affirms its belief that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, whether in the workplace or beyond, which includes not being subject to harassment.
“The Council notes the wide definition of harassment contained in the Equality Act, 2010, which includes unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for a person or violating their dignity.”
Apparently R4U members were upset that some people had said their party was behind the very public and widespread reaction against Cllr Knight’s radio remarks. I would say that affirming one’s principle beliefs as a councillor is far more important than hiding them in response to a little misplaced criticism. This raises a fundamental question: What is the point of a party that doesn’t stand firm for what they said they stood for?
Sadly we are left with conflict, not consensus.1 Comment