With 12 members sending apologies last night, the council was depleted by more than 25%. Absentees included three of the six Conservative portfolio holders. Not only was it half term but several councillors had sought refuge from the approach of winter by relaxing in warmer climes. Yet the council meeting was more interesting than usual: there were strong political arguments yet no-one lost their temper. In our Labour Group the night before we had carved up between the issues we wanted to raise.
Here are some of the highlights:
HOUSING: Graham Heal, a local resident, raised a public question on the housing crisis and the council’s response. Using material from the council’s ’Housing Market Assessment’, he asked ‘what steps are being taken to turn around this poor performance and come close to delivering the remaining 320 homes needed this year to meet the annual target?’ Leader of the council, Richard Jackson replied that ‘we are targeting brownfield sites and may make compulsory purchase orders’.
CLOSURE OF CASH OFFICES: John McGrath, Greg Marshall, Lydia Ball and Milan Radulovic spoke passionately about the deleterious effects of the planned closure of the Council’s cash offices. A petition in Stapleford aims at raising 1000 signatures which will trigger a debate at the next council meeting on 18 November. ‘We have to save money,’ portfolio holder Paul Simpson responded.
UNIVERSAL CREDIT: Universal Credit for Job Seekers allowance claimants comes to Beeston next Monday. I asked for a timetable for the next group of claimants, families, so that we can make preparations. The answer from Paul Simpson was ‘There is no timetable given by the DWP.’
LOCAL TRADING COMPANY: The most contentious issue was the proposal to create of a Local Authority Trading Company (LATC) to operate the council’s Leisure and Cultural Services. We were asked to recommend the principle and to agree to a supplementary estimate of £100,000 to pay for its setting up. Debate focussed on whether Cabinet had already agreed to establish the LATC or whether it agreed only to explore it. Dawn Wale [Labour, Beeston Rylands] argued against the plan on the grounds that we would be conniving at tax avoidance, and that we had insufficient details to go ahead. The voting was very close with Labour and the Liberal Democrats against and the Conservatives for the motion. The recommendation was agreed to.
EASTWOOD IS ‘DYING’: In a poignant speech Milan lamented the closure of the Police Station, the cash offices and Durban House in Eastwood, and compared its situation with Beeston with its tram and town centre redevelopment. There was little response.
COMBINED AUTHORITIES: The Leader of the Council was asked a series of questions on the Combined Authorities proposal as the deadline for decision will be 20 November. While he was cautiously optimistic, Richard Jackson said our agreement would depend on what was on offer. To be debated on 18 November at the next Council meeting.
Clearly, service cuts are coming to Broxtowe, and the poor will get poorer, especially in Eastwood, our most deprived area. It seems that the rich will have more – the tram and a regenerated town centre in Beeston.