At the previous council meeting there was nothing much to discuss or vote on. The other night was different – we had the big subjects of Essex devolution and the Local plan. The R4U team took the centre seats at the front of the chamber while the Tory boys sat in the back row. Yes, they are mostly men and I don’t recall any female voices from the nether regions. A refreshing exception was Conservative Cllr Tina Knight sitting up front, and who did not allow any nonsense to go unchallenged. In contrast to the Conservatives, R4U has a majority of women UDC councillors.
Our R4U team operated as an effective opposition. We were the ones asking the difficult questions, one after another. We twice had cabinet members paralysed into silence on matters they should be expert on, we had the legal officer on his feet justifying (I think?) the council leader setting us on a devolution process with 15 other councils without democratic mandate, and Conservatives from the back trying to help the council leader. That is until Tina Knight amused the chamber by asking if the real Howard Rolfe could speak.
I spoke for the first time in a full council meeting. It is more formal than the committee meetings. My theme was the lack of substance on devolution – a presentation for councillors a few weeks ago was management speak gush – and I requested that the forthcoming follow up contain facts, figures and specific examples.
There was a fuss over R4U pointing out that the key consultation document for the Local Plan is impenetrable. What’s the point of bringing an important document to the council to be voted on, and then bulldozing it through the vote regardless of criticism from all round asking for it to be improved?
R4U showed its teeth on behalf of residents. Quite enjoyed it.