Extraordinary Council – January 2021

A city council recovery and improvement action plan 64 pages long was agreed. The Conservatives moved an amendment which was broadly acceptable contained one clause that suggested delay for public simulation when the principles. of our existing plan were established at the 2019 elections. They hadn’t made the points at a committee meeting in the previous week and wouldn’t compromise on their amendment, so we had to re-submit most of the changes in our own amendment, which then they voted for. But then they abstained on the amended report – without saying why – and having made such a point on saying people should be consulted. Except on what they were doing. Hopeless, really.

A difficult time for my colleagues who are having to read a fine balance in accepting a burden from national government on so many fronts, and yet being dictated to on one aspect of the council’s affairs. The total picture is so huge. Hence my speech.
Notes for my speech, although some of it was used in a reply to a Conservative amendment; can check against actual delivery on YouTube

Oh the irony!
Being lectured to by this government –
– on value for the public’s money!
– on standards!
Especially by the Local Gov’t Minister with all his recents problems rehearsed in the media again this weekend.
Then proper use of public money?
– billions wasted on track and trace! 
– the school meals fiasco!
– sub-standard food packages sent to children!
The irony!
But we reflect on that!
As we reflect too that despite the constraint of the city council geographically, with its small tax base, we tried to sustain a national energy trading company.
And we submit 64 page action document in short time to demonstrate resolve and a refreshed outlook.  
It will be overseen by people who are not elected by the people of Nottingham, arguably never heard of, and nor are they accountable to them.  
To which a “strong leader’ will be allowed to attend.
As if secrecy and the “strong leader” model was not part of the problems we have encountered.
That we have not suffered more is down to us having changed our “strong Leader”.
And I am grateful for the character and resolve of David Mellen.
Remember his previous experience – accountable to the public in a serious way when he carried the heavy responsibility of a head teacher at a city primary school.  
Proper calibre.  
But in future, we would benefit more from a council where all councillors are more fully up to speed and part of the decision making process, as was enabled by the committee systems.

A major risk is fast decisions with relatively poor analysis and some counter-productive constraints.
Some reflection, surely, on whether a sped up sale of assets is really in the interest of the people of Nottingham?  Let’s get the timing of the sales right.

A relief then – and when I say this, people should know I am a council nominated board member of Enviroenergy, and Chair – that the inspector has analysed our district heating scheme, that enables waste to be incinerated, and says don’t constrain investment on the forthcoming need to expand the system.  A good point.  
Proper analysis.  And big decisions ahead – requiring more public engagement and proper understanding.

Proper analysis needed too on the future of Broad Marsh.  Remember the calls from columnists for our city centre to be radically upgraded to match other cities.  Just who else was the council to work with, but the company that owned two-thirds of the shopping centre?  And now new demands made without reference to agglomeration and understanding the need for housing for young people and bedrooms for students at our growing universities.   

And then there’s Robin Hood Energy. 
Difficult to talk about the right thing to do when we can’t yet talk about what went wrong?  
What if the solutions demanded are proxies for what actually happened, and what if the solutions ventured are not the real thing?  How is that helping the people of Nottingham?  
As “A friend” cautioned in the movie “Disclosure”, whatever else we think we know, we should “solve the problem”.

Our other problems include –
– austerity,
– more inequality rather than levelling up, 
– the growing need to help those in need,
– the need for housing for our young people and
– the council housing needed for our families 
– climate change.
And the pandemic. 
And yes, to work in the ways regularly expected, and inspected for, before 2010 – with proper corporate governance. 

Proper corporate governance. 

Yes, we will support David Mellen in what he is asking us to do today.  

Preparing for extraordinary Council – January 2021

Progress report ahead of Monday’s meeting. 

Vaccinations against Covid-19: have begun but there is concern that the rate of Nottingham vaccinations is lower than elsewhere in the country;  the new more contagious variant of the disease is now known to be more lethal.  

Cuts in Council servicessavings of £15.6 million have been announced for consultation.  

Council Tax: plans to increase City rate by 5% and Police rate by 6.5%.

Missed bins: the normal practice of collecting bins missed on the next day has been suspended. 

