IT was supposed to be the climax to the civic year. The full council met last night before going away to fight the local and the national elections. Everything seemed to be going quite smoothly. The Tories scored some good points on Veoila backing down and Cllrs Gledhill and Rockcliffe fired a few missiles back at Cllr Carl Morris regarding the cost of the Dartford Crossing and the consequences in the funding for the Tilbury Ferry. Labour leader John Kent pulled a procedural flanker which saw Labour Cllr Diana Hale installed as Chair of Children Services Committee and once again raised the question of whether council leader Garry Hague was in office but not in power.
But it was when it came to the motions that things got messy. It looked as if all eight councillors that were retiring were going to make valedictory speeches and some colleagues were also going to laud them but the more it went on, you started to think, was the Labour group attempting to prevent the next motion on adult social care being discussed. This was clearly getting under the skin of Deputy Leader Amanda Arnold who, before Chadwell Cllr Marion Canavan could speak, proposed that the speeches stop so that a “vital piece of legislation that could cost the taxpayers £250,000 could be discussed”.
Labour cried shame and after a period of time, her calls were over-ruled. Cllr Canavan stood and clearly upset uttered the words: “That is why I am glad to be leaving”
The question is, was her comments directed over her own group, who it appeared were prepared to manipulate the farewell speeches of members, some of whom are gravely ill or was it Cllr Arnold, who, some felt misjudged the moment and out of purely selfish ambitious reasons left a colleague, near to tears.
Whatever it does, it leaves a shadow over the council. It may be symptomatic of the problems of a minority administration. Maybe the electorate on May 6th can help them out on this one.