Yesterday was the first full County Council of the new council year. Having taken the decision not to run again last May, I can honestly say that I don’t miss it.
In general, Full Council meetings are mostly theatre, with much of the more serious scrutiny and debate having already taken place through the committees and party group meetings. Nonetheless, the stage-management at county always seemed far more extensive than anything I have encountered elsewhere.
While work got in the way of me watching the live webcast of the meeting, Twitter offered a pretty detailed account of what was taking place. It may be possible to call councillors selectively or to turn off their microphones–although that wouldn’t stop me if I was sufficiently riled, Twitter offers an uncensored insight into the opinions of those sat around the chamber. So, how would the outcome of the meeting be summed up? In two words: not good.
This doesn’t come as a huge surprise. What was a huge surprise was the decision that Cllr Peter Catchpole has had his cabinet role scaled back considerably on the grounds of a conflict of interest. Why was this surprising? That the conflict of interest had always existed from the moment he took on the role and for years Labour members had complained, only for the council’s legal officers to say there was no problem. Frankly, I have zero faith in the competency or commitment of the county’s legal officers. They have always seemed to view themselves as servants of the administration in Chichester and not the public. That neither serves the public nor the administration well.
On a personal level, I’ve never had any issue with Peter, we’ve always been perfectly cordial with one another. Yet, it was clearly always wrong for him to have been privately remunerated by a company whose services fall under his portfolio. The final straw apparently being an investigation now taking place into that company. Yet again we are faced with an issue some of us have been relaying for many moons upon county’s deaf ears, only for them to realise there was a serious problem at the worst possible moment. As a resident, I want county to succeed, but the arrogance of the organisation appears to continuously preclude any chance of their future success.