River Trent has encroached the grass banks along the Embankment: experienced Meadows residents have seen it much higher.

City Council Recovery and Improvement plan published to be debated at full Council on Monday

Planning committee: thanks to those who have confirmed they wish to attend a meeting on the proposed 9 storey building at Trent Bridge Island; main responses – seeking assurance on looking after the green planting across the building; the height; does the building achieve carbon neutrality? 

Waiting list: the list for council housing is long; the council only has permitted finances to build 300 this year, despite it making financial sense to allow us to build more.  

Knifing incident on Kelso Gardens: Police quoted verbatim by Nottingham Post;  I understand an arrest was made Saturday morning;  anecdotally, I am hearing that pressure on drug dealing has paid off.

Graffiti: any advice on who might be behind recents spates of painting (e.g. “WARDY”, “aef!”, “ELMO”) would be appreciated.

The Derbyshire Boot and Shoemakers’ Strike

This was the longest British dispute that women were involved in.

As we reflect upon the history we inherit and the torch that we picked up, reflect upon how people in the villages of Stoney Middleton and Eyam went on strike for more than 2 years to be paid the rates for works paid elsewhere, to be represented by a trade union and to have blacklisting lifted on anyone who had organised for the union.

Can we really compare ourselves to these champions of social justice?

One new mantra – the rich are never numbered but are named; the poor are always numbered but never named – so let us resolve to celebrate those who straggled by name.

The struggle was celebrated in the local villages in April, 2018.

Planning committee – January 2021

Unfortunate that a subsequent N Post article used an image of the previous design as if it was the one approved.

The commercial demand to provide accommodation to students in Nottingham is seen again by the proposal to provide 356 bedrooms on St.Ann’s Wells Road, on the edge of the city centre.
The original scheme was pared back to allow space and light next the prayer hall in the neighbouring mosque.

50 dwellings to be provided by Nottingham City Housing Association next to Melbury School in Bilborough subject to conditions, include an extra one to check whether a walk and cycle way can be provided for a more direct route to local shops and the local school.

£15.6 million of savings announced

Cuts to Nottingham City Council services being announced. Consultation has begun.
Reasons –
– continued reduction of funds to local councils;
– continued redirection of money away from councils serving urban areas in The Midlands and the North;
– growth in ageing population and families & children who need extra support;
– promises by Government to fund the costs incurred through Covid-19 not being met provided;
– lost business for the Council’s commercial actives (e.g. theatres, leisure centres, markets):
– paying back borrowing incurred after the failure of Robin Hood Energy.
Incredibly frustrating to be carrying such burdens when Government services have so painfully been apparent in commissioning services – most especially track and trace – but also a range of services that councils could have provided.
The extra borrowing undertaken nationally could have relieved councils and seen them provide better services to meet the country’s needs.


City Council Recovery and Improvement plan published

The Plan includes actions which will deliver:
 An affordable and sustainable medium-term financial strategy and balanced budget
• A clear plan for managing and reducing debt levels, including releasing capital receipts through increased property disposals
• A clear approach to the management of the council’s companies
• A refreshed policy framework through a revised Council Plan
• A simplified high level officer structure and improvements in the way the council manages performance
• A workforce and organisational development programme which will be developed in conjunction with the Local Government Association
• A revised protocol giving clarity on the distinct roles of elected members and officers
• A modernised constitution and decision-making process.

It’s 64 pages.
And I might get 5 minutes to talk about it at full council.
But the mantra that keeps running through my mind was the one shared by “A Friend” in the movie version of Michael Crichton’s novel “Disclosure”.
Whatever other victories the lead character thought he was having, the friend kept messaging –

“Solve the problem”

Maybe there’s more than one problem to solve – hence the bulleted list.
But the first test is – would a change have prevented what went wrong?
And there second test is – how do you know the change is effected and sustained?

Full Council – January 2021

[TO BE UPDATED.]

A wide range of issues covered.
Top concern – the roll-out of vaccinations against Covid-19; concerns that the programme in Nottingham has been slow to start compared to other places, locations picked out for Nottingham are slightly distant for local people, and that progress is hard to track cos data on progress by locality is not being provided.

