Pack a CBC Cabinet agenda [pdf] with the A-Z of current issues in Sunny Colch and don’t be surprised if The Chronic loses interest before the toilet break.
And so the November Cabinet meeting in the Grand Jury Room on Wednesday evening kept out attention for the first three hours.
With a school day the next morning we made the strategic move of buggering off back to ‘fashionable Hackney.’
Our muse is BLOODY HARD WORK, innit pic.twitter.com/g2lpTjU1LA
— Colchester Chronicle (@ColchChronic) November 21, 2018
That was an agenda and a half.
As ever, Have Your Say ate into most of the time. The Little People eyeballing the Overlords of the Borough took up the first hour.
We then had the individual agenda items with a supplementary Have Your Say specific to each item bolted on to the front.
A half decent line on the Bloody Garden Villages was delivered by resident Neil who was Having His Say:
“Put North Essex Garden Communities on garden leave”
Cultural Quarter St Botolph’s Quarter was addressed next.
All round Colchester good egg Dorian Kelly Had His Say.
His concern was that the agenda item to offer the lease to the developer Alumno *might* pre-determine the decision of the Planning Committee.
It was a good point, and well made.
Why would you give a developer a lease, only then to refuse them planning permission?
LibDem Cabinet member Cllr Dave King responded by stating that this was “normal practise.”
We have been impressed with Cllr King in his first six months as both a Cllr and a Cabinet member.
It became clear throughout the evening that his role is to reduce any opposition into submission by boredom.
Harsh, but fair.
It was back to the Bloody Garden Villages with Rosie Pearson from the Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex:
“Why are you giving a vehicle £100,000 when they have nothing to deliver?”
That’s a little harsh as well.
NEGC has delivered a half-baked idea.
So what if it is officially ‘unsound?’
If you were to put a price on some of the ideas coming out of Cabinet of late then the borough would be bankrupt.
Pre-empting comments made later in the evening by CBC Leader Cllr Mark Cory, Rosie added:
“NEGC should not receive another penny of our money until there is a response from the Inspector.”
Resident Helen chipped in with her Have Your Say contribution:
“To propose more money to NEGC makes you look stupid.”
To be fair this isn’t the only Cabinet policy that achieves this aim.
Mersea stalwart John Acker was lined up next asking his usual questions about the over-development of the island.
Deputy Leader Cllr Tim Young had a pre-prepared line to shut down the debate:
“You have bought your questions to the wrong forum. Bring them to the Local Plan Committee.”
Which must mean that anytime Cabinet conversation strays to the party political – which it invariably does – then Opposition Cllr’s can tell them to take their beef to the big boys at Westminster.
We then had the awkward moment of Sir Bob of Sunny Colch playing out his now monthly public fall out with his fellow LibDem party members in public.
The ‘apolitical’ High Steward claimed that giving a lease to Alumno will prejudice the planning process.
This was the signal for Cllr King to be activated and sent into drone mode.
Sir Bob listened, twiddled his thumbs and then came back with:
“I speak from a lot of experience. I haven’t been on this Council for just six months.”
Plus Cabinet is never complete these days without a little local Labour party Civil War breaking out.
Party member Alan Short dropped a few stink bombs on the Labour Group policy of building student flats in a Cultural Quarter:
“I’m all in favour of openness. There have been seven meetings with the developer that have not been minuted.”
A rare interjection from CBC Chief Executive Adrian Pritchard raised more questions than answers:
“This doesn’t apply to this project.”
Meanwhile Conservative Leader Cllr Darius Laws was sat listening and licking his licks at the current state of the two ‘progressive alliance’ parties and their internal struggles.
The final Have Your Say speaker was Cllr Gerrard Oxford, ‘Leader’ [STOP IT] of the Highwoods Indies.
He praised the alliance that has given his family a Cabinet seat (and salary) for the wonderful Pravda piece of Propaganda that is the £50,000 Centurion newsletter.
Well done you.
— benlocker (@benlocker) November 21, 2018
On to the main agenda items.
The Strategic Plan Spending Priorities was only livened up by the appearance of ex-Tory Leader Cllr Dennis Willetts.
Cabinet has a soft spot for Cllr Willetts. They won’t admit to this, but their eyes do light up each time he strolls up to the top table.
“Your radical one year plan has morphed from Key Strategic Targets into minor projects. There has been a scaling back of the plan that you originally addressed.”
We’ve always got praise for any politician who manages to work the phrase ‘canter’ into his argument – although we confess that we mis-heard it at first…
Cllr Willetts got a little over-excited by declaring:
“The town is overrun by London drug dealers. I don’t know if this is true but I read about it in the local newspaper.”
Which led to a cautious warning from the ever-cautious Cllr Cory to basically watch his mouth.
Another soundbite from Cllr Willetts was that the Northern Gateway “is a field.”
That will be a FIELD OF DREAMS in years to come, fella.
It was predictable that the ‘progressive alliance’ played the ECC blame card for restricting their ambitions:
“ECC has held up our High Street pedestrianisation plans before”
…said Cllr Cory.
“We hope to get their support on these plans.”
The Strategic Plan Spending Priorities was agreed – and probably behind closed doors earlier in the evening, if truth be told.
Next up was the 2019-20 Revenue Budget, Fees and Charges and Reserves.
Dull, but basically an exercise in itemising every service that CBC is able to offer.
This includes waxing your bikini line.
We know which Cabinet member we wouldn’t trust to carry this out on The Chronic’s short and curlies.
Tory Cllr Lewis Barber showed his True Blue colours by allowing his rant at Cabinet to be dominated by business and not community.
Expect Cllr Barber to be in control of the borough’s finances if his Conservative Group is able to pull back one more seat next May.
The item was agreed, leading to North Essex Garden Communities Ltd – Shareholder Approvals and Updates being discussed.
Basically this is the ‘unsound’ NEGC coming back begging for more money to spend on spin and PR – £100,000 from all four participating councils to be precise.
You can seen how this has pissed off residents living in a borough that is officially at ‘breaking point.’
Resident Paul Griffiths asked Cllr Tim Young not to vote on the issue as he is a Director. of NEGC.
Turkey, Christmas etc.
Cllr Young added a little clarification from his inside knowledge:
“There is not direct democracy within NEGC. But all Directors are elected Cllr’s.”
Why do residents keep on electing Cllr’s that then vote for NEGC to hoover up public funds?
The turning point of the evening came from Cllr Cory. He declared his caveat that he has managed to negotiate with the other three councils.
The £100,000 contribution from each local authority won’t be paid until that nice government Inspector has reported back on the latest update to the ‘unsound’ plans.’
He’s quite a PLAYER, Cllr Cory.
He’s also up for election in Wivenhoe next May…
The announcement took the wind out of the sails of the Cllr’s who had signed up to Have Their Say on the £100,000.
Tory Leader Cllr Darius Laws praised the decision; Cllr Willetts lost us a little with his speech on ‘optimism bias.’
LibDem Cllr Andrea Luxford-Vaughan then delivered a well-researched contribution. She isn’t afraid of the political pressure trying to push the ‘unsound’ plans through.
Cllr Tim Young let it be known his feelings when he replied:
“I don’t want NEGC to go under by anyone splitting off.”
Once again Cllr Tim Young is a Director of NEGC.
He then pleaded with Cllr Luxford-Vaughan to “listen to her LibDem group.”
Unlike Cllr Young, Cllr Luxford Vaughan would rather listen to her residents.
The agenda item was agreed – with the Cory Caveat of withholding the money, for now.
And that was more or less it for The Chronic.
We had a genuine school day in the morning and so did the disappearing act.