Tonight’s Council Meeting was rather more eventful than usual with two petitions being presented expressing opposition to the closure of Hockley and Rayleigh Public Toilets, the Leader of the Council accusing Councillors of showboating and the Council backing down over the wording of its proposed Social Media Policy, a policy which had drawn lots of criticism from opposition members.
The petition on Hockley toilets was first up and was presented by David Miles with a very effective speech against their closure even for a short period (the Leader did appear to take exception to the suggestion Portfolio holders could take a cut in their allowances to pay for them). I spoke up, with other Councillors, and did win the statement from Cllr Sperring that the Hockley toilets would not close in March as originally proposed and the intention would then be to keep them open until the Parish could take them on. Cllr Hookway was also assured that any future decision would be brought back to the Investment Board.
Richard Lambourne then presented his petition against the closure of Rayleigh toilets, Cllr Burton spoke against this and Cllr Stanley asked for it to be referred to the Review Committee so the costing could be reviewed, His motion was refused by the Chair, who the allowed a motion from the Leader of the Council to be put which was carried, against the votes of the opposition. It was during this debate that Cllr Cutmore accused Members of showboating (in footballing terms this would mean that we were showing off our skills and running rings around the Administration so I take it as a compliment, which I think was not its intended meaning).
Following on from that came the new proposed Social Media Policy . Many opposition members have objected to this, saying it restricts their ability to hold the Council to account and prevents them being critical of the Council or its policies. I have been one of those Councillors and was prepared with the other opposition Groups to put forward motions to correct this. However the Officer proposed changes, including the removal of the word “negative from bullet point 2 on page 15.5, which was the main point raised in our motion. This proposal was put as a Motion by Conservative Cllr Rowe (I missed who seconded it) and it was past by a majority as the opposition abstained because we still felt the changes did not go far enough and reference to freedom of expression and our requirement to hold the Council to account under the seven Nolan Principles was not included.