I thought I'd nip down to Whetstone to watch the emergency debate about the Council's missing (not lost) £27.4 million and the full general council meeting. Now I'll give a full report on the ins and outs of the meeting tomorrow, tonight I'll just give you a flavour of what you missed. It is always interesting to go to these meetings to see our chosen leaders in action. I sat down next to a nice lady from Unison who had come to take notes on the debate on the future direction of the council. It is always pleasant to have someone like minded for a bit of moral support in the face of the torrent of blather which we were about to be subjected to. Councillor Wayne Casey stood up to present the case for the Lib Dems. His case was that the council lost £27.4 million quid and it is Mike Freer's fault as he's in charge. Councillor Casey is pretty competent on the chambre floor. He made his points pretty well. About half way through his speech, the nice lady from Unison said "Look at Freer's leg!" Poor Mike was clearly nervous and his leg had developed a mind of it's own. Shaking does not do it justice, imagine Buddy Rich's leg during a bass drum solo. Strangely enough the other leg was completely still. I noticed Councillor Matthew Offord's body language, sitting next to Freer. He was leaning so far away from Freer, that he was nearly nestling in Councillor Braun's bosom. He looked momentarily as if he was seeking motherly comfort. All too soon Councillor Casey was over. It was Mike Freer's big moment.
As he stood up he was clear he was angry. How dare those pesky LibDem's have the audacity to ask such impertinent questions. Watching Mike Freer ranting away reminded me of Blakey in on the Buses. He had the power, he knew he'd win the debate as he had the bus company (sorry the majority) on his side, but Butler (sorry Casey) had made a monkey of him. The Tories made appropriate noises at the right moments and all managed to put their hand up at the same time to ensure the vote was carried.
Later during the meeting, as I recall as Councillor Moore was speaking, Mike Freer suddenly got up and frantically started fiddling with the venetian blind behind him. For a horrible second I thought we'd all gotten to him. I said to the nice lady from UNISON - "He's going to jump". His jerky movement's, each limb seemingly divorcing itself from the central control of the brain. Then he stopped. It was as if his brain was resetting itself. He sat down and suddenly seemed back on his brief. It seemed that order of the day was evade the question. I must hand it to Mike. He does this well. It seems that in the Barnet Tory councillors there are three ways to answer the question. Mike Freer just answers the question he'd like to have been asked. To give a potted example - Monroe Palmer asks "Will you take responsibility for losing £27.4 Million in the Icelandic Banks" Mike replies "I'll happily take responsibility for doing a marvellous job in restoring the council finances so we can do lots of marvellous things" (yes I know I'm not Hansard, but you get the drift). Then there's Brian Coleman. I quite like the fact he can't even be bothered to pretend to be bothered - example: Brian Salinger asked "Will you be asking the Barnet Press to ban adverts from Brothels" - Brian Coleman replied "No". Then there are the rest of the councillors, the finest example being Councillor Andrew Harper. He tries his best to give a proper answer and when he hasn't got the facts to hand promises to give a written answer to the questioner. Needless to say, of the three he's furthest down the food chain (and the allowance pot). I actually quite like Andrew Harper (I guess I shouldn't say that, as I'm probably the last endorsement he wants or needs). He just seems like a decent bloke, who wants to do a good job for Barnet and I can't argue with that.
Following the Q A& A session there were four motions debated. One of these was proposed by Deputy Council Leader Matthew Offord. This motion was one to say that it was great that Burnt Oak Library has had a makeover. Somehow Councillor Offord managed to turn this motion debate into a diatribe against the last 10 years of Labour Govenrment and how this had robbed people of opportunity. Now there was little old me thinking that you went to the Library to borrow a few books. Oh No, Barnet Library's have the power to transform workshy slobs into dynamic entrepreneurs, and turn Burnt Oak into the new Mayfair. Hugh
Rayner then added an amendment to say that all the ills of humanity are the fault of the Barnet Labour Councillors (or words to that effect). Labour stood up and said Rayner had ruined a perfectly good motion, so they had to oppose it. A vote was called and the Tories all put their hands up. So there you have it, Burnt Oak library is great and all the ills of the world are Alison Moore's fault.
People ask me why I don't stand as a Councillor. The reason is because every time I go to a meeting, I see a room full of people, most of whom are quite intellegent and who want to do a good job, wasting a perfectly good evening in pointless debate, evading reasonable questions, posturing and preening. My old freind Jane Ellison (former councillor) used to assure me that lots of good work was done behind the scenes in committee. The trouble is that from what I've seen (and this isn't just under Mike Freer and the Tories) the herd mentality rules. I can't believe that all 33 Tories were happy with what the council has done with Icelandic banks, but the arms say otherwise.
Until the day when independent and non aligned councillors hold the balance of power, I'm afraid things just won't change.