Asking about boosting voter turnout.

I asked about improving turnout for local elections, with the Police Commissioner election on 9th May in mind. I think the register for The Meadows has fallen in numbers. There’s a concern that the Government is driving at requiring voter i.d. for voting which has resulted in lower turnout elsewhere, addressing a risk that is not complained about. Concerns are even higher given the vaccination programme will still only be halfway through by May. I wonder if all postal voting during the pandemic might be helpful – knowing that we don’t have the early voting arrangements that exists in the United States. The Deputy Leader pointed out that voting securely and electronically should now be explored (and indeed this is happening with some success in Estonia).

Sally Longford is exploring whether the local authority pension fund wouldn’t do better by not investing in oil, both for the sake of the planet, and for the sake of the fund. Reminded me about how Roger Latham, then Treasurer of Notts County Council, was exploring this when I was a County Councillor, way back in 1996.

Linda Woodings reported that there was no Nottingham children in Bed & Breakfast this Christmas.

Progress on the Public Interest Report was reported, although briefly because the Council is meeting especially on 25th January to discuss it in full. Meanwhile, it was reported that Robin Hood Energy went into administration on 5th January. Details are still commercially sensitive although media reports are still citing a loss of £38million. I remain somewhat frustrated at the focus on managing conflicts of interest, as if that is the cause of what went wrong.

A Hate Crime Strategy was agreed. It’s important to have these kind of statements for a range of reasons, but I find the agreement means I can confidently rehearse the concerns that we face in The Meadows, and which I rehearsed in my speech – attacks on Muslims, the re-hash of the old anti-Semitic prejudices, the problems posed by the marches starting from The Memorial and prejudices driven by the conspiracy-theoriests.

An appeal to keep the £20 per child top-up on Universal Credit was passed; concerns for Indian farmers were rehearsed and a motion calling for Gov’t to do more to ensure better management of fireworks displays was passed.

This report draws upon the progress report published just before the meeting.
TO BE UPDATED AND EXTRA LINKS PROVIDED.

Panic and Hate

Can cite plenty of examples of the ideas of the nationalist and conspiracy-thinkers’ impact in Nottingham and wider –
– anti-vaxxers march;
– panic over using a pencil when voting in the referendum;
– attacks against Muslims following the attacks in Paris;
– re-hash of anti-Semitism such as allegations of world or media control and holocaust denial;- driving down of electoral registration and hyping of panic over postal voting.

The response should not be to seek to roll of these concerns into an alternative conspiracy in turn, but to —
– celebrate the strength of our free society in combatting these challenges;
– encourage registration and voting;
– defend scientific methods and practice;
– champion public health and vaccination programmes;
– value everyone, no matter who they descend from or who they love.

Nor should the response be to dream of mounting our own putschs against the “establishment”. (Oh yes, no doubt our putsch would be socially just and kinder; of course it would.)

Just celebrate the free society and keep working against the challenges we and it face.

Go to Bed

I’ve seen some posts suggesting that in response to a riot which failed and to a range of investigations that is identifying, arresting and charging those who took part, that the state, the Democrats and the centre ground cannot deal with the movements that led to the riots.
That’s –
– the state – that combination of institutions and services that have evolved through centuries of development of the free society;
– the Democrats – that political party that have managed to defeat Donald Trump when generally the incumbent presidents win, and who did so in sometimes spectacular instances like winning Georgia despite decades of racism deterring people from registering and voting;
– the centre ground – a kind of code for public opinion which despite a general expectation of giving their President the benefit of the doubt, never, after the first few weeks, gave Trump a positive approval rating.

Instead, these posts suggest endorsing the analysis of other “revolutionist” organisations who no doubt envisage their own storming of political institutions when they have built up sufficient political support.
A reminder that drawing upon such political values have often, arguably repeatedly, failed to win political mandates.

So in the words of one of the heroes of the TV fictional series “The West Wing”, which celebrated the state, the Democrats and the centre ground –
** “Go to Bed” **
– Toby Ziegler.