I’ve not been looking forward to full-council. There’s something very League of Gentlemen about the exaggerated amateur dramatics that you can get sucked into. It was quite funny that it clashed with Old Trafford emptying at the same time. It was fancy dress outside and (maybe) inside.
We have two hours and thirty minutes for a council meeting. This was my first council since coming back and if anything, it’s got worse. I’m not going to go into all the issues but I think we can do better.
These would be my proposals for improvement
- We should remove prayers from the main body of the meeting.
- Questions to the Executive are not working.
We’ve made questions totally incomprehensible to the general public because it’s only a supplementary question that gets verbally spoken.
Questions are important, but this is farcical if all the public hears is something like “So when are you going to do it?”.
My view is that questions are so important we need to take them out of the Council Meeting and give them their own regular space. The next council meeting is in October – questions will arise before then and we need a facility to ask them that’s subject to public oversight.
- Reports to the council are usually important. They don’t always get the time they deserve. Scrutiny might have a formal role.
- Political motions are the main course of the meeting. They’re what gets us there. In reality most of the time, they’re of the moment and you’d struggle to find many that had a lasting impact. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that we have them. We need a facility for democratically coming together as an area to pronounce on what is deemed important. They’re a vital cog, even if a lot of the time it’s just political jousting.
It’s just the Parties are losing the ability to draft a motion to maximum effect.
The anatomy of a motion
There’s actually not that much variation in motions. The Greens use a ‘preamble’ but essentially they should follow the pattern….
This Council notes that…
This Council believes that…
This Council resolves to…
There’s a reason for the pattern. The first part should just be facts. This council notes that the house was flooded. This council also notes that drainage has been reduced.
The beliefs section can be more contentious but better to keep as much straightforward as possible eg. This council believes that flooding is avoidable and that regular maintenance is essential…
It’s the ‘resolves to’ section where you’re trying to make your point and highlight differences.
Keep the motion succinct. You also want to decide what is a ‘win’ – winning the vote or forcing the majority party to vote it down. I sat there amazed on Wednesday – most of the time I couldn’t work out what the opposition parties wanted to get out of their own motions.
The Tories came with one motion against changes in firefighting provision that they ended up voting against. Maybe they just wanted to make a petty point on Andy Burnham, but they ended up voting against a motion that requested further investigation into the proposals to downgrade Sale fire-station. They completely wasted their advantage.
The Greens had a motion on recreating a Greater Manchester Assembly. A lot of Labour people actually regret like I do, the original Greater Manchester Council being closed down by Thatcher. But the Greens got carried away and entered a whole shopping list within the motion of other things they wanted scrapping or introducing. I spoke in favour of a Greater Manchester Assembly, but was quite comfortable voting down the motion. They should have kept it simple.
Back to those questions to the Executive
A lot of people are raising this same question with me:
When we can expect weed spraying to begin?
Below is the written answer from the Executive Member
The programme of weed spraying commenced on the 10th July 2023. The spraying is expected to take 4 – 6 weeks based on the current forecasts for July and August. An email detailing this information was sent to all members on Friday 30 June. The teams progress through the borough on a ward-by-ward basis. With some wards being larger than others it is difficult to say when the teams will be in a particular ward in advance with any accuracy at this time however, weekly communications to ward members will be issued to keep members up to date on progress.
I don’t mind admitting I stayed up late for the 3 by-elections. Uxbridge was a disappointment, my suspicion is that had we given time to explain how few vehicles would be impacted by ULEZ, we’d have sailed through. You don’t change your policy in the middle of an election. So I went to bed very cross.
Co-op Party AGM Gtr Manchester
I really like the Co-op Party and I’m proud to be a member. We seem to get so much more business decided.
We passed a motion supporting the mutalisation of United Utilities on Saturday. It reflected our values – the motion will progress to regional conference. We didn’t need to spend hours debating the point and sometimes unanaminity is more powerful than having the last word.
Last few meetings at my Old Trafford school
Had to ride to Old Trafford four times over the week, despite the last governor’s meeting being held the previous week. The school has broken up for summer now but we needed to mark the occasion.
Good luck and Best wishes to all the children moving on to their secondary school. You will all make your mark on the world. I’m expecting great things from your your young lives!
I’ve been chair of governors twice now – a short time at Barton Clough when it was in crisis and we brought in Tony Rae and lately at Old Trafford Community Academy with co-heads Judith Stott and Nicola Davenport. It was great to meet up with those Headteachers again at Old Trafford last week.