Thursday, September 28, 2006

Full Council II

The other issue of note tonight was the shambolic performance put in by the LibDems. Martin Swainston was frankly humiliated as he dared ask only four out of the five questions he had tabled to Bill Dixon about Linden Court (the Council's response to the original Echo story is at http://www.thisisthenortheast.co.uk/search/display.var.936601.0.september_25_2006.php)

We know from elsewhere that uniquely amongst the three main parties, the LibDems will say anything to try and garner a few votes. I'm not sure how Swainston's inept performance over Linden Court will further his cause in Hurworth, however. Appearing to spurn half a million pounds worth of investment in sheltered housing for older people is one thing - to make false allegations about a consultation meeting held by the Council when he himself could only be bothered to stay for 10 minutes at that meeting is quite another. Bill Dixon revealed that after Swainston left, discussion continued, and the residents gave the officer attending a round of applauase at the end. The LibDem story was the worst kind of ambulance chasing, attempting to prey on the fears of some of the most vulnerable members of his community.

To cap it all, during the Pedestrian Heart debate, LibDem councillor Fred Lawton showed his ignorance of basic council standing orders, and so didn't get to table an amendment to Labour's recommendations. The LibDems are a rabble as an opposition group in Council, and how they think they can persuade people in the town that they are fit for office I do not know.

9 comments:

Mike Barker said...

Cute, Nick.
At least Fred found out the contingency fund was only £110k; his question about whether the Council had prior knowledge of the Arriva/Tesco was not answered, I wonder why?
Your performance was impressive, Nick: why are you and Cyndi and others letting your leadership drag you to defeat next May? My main impressions of the Council meeting - only the second I've been to in Darlington - were: legitimate questions were not answered; the Labour leadership were squirming in their seats under the attack over the Pedestrian Heart; the arrogance of some on your side.
Cheers, Mike

Darlington Councillor said...

Thanks, Mike.

This will sound perverse to anyone who hasn't attended a Council meeting, but answering every single question is genuinely problematic - when I respond to questions on my portfolio area, I am doing so usually after hearing 7 or 8 councillors ask two or three questions each, without having been given prior knowledge. I will have scribbled as many of the questions down as I can, together with the answer, but there are times when I sit down realising there are some points which have been missed.

Councillors on all sides know that if they don't get a satisfactory answer from the Portfolio holder, there are easy ways of extracting replies after the meeting. Frankly, I don't like giving the impression of having avoided a question, because it calls into doubt my command of the subject. We do and try and answer fully.

I'm not sure I'd agree with your use of the word "squirming", but for sure, I found Thursday an uncomfortable ride. That's because mistakes have been made, which the Council report laid bare - warts and all. That's why I felt it was important to take seriously the Tories calls for resignations - for the reasons I have set out, however, I do not believe they were justified.

If there were some difficult moments for us last night, I think you should acknowledge that this was also the case for the LibDems too - or haven't your Council colleagues appreciated how their contributions were regarded? LibDems across the country have a well-earned reputation both with the Tories and ourselves as people prepared to spin any falsehood, no matter how exaggerated, in order to win a few votes. I've seen some worrying examples here in Darlington of that, which I think is a great shame.

Ian White said...

Hi Nick

You state "you felt it important to take the Tories calls for resignations seriously" I have this week sat back and tried to prove Cliff brown inaccurate in his Hear all sides letter on Monday, It emmerged yesterday I was correct and admissions had been blocked for months, I had conclusive proof of this fact yet was dismissed, how then now can Mr Brown be able to still hold office after such a blatant letter full of lies and misguidings.

I also believe the rebutal article in saturdays Echo to be a pre-emptive strike before I disclosed my evidence of his lies, can I formally request he be second on the list of resinators

Darlington Councillor said...

Ian.

I thought long and hard before deciding to post your message - I do not want my blog to be dragged into the mire by sleazy and unproven allegations against DBC officers. If people want to read that kind of rubbish, after all, they can go to the Town Liar.

I have looked at the Director's letter again, and can see nothing there which is factually inaccurate. Cliff Brown has been a Director for as long as I have been a member of the Councillor (15 years +) and in my experience he has always upheld the highest professional standards.

There has been a culture fostered I'm afraid by your website which seeks to throw as much mud, no matter what the truth of the matter is, at as many Town Hall officers and councillors, hoping that the odd dollop will stick. It's sad, disreputable stuff.

Ian White said...

