Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Art of Rubber Stamping - A Barnet Masterclass

Last night at the Cabinet Resources Committee we saw world class exponents of rubber stamping in action. With 17 items on the agenda and 155 pages of papers the sense of urgency was apparent from the start. Councillor Coleman shifted uneasily looking at his watch. I couldn’t sure but was he whispering “agreed” over and over again?

The meeting kicked off at a very brisk pace, Cllr Thomas using all his efforts to break the previous record of finishing the meeting in 22 minutes or less.

Oh Oh! First problem. Awkward resident wants to ask some questions. I appreciated Cllr Coleman’s genuine comments concerning my injuries as I hobbled to the microphone. Now Cllr Thomas runs a tight ship at CRC, so with good planning they had prepared answers in advance, alleviating the need to read out either the questions or the answers. Any supplementary questions? Mr Reasonable also likes to plan in advance so I duly read out my supplementaries. Not much point though. A slightly indignant Cllr Cornelius denying that the £1.7 million being spent at Hendon Cemetery was because of three years inaction. Well you commissioned consultants to undertake an option appraisal in 2008 so that looks like three years inaction to me. Leisure contract supplementary questions sidestepped by Cllr Rams.

Well that had caused a slight delay in proceedings. The 22 minute deadline looked lost. Ok next target looked like 30 minutes. Off they set running through the agenda items. 1 minute for each and they could all be out by 7.30pm.

Allotments was dealt with by Cllr Coleman, dismissing Cllr Thomas’s request to include fences to the responsibility of allotment holders. Mill Hill sports ground pinched to be used for new schools; Agreed! Cllr Harper spoke for at least 2 minutes on the new school places that will be created. Could he be jeopardising the chances of hitting the 30 minute barrier. Agreed Agreed!

Cllr Harper talked about early intervention and prevention commissioned contracts. Cllr Cornelius said that he could now understand what he was voting for but that the papers should have been written in plain English. Another couple of minutes closer to the deadline.

When we get to the item on Hendon cemetery Cllr Thomas had barely paused for breath before Cllr Coleman was shouting agreed, agreed. Three seconds for that agenda item. Could this be a personal best for Cllr Coleman!

Leisure contract item and Cllr Rams was about to start talking but the scowls from other committee members cut him dead. Any questions? No. Agreed!

We came to an item introduced by Cllr Rajput. He started talking but Cllr Coleman was still gently mouthing agreed, agreed. The 30 minute deadline was now starting to look tight. A couple of items now seemed to get Cllr Coleman to speak up. Clearly the 30 minute target was a goner.

Disabled and vulnerable people’s transport met with Cllr Coleman’s disapproval. If he had his way he would change the law so that Barnet wouldn’t have to provide transport for any of them. He definitely didn’t like the thought of working with London Boroughs of Brent and Hounslow.

Well that was it; the 30 minute deadline missed and still an item to go. A discussion around treasury management. Cllr Thomas reiterates that they have to be ultra careful. Yes we don’t want another Iceland. A question about whether the council has any money in Santander bank – No. What do they know that we don’t.
Time to exclude the public so we are finished and it just coming up to 7.35pm. Definitely missed the qualifying time for the Rubber Stamping Olympics - must be quicker next time.

1 comment:

  1. When considering an item for such a short time there is the very real danger that when you make a point as a Councillor, like doubting Thomas did in relation to wanting to add the word "Fences" into the Heads of Terms on P6 is that and for which he was slapped down by Cllr Coleman "am not changing a single word", is that you don't know what you are on about. Evidently doubting Thomas hasn't read the actual lease which says that the Council will

    "keep and maintain properly in repair; all buildings roads footpaths gates and fences on the Property (including all perimeter and boundary gates and fences where shown marked with a ‘T’ on the Plan)"

    so as it happens both councillors were flailing around needlessly as what doubting Thomas was trying to amend, although he didn't realise it, was the summary presented to the meeting, and Cllr Coleman evidently didn't know it was already in the draft lease.

    Neither councillor thought to ask the acting Head of that Department who was sitting very close to Cllr Coleman, I believe.

    So the public saw a petty squabble by two parties who had no idea what they were squabbling about. Luckily they were in such indecent haste to get off to a candlelit dinner somewhere, that they didn't get their handbags out and start swinging them.

    As a complete aside, we have trouble in our road with a number of tom cats vying for superiority. One old one, rather overweight and a bit tattered looking and the other, young, sleek, fit and testing his strength without starting an actual fight. I have no idea who will win in the end or if one day they will both be gone.

    Anyway, not long later we all had to go home so that the councillors could spend 30 seconds dicussing the exempt reports. True dedication.