Actually, that’s not quite true.
To the Old Library! …on Wednesday blah blah blah.
Best not get a fine. Or even caught chatting up the Librarian / CBC Cabinet member that makes The Chronic *swoon* and go weak at the knees.
We never could resist a man in Armani. Arf.
But why the chuffers were the great and good and The Chronic gathered in the Old Library and not in the Grand Jury Room?
Not confirmed, but we did hear a whisper about a commercial corporate function – which was a reverse ferret of sorts in the scheduling department, seeing as though Cabinet would later be discussing pimping out the Old Library to outside interests.
With an agenda pack that could pass off as an Amazonian rain forest, there was always the danger that this could be a HEFTY meeting. But as is the case with all Cabinet meetings – both in Sunny Colch and across the Town Hall throughout #localgov – the divvying up of the dirty work had already been carried out behind closed doors.
The role of Cabinet is to invite in the Little People / Customers to observe democracy, before Cabinet unanimously agrees every agenda item in less time than it takes to carry the HEFTY agenda pack from the back of the room to the top table.
Which is a shame, seeing as though some incredibly important decisions have to be taken that will deeply impact upon the lives of some of the Little People / Customers of Sunny Colch.
Take the Fundamental Service Review.
This is basically all about the way in which CBC goes about engaging [URGH] with the Little People / Customers. The move is towards the modern interweb – a cost-cutting development, but also a case that is difficult to argue against when it comes to how most people choose to oransise their lives.
But for every click of a mouse there is a possible job cut.
Addressing Cabinet about the Review was a representative from Unison:
“We need to get this right first time. Council staff have a low level of confidence in CBC for delivering. The concern is that the model is not commercially viable.”
The thinking here is that if successful, the free market will be on the radar of CBC, keen to sell on it’s expertise in dealing with the Little People / Customers to the private sector.
In a rare intervention at Cabinet, the mild man of Colchester Borough Council spoke out. Chief Executive Adrian Pritchard addressed Cabinet:
“We are as concerned as anyone to get this right. Change is inevitable – we have got to embrace it. We are not trying to sell on this model. If it happens then it is a bonus.”
Speaking of rare interventions, it was left to those free market loving Colchester Conservatives to try and put an ever so slight touch on the brakes as the rampant move towards a lean and mean customer service division sped through Cabinet.
Cllr Kevin Bentley observed:
“We would welcome more detail. We would also welcome if the report would use the proper English language. This is a public document and the public should be able to understand it. Do we have customers? If you mean Council Tax payers, then people aren’t customers as they don’t have a choice.”
Um, Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay, as The Chronic was keen to chant back in the day, Comrade.
But cometh the hour, cometh the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for… Customers.
Cllr Beverley Oxford declared:
“This is not a reason to get rid of staff. They are very dedicated. We don’t want to lose them.”
And just to prove that even a fag paper would be considered slightly too thick to divide the centre ground that comprises the real power base of Colchester politics, Cllr Tim Young, the Leader of the local Labour party added:
“The whole administration is behind the Fundamental Services Review. We regret any loss of jobs, but we will work with the trade unions.”
Done deal – Cabinet agreed.
The Revenue Budget Forecast was next up for consideration.
It doesn’t get any SEXIER than this, Comrades.
Cllr Paul Smith, the Portfolio Holder for Grubby Fivers opened the ‘debate’:
“This is the first year for a few years where we are actually seeing some growth. We are helping to build up Colchester with schemes such as Food Waste and Affordable Housing. Our Olympic legacy [URGH] is the capital funding for the outdoor gym at Castle Park.”
Not quite cutting a Gym Bunny physique, the Portfolio Holder for Grubby Fivers clearly holds some muscle. Cabinet agreed to accept the report being considered.
It was around this point in the November Cabinet chin wag that the Chronic clocked the clock, realising that the pace of change in Sunny Colch might be a little… progressive. A wheelbarrow of an agenda pack, yet Cabinet seemed keen to catch the start of I’m a Celebrity.
Council Tax came up next.
Power to the politicians, etc – especially so those up the political food chain. If the CBC Cabinet is living the high life dining out daily at Clown’s along the High Street, Sir Bob of Sunny Colch and his coalition Westminster pals are probably devouring a pig’s head for breakfast.
When Westminster said jump – you say how high?
Which is why the changes to Council Tax were once again unanimously agreed by the CBC Cabinet. A slight Sunny Colch hyperlocal twist was introduced. Cllr Smith confirmed that anyone coming off benefits and entering the employment market would receive a period of grace in which to adjust.
Love me I’m a Liberal, etc.
Nice touch though.
The same could be said for Cllr Young’s not at all tribal intervention to support his LibLab Cabinet colleague:
“Cllr Smith always does a good job of demolishing national government policy.”
Moving on and we’d love to blog more about the proposed new supermarket along Gosbecks Road. This is all subject to Cabinet confidentiality however.
Needless to say that whatever it was that was being agreed was AGREED.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the meeting [seriously] was the future use of the old Magistrates Court deep down below at the Town Hall, as well as the Old Library itself. Oh the irony in Cabinet discussing how to pimp out a public space that is no longer needed when it… is being used for a Cabinet meeting.
But you get the point, Comrades.
Two commercial offers have been received for the otherwise empty spaces. CBC is keen to issue a fourteen-year list, with a view to add a seven-year extension as and when required.
Local business in the area needs to benefit from any tenant. Don’t expect a branch of TK Maxx to be opening in the Town Hall anytime soon.
Commercial confidentiality [y'know - the sort that made a bit of a balls up over Tymperleys] once again ruled the day. A bistro (GREASY SPOON) for the Old Library was floated.
Cllr Martin Hunt made a telling contribution:
“This is the civic centre and central point for local government in Colchester. Initially I was very angry that this might be turned into something that isn’t suitable. I am now convinced that this space needs to be used. We can’t afford for it to be sitting empty.”
Good point, well made.
Housing and the Strategic Tenancy Strategy was AGREED by Cabinet before we even had the chance to tweet about it, let alone bash out a blog post.
Cllr Young stated:
“The Commissioner has got a huge budget to control. It is his job to appoint a new Chief Constable for Essex. The Panel can query and scrutinise.”
‘cos the PCC is most definitely *not* a political position, Comrades.
The final act of Cabinet was to come up with a new Deputy Mayor for the civic year ahead.
Cllr Colin Sykes, the current Deputy added:
“I am delighted to support this move.”
Last person to leave the library, etc.