Hi Nick
This is not about my web site thats why I logged in under my real name, I genuinely feel that Mondays letter set out to decieve the public, and while you state in your oppinion it is factual that does not mean it is not misleading or why else Saturdays total change of direction and an admission of DBC,s blocking new residents applications for the past 14 months.This is not as you assume one of my "mud throwing" exercises this is actually a genuine concern in relation to the way in which the council conducts its day to day bussiness. This includes all its members, who in my oppinion should be beyond reproach, and in this case issues are still there, You must agree the hard to let bit is misleading when there are 35 people on the waiting list. Please clarify what you think is accurate re his letter? No one is disputing the need for new regulations to be implemented, just the back door way this has come across not only to me but others.

Cllr Martin Swainston said...

Hi Nick,

I was under the impression that Cllr Dixon with his best friend and confidant Doris Jones tried to gain cheap political gain from not answering questions.

Its interesting that the questions your fellow Labour cabinet member failed to answer seem to be being answered very well by the local press recently. You know as well as anybody that Cllr Dixon was out of order with his display, in fact the Mayor had to ask him to retract several remarks he threw around the Council chamber last Thursday.

Ambulance chasing hah, chiropody more like, It’s the job of opposition to point out when you get it wrong and sorry to point out the obvious but your feet and John Williams are bleeding quite heavily from you shooting yourselves in the collective foot continually.

Perhaps the current system of questions needs changing, I mean ask a question and then to have a member of the cabinet fail to answer it, then direct a personal attack at a fellow Cllr is bad enough but to then be denied the chance to respond under the rules!! Come on Nick now’s you chance, change the system and engage in full open debates, you may wish the set up a little different when you’re in opposition after next May.

Cllr Martin Swainston

PS
Enjoyable Blog.

Darlington Councillor said...

Hi Ian.

I thought you might have given myself or Mike Barker the credit on the Liar site for revealing the ASDA news. No matter.

I honestly can't see how Cliff Brown's letter can be simultaneously factual and misleading.

I see Bill Dixon, who's the Cabinet Member for Housing, has posted several times on the Liar on this subject, so anything I could say would be superfluous. It was very generous of you I thought, however, to decline the half a million pounds worth of expenditure on behalf of the Linden Court residents. This has all the makings of a silly political spat between the LibDems and the Tories over who truly represents people in Hurworth, with the residents of Linden Court getting caught in the crossfire.

I hope that the revitalisation does go ahead. People on your site (well, you and Chris Close) seem to think that this is an isolated scheme designed somehow to bring in cash for the Council. In fact, there is an established programme of works in all the sheltered housing schemes programmed, as far as I can recall, on the age of the building. Oban Court in my ward was renovated last year, and the results are stunning.

Try and put the needs of the residents ahead of your desire to discredit the Labour Council.

Best wishes,

Nick.

Cllr Swainston said...

Hi Nick,

I was under the impression that Cllr Dixon with his best friend and confidant Doris Jones tried to gain cheap political gain from not answering questions.

Its interesting that the questions your fellow Labour cabinet member failed to answer seem to be being answered very well by the local press recently. You know as well as anybody that Cllr Dixon was out of order with his display, in fact the Mayor had to ask him to retract several remarks he threw around the Council chamber last Thursday.

Ambulance chasing hah, chiropody more like, It’s the job of opposition to point out when you get it wrong and sorry to point out the obvious but your feet and John Williams are bleeding quite heavily from you shooting yourselves in the collective foot continually.

Perhaps the current system of questions needs changing, I mean ask a question and then to have a member of the cabinet fail to answer it, then direct a personal attack at a fellow Cllr is bad enough but to then be denied the chance to respond under the rules!! Come on Nick now’s you chance, change the system and engage in full open debates, you may wish the set up a little different when you’re in opposition after next May.

Cllr Martin Swainston

PS
Enjoyable Blog.

Darlington Councillor said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence Martin (at least as far as the blog is concerned). It is however very time consuming, as the 310 emails in my inbox will testify...

As for Bill, well by common consent on my side of the chamber, he was superb on Thursday (though that's not how it may have looked from the LibDems perspective). Yes, he used the "l" word liberally, and Eleanor is a fastidious chair. As I've tried to indicate here, the LibDems have got a reputation in local politics generally with us and the Tories for telling porkies (can I say that?) to try and grub a few votes. As local politics hots up, and if your side continues to play fast and loose with the facts, expect to hear the charge again (if more politely put).

As far as Council questions are concerned (and I don't know why I'm telling you this), I would have a glance at Standing Orders again. A good opposition should be able to make its points under the current arrangements. All too often, you, Steve and Fred look like rabbits caught in headlights whenever Council protocol becomes an issue.

As for Bill and Doris being bezzie mates....!

Best wishes,

Nick.