Culture portfolio holder: “We are all in this together”

THERE were times last night when you wanted to watch the performance of Community, Culture and Leisure portfolio holder Lynn Worrall through the fingers of your hands and there were other times you wanted to applaud her for her warmth and genuine enthusiasm.

Speaking at Wednesday (20 October) night’s meeting of Thurrock Council, Cllr Worrall explained that most of the areas covered by her cabinet responsibilities were not statutory services.

She said: “I am very aware that much of what is in my portfolio is not statutory in the way that other services like child protection and waste collection are. This does not mean, however, that these services are unimportant. What it does mean is that we need to carefully think about what choices we make in these tough times.

“It means we must look at how we can work with our communities and see what can be done more by them. We, as elected Councillors, need to think about helping our communities to help themselves when this is possible.

“My services make a real difference to the quality of life of our residents, they are all about what makes life worth living.

“Before I go through the service highlights I would like to ask all of you to think more about how you, as Councillors, can be more involved with this portfolio. The Big Society means us.”

Cllr Worrall said that libraries were “by far the largest part of my portfolio” and how they have “become much more than the place you visit to pick up your books”.

“They help people help themselves,” she said adding that Corringham Library’s visitor numbers have increased dramatically since its refurbishment and that it now issues more adult fiction than Grays.

She also focused on the council’s Home link service which delivers books to the homes of people who are unable to physically get to the library themselves, calling on people to volunteer to help.

Cllr Worrall also spoke about the Thameside Theatre — especially the panto and the Diwali festival which will be held on the evening of 20 November; sports and leisure and Thurrock’s role in the 2012 Olympics; and community development and community engagement.

She also spoke of the future for her portfolio, saying: “I know all councillors are aware of the budget proposals for all services. I would welcome any suggestions that help us in these challenging times. The proposals under consideration are ones that need your views.”

The Tories were less impressed with cllr Worrall’s performance but found themselves outmanoevured by Labour as they got their questions to Lynn in first and made appropriate prompts where necessary.

The Tories criticised her for reading from a script and simply providing a narrative. Cllr Barry Johnson’s indignation regarding T-Fest has already been documented. Cllr Johnson and council officers also looked surprise as T-Fest was described as “a private venture”. So did the news that Impulse Leisure may face cuts of 50%.

But there can be no doubt of Cllr Worrall’s commmitment and enthusiasm. There have been criticisms of the Portfolio Holder’s presentations but Cllr Worrall will have gained a remarkable degree of confidence from her marathon session and may well look back on it as a turning point in her political career.

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