I am aiming to write up all of the Council meetings and events I attend this year. Last week, on the 9 June, the first Review Committee meeting of the year was held.
This meeting was under the Chairmanship of Cllr Jerry Gibson who was appointed by the ruling Conservatives, under a change of rules they pushed through preventing the appointment coming from the largest opposition Group as previously. The Vice Chairman, also a Conservative appointee is Cllr Dave Sperring.
The first two items on the Agenda were decisions made by Cabinet members that I called in as the previous Chairman. These were Commercial parking Charges and Housing Allocations.
The first of these, Commercial Parking Charges, may seem to be rather uncontroversial but it included the provision to charge for NHS Breast (and other) screening units which used the Council car parks. I felt that this was both wrong and counter productive, moving charges around the public sector to cover shortfalls in funding. On questioning the Officer and Cabinet member it also became clear that they were unsure of the numbers and there was doubt about whether figures included VAT or not and the Cabinet member did not know the period over which the examples he gave were based. Given the misleading report (and figures) and the morality of charging for these services the decision was sent back to the Cabinet member to reconsider.
The second call in was on Housing Allocations, in other words who gets on to the housing list for Social Housing. The Decision made by the former holder of the position (they were replaced after the election by Cllr June Lumley) reduced the list by cutting those on it waiting for one bed properties. I said it seemed as thought the Council were reducing the numbers on the list for those properties which were in shortest supply so hardest to fufill, one bed flats and starter homes. Again this was returned to the (new) Cabinet member to reconsider.
The remainder of the meeting concerned the plans for future reviews, unfortunately not a lot was decided and only the Treasury Management task & Finish Group was formed. No working parties were set up and the next meeting will look at are the Rochford Community Safety Partnership and the Complaints Procedure at Rochford Council. The more difficult, and contentious areas, of Homelessness and Rochford’s Planning Department have so far been ignored.
Finally Chairing of the meeting was very strange with the Vice Chairman leading the questioning and the Chairman following up. In fact the Vice Chairman was quite forceful and ran the meeting to the detriment of the Chairman.