Thursday 15 May 2008

Full Council

I ended up keeping a fairly low profile at Council, asking a question regarding provision of crossing patrollers and giving my support to a motion on heart screening for amateur athletes. The mosquito device motion unfortunately fell off the end of the agenda, along with other SNP motions on Steven Purcell's support for the independence question being asked and the 10p tax rate. I was disappointed not to have been able to raise the issue, but I will bring it back if I can.

On crossing patrollers, I was asking whether the Executive Member for Land and Environment, Ruth Simpson (my Labour ward colleague) thought that there should be crossing patrollers on busy city roads. I knew already that the Council policy at present is against having crossing patrollers where there is also a pedestrian controlled crossing in place, except in exceptional circumstances. I know that the Council has had problems in recruiting and retaining crossing patrol staff, but I also feel strongly that where there is a primary school next to a main road like the Gallowgate, there should be a crossing patrol also in place. The answer I got didn't suggest that there would be any change, but I intend to keep looking into the issue and will blog more on it also.

The rest of the Council meeting seemed to be taken over by football (Tommy Burns, Rangers and Phil O'Donnell), but there was some good debate on the natural disasters in Burma and China, nursery education (which I personally didn't go through as a child, so always find slightly intriguing) and a principled debate about victims of miscarriages of justice. I have a sneaking suspicion of some filibustering going on, and there was certainly no acceptance from Labour of Cllr Mackay's suggestion for a suspension of standing orders so we could complete the agenda.

It seems sometimes that there's not enough public debate; we only have full Council (the plenary session of the Council) every six weeks, and Labour still said several times today that the things other parties had raised were not appropriate for full Council. A lot of what we do in the Council is not visible or easily accessible to the public, but it affects everyone in this city. I don't know what the solution is, and perhaps it's also about apathy and getting decent standards of coverage for all levels of politics in the media. Suggestions on a postcard please...


RfS said...

To me your report on the council suggests that the Council is debating things outside of its remit.

Ranger - OK it is topical given the violence, Phil and Tommy fine as one is very topical and the other relates to the athlete screening program (although that is a national policy so maybe slightly outside the remit). But China and Burma? I find it hard to see what good will come of GCC debating this. If the council are sending workers to China to help then fine but we all know that they cannot be sending them to Burma. Yes they are tragic but they also do not affect the day-to-day lives of the people of Glasgow (as brutal as that sounds).

Again - the 10p tax rate...This is not something that the council has control over so I don't see the point of tabling the motion.

Nurseries and crossing patrols are solid subjects but miscarraiges of justice?

I would judge what is to be debated on the basis of "if this debate went to a yes or no vote would the outcome affect the life of a decent chunk of the people of Glasgow". I would say that only two things you report here would.

Anonymous said...

I gotta add that it seems to me that a lot of this has nothing to do with core council business (but you do say that you suspected filibustering was going on):

"The rest of the Council meeting seemed to be taken over by football (Tommy Burns, Rangers and Phil O'Donnell), but there was some good debate on the natural disasters in Burma and China, nursery education (which I personally didn't go through as a child, so always find slightly intriguing) and a principled debate about victims of miscarriages of justice."

Jeff said...

I was going to leave a comment asking why Steven Purcell's comments on independence would be a cause for council discussion.

But I see my overall point has been made for me. Twice.

Anonymous said...

The 10p tax rate has bugger all to do with your council, and your coucil is not doing a good enough job as it is to be wasting time on such self serving nonsense.

You have four basic functions to perform: collect household rubbish, mend the roads, police the city, and maintain the sewers. Frankly you don't impress on any of them.

They are also probably not why you got into politcs but nobody forced you to stand for the council, but you did and we expect you to do your job and not some other job you would prefer. If you don't like it resign.

So my message as your employer is simple - button up and fly right!

Anonymous said...

I've been in plenty of meetings; good and bad...

Seems your main problem is time.

I suggest this approach:

Schedule regular meetings with heads of depts to debate issues prior to the full Council meet. Especially whoever is in charge of Finance! You might be able to change views or win allies to your position. If not, at least you should have the Council view and work out ways around it before bringing the point to the full Council.

Try and see if the full Council will agree to a set agenda. However sets the agenda may want to ask councillors if they have any points to bring forward before writing the agenda.

Any Other Business should always be last item and the Agenda should be strictly followed. If the head isnt too great at maintaining order give loud pointers like ' OK We've covered that for now. We may need to come back to it. ' and force his / her hand.

Have the minutes of the last meeting forwarded to each councillor well in advance, so that any corrections can be agreed before the next full Council meet. This should cut down the time of any review of the last minutes the Council does. Perhaps individual progress reports could be done outside the full Council meet?

RfS said...

Um, you OK there Alison? I hope whatever was trying to steal your voice has not laid you low.

Keep posting - we need to know what the last bastion of Old Labour are up to in this fair city.

BellgroveBelle said...

Thanks for all the comments. RFS - I'm fine, thank you. Hope things are good with you.

I would agree that full Council is a different from the day-to-day work of the Council. It's like a bit of show. We can debate anything, so we do. However, like the Parliament, a good deal of work goes on in the committees of the Council, rather than in the chamber every six weeks.

To anonymous #1... I like my job, and I'm trying to do my best. I report issues like dumped rubbish on an almost daily basis, as well as answering complaints from constituents on a variety of issues.

Anonymous #2 - meetings with officers do go on behind the scenes, and are generally pretty productive. As regards full Council, there are ways of improving things and speeding up debate, and some of this has already been done by shortening the length of time people can speak in a debate. It's up to the Lord Provost to keep time and call speakers.

The minutes of all committees held in the six week period between full Council meetings are approved at the full Council. Councillors are permitted to ask questions of them. They aren't verbatim minutes by the way, I've got a bit of a grump about how meetings are recorded.