Last Rites for Democracy
Well, they tried. You have to
give them that much at least. Kirkham's Firebrand Councillor Liz Oades, and Paul (The Mauler) Hayhurst, tried in vain to stop Commissar Coombes closing his iron fist around
Fylde's democracy this week. Alas it was to no avail. The full Council meeting rejected their call.
Councillors elected to represent their communities will not be
allowed to address the Politburo Cabinet. Instead, they will have to submit written questions in advance.
Introducing the move to give speaking rights, Liz Oades said members
of the public at the first Politburo Cabinet meeting had been "disgusted".
counterbalance agrees with her on this, as did Councillor Linda Nulty from Wesham who
described it as a "farce".
counterbalance does not agree with this description, because that first Politburo Cabinet meeting wasn't at all funny. Apart from the new
Brief Holders trooping-in en-mass fresh from their pre-meeting meeting in an ante-room, and later, their post-meeting meeting (presumably for brief holders to be de-briefed),
there was hardly any of the opening and closing of doors that you see in real Brian Rix farces.
Maybe it was the reference to brief-holding that put the term "farce" into
Councillor Nulty's mind.
Liz (Firebrand) Oades moved the proposal "That we take control of the Council and restore democracy" and that "We adopt the South
Ribble model and allow all members of the Council to speak at Cabinet meetings"
Curiously, arch-commonsense speaker John Bennett disagreed - he said
they were working to a new way now, and it probably wouldn't go back to the old system even if "the others" were in power. He said "The point is that power corrupts"
and after a moment's reflection he added "I can't say they are corrupt because they'd have me up straight away"
His use of the term "the others" (a group in which he would usually count himself) is quite interesting. Typically he might have said "even if we" were in power.
There's a suggestion here that something might be afoot. There are new committee chairmanships being doled out by the Commissar to the faithful - or perhaps to the converted.
Surely Councillor John (I want my vote recorded against it) Bennett hasn't taken the Commissar's Rouble has he?
Paul (The Mauler) Hayhurst said "If I have anything to do with this after the election, we will not have a Cabinet"
Ass. Commissar Roger Small said they can't just change things overnight, and that approving Liz Oades' resolution would render the Council impotent. (counterbalance