It was reasonably lively but without any bad temper. Here’s a few points:
Council Chairman June Lumley was admirably frugal tonight. Most Council Chairman request a buffet with wine for councillors on the night of the December meeting. June didn’t do this, but did arrange refreshments to the public who attended the Civic Carol Service on Sunday, which raised about £245 for charity.
Green Party Leader Michael Hoy made the best point of the evening. The decision to offer free parking on 3 Saturday afternoons before Christmas was taken as “an urgent item” which couldn’t be challenged. Michael asked why the decision was taken so late in the year that it had to be an urgent item. “Didn’t the Council know Christmas was coming?” The answer given was that the council didn’t know it could afford this until quite late in the year. John Mason and Chris Black followed this up later with some forensic questioning , which revealed that the council knew in June it had about £60,000 available – the cost of 3 free Saturday afternoons was about £9,000. Chris Black asked for an earlier decision next year, which might allow an extra free afternoon, either earlier in December or just after Xmas.
UKIP leader John Hayter had a go at the adoption of the “Development Management Plan”: This is basically a new version of the council’s “Bible” of planning policies. Not the zoning of land for development, but all the other policies. Things like the design of new developments, housing density, infilling of gardens, phone masts, what is allowed in the Green Belt, green tourism, playing pitches and other leisure and recreational uses…. John criticised the document because of all the new development proposed in the district, but John Mason, Chris Black, and Michael Hoy pointed out that he was criticising the wrong document for that.
The Tories best part of the night was a report showing that the council’s financial situation was improving.
Ron Oatham made it clear his opinion of central government when John Mason asked whether a certain financial amount “was being lost back to central government, or worse?” Ron immediately called out “Could anything BE worse?”
Chris Black asked how many planning enforcement cases were currently ongoing – the answer was 362, just four less than last year. He asked what could be done to reduce this figure quicker, and was told they would soon have three members of staff again, instead of the current two.