Monday, 16 June 2008

The best committee meeting I've attended

Tonight's Community Overview & Scrutiny (or Overview & Mutiny according to one tongue-in-cheek council officer) was fantastic. I simply can't think of another committee where all the papers attached to the agenda are about topics that so clearly, directly, and acutely, affect the way residents live their lives, and especially the most disadvantaged and socially excluded residents.

Maybe it was also the fact that a few councillors couldn't make it, and so the committee was slightly smaller than normal, but, its momentum and dynamics were spot on, with wide-ranging contributions and discussion, and high-quality input from the officers attending. In the departments represented, its obvious that the teams are committed to their work, and are seeking to do a great job.

Much of the agenda regarded our housing in the borough, and the nightmare scenario of the next few years, during which the amount of rental income that we must give to central government will reach 58%! That's right, 58% of rental income will make up the negative subsidy (what a horrible phrase) that the government insists we give to them as we are so clearly a borough that doesn't need the funds. Serious sarcasm.

What rot. It makes no sense at all. The papers with the agenda last night make it all too clear that our borough does not have the finances to sustain toleration of this kind of daylight robbery. By 2012 we will have zero in our reserves, and scrape by on a minimum fund for maintenance and repairs.

Much praise must go to our chief executive and out-going head of housing David January for speaking up so clearly and loudly on this issue, but as yet, there's no public sign of a change of policy (or heart).

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