Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The long goodbye: Brian's last full council as AM

Here is an interim report: Mrs Angry will mess about with it later, and update with fuller account and better jokes.

One thing was clear, from last night's Full Council meeting.

The Tory party in Barnet is in complete disarray - scattering in different directions like a flock of panicking sheep suddenly catching sight of the lorry from the local abbattoir.

The long running drama of Brian Coleman's disastrous parking scheme has now descended into farce, with every day, seemingly, stories of Tory members who have voted for everyone else to be forced to pay via the new cashless parking system getting caught using their free permits to avoid doing the same.

Last night, incidentally, they could have voted to dump the free permits they, and only they enjoy: Labour councillors refuse to accept these perks. Did they vote to deprive themselves of their permits? What do you think?

Labour - and the Libdems - were on good form, relishing the discomfort of the members on the far side of the chamber. The Tories sat squirming in their seats, waiting for all the jibes about permits and parking and libraries and oh so many other catastrophes ... staring fixedly ahead, and praying that it would all soon be over. It will all soon be over, especially for Brian Coleman.

As if they were not in enough trouble, Kath McGurk had laid a clever trap for Councillor Robert Rams in regard to another sensitive issue - the rather amusingly desperate attempt to rebrand himself as a local hero fighting his own policy decisions. Her motion tonight would have compelled him to do what he claims he wants to do, to fight (rather too late in the day) the proposal to introduce charges to previously free car parks. In his ward: it would seem it is still ok to bring these charges in anywhere else. When it came to the vote, we suddenly noticed that Robert, and his fellow ward councillors, and a few others, were missing from the council chamber.

Oh dear, thought Mrs Angry: this is most unfortunate. Clearly they had had an urgent call of nature, and were running about the Town Hall, needing permission from the Tooting Twister, Mr Chris Palmer, head of PR & (obstructing) communications, to visit the little boys' room. (Well, that's for Robert Rams, of course, the big boys use the gents).

Sadly, Mr Chris Palmer had left the meeting by then, ( but not before an earlier incident whereby Mrs Angry, turning to make an insolent grin in his direction, thought she detected the faint shadow of well - almost a smile - on his sphynx like features). Mrs Angry imagines the poor councillors were obliged to pee in a wastepaper bin, Friern Barnet style. And on their return, tragically, a terrible thing had happened: the vote had taken place without them.

Instead of doing what they promised, and speaking out for the people of East Barnet, in other words, they had chickened out, and run away. Simply shameful.

And here was another extraordinary thing. Councillor Brian Coleman was on what passes for his best behaviour. No foam spitting rants. No nose picking. He even was polite to the new Labour councillor, Arjun Mittra, who will be the councillor for Brian's mum, and must rush round and sort out an overhanging tree for her, with no further delay.

Obviously by anyone else's standard, Coleman's performance last night was still a showcasing of the most impossibly obnoxious, hard faced defiance in the face of all common sense, but it was delivered in a new, touchy feely Brian way. He said at one point that we (the royal we) are yes, listening to people. When I say people, I mean fellow Tories, not residents, of course. Fellow Tories who are lining up in their senatorial togas and brandishing newly polished, shiny knives. Brian is making sacrifices to the Gods, to mitigate the risk of political assasination - this requires some pretence of retraction of policy, and is a gory sight, but ultimately futile.

Just as Cornelius has tried to imply that after the election, changes will be made to the disastrous parking policy, Coleman is now offering a partial review of the bid to impose charges in free car parks, and of some contentious CPZ areas. Big deal. The rest still stands.

Another performance of real note last night came from Libdem councillor Lord Palmer. Mrs Angry left the chamber at one point, refusing to listen to Tory leader Richard Cornelius's idiotic motion in praise of Mayor Boris Johnson. When she returned, Monroe Palmer was delivering a blistering attack on Cornelius for wasting so much time on an electorally based motion.

Why, he yelled, was Cornelius not using the time to debate the things which really matter to the residents - and looking at Mrs Angry - the bloggers - of this borough? Parking, libraries, rising crime, housing, anti social behaviour: oh, and looking in this direction again - audit, risk management, and er ... procurement?

Mrs Angry laughed.

Later on Lord Palmer, the Chair of the Audit committee, rose to comment on the latest amendments to contractual procedures.

It is all very well, he objected in barely contained fury, having rules for procurement, but no point if they are not followed ...

Leader Cornelius sat hunched in his chair. Chief Executive Nick Walkley scowled. Palmer noted Walkley's displeasure. Walkley carried on scowling. A small but significant insight into the tensions between the most important scrutiny committee and the attitude of the leadership and most importantly, the senior management team which runs this borough, rather than by the democratic mandate of an elected administration.

Expanded & updated later.

1 comment:

Mr Mustard said...

I wasn't there for the crucial vote either Mrs Angry. Busy being beaten 5 - 1 at snooker. Oh dear. I should have gone to Hendon.