By Michael Casey
BLESS ME father, it has now been four years and one week that I have been attending Thurrock Council meetings. Last night’s meeting was the most incoherent, directionless, unprofessional, self-satisfied that I have witnessed.
It is clear that many of the Labour Portfolio Holders simply do not know their briefs. It was clear in July and it is even more embarassingly apparent now. Question after question from the Tories are followed by: “Erm, I’ll get back to you”. Not for £20k a year you don’t, not in the public arena you don’t.
What is interesting is that Leader of the Council, John Kent cut something of a peripheral figure. Perhaps John understands that his once a month meeting is a fop to democracy. Let Gerard Rice slag off hard working police officers; let Yash Gupta look totally lost answering a perfectly reasonable question on incentives to use other forms of transport; let Lyn Worall take everything too personally.
What was also mystifying was the total total absence of debate at the meeting. The seismic decision to “absorb’ the Development Corporation went without one word. What debate occurred was faltering, mis-informed, directionless and frankly lamentable.
Last week, many council employees had letters arrive through the post or on their desk letting them know that there job is at risk. It is at such time that you would have thought that group leaders would have gathered the troops around and said: “We really really need to raise our game and give the public absolute value for money.”
But what appears to be the case is that there is an institutional malaise that fails to recognise this. Not one councillor attended the VJ commemorations at Purfleet recently, Val Morris-Cooks appeal for councillors to support the arts fell on deaf ears.
It is clear that the majority are simply out of their depth. Good people (mostly) but have it neither in their DNA nor the will-power to raise the game to face the challenges that the horrendous cuts will produce. They just about cut it in the good times but last night proved that (as a group and with some noted individuals exempt) way way out of their depth.
My advice is that Thurrock councilors need to move to Harlow. Two newspapers have closed down in the last year and the one left does not attend council meetings due to an overtime ban. Instead, the paper rings the respective leaders up on a Thursday and asks; “What happened last night”. To which leader spins and they publish.
Finally, I want to re-iterate that this would not be written in the good times and in many ways, this is written on behalf of the people who face redundancy, face having their house repossessed, face the bailiffs letter, face losing everything they worked for for twenty years.
Rotten borough? A bit harsh. A Parish Council punching above its weight? Perhaps. Worth £500,000 a year of your money. You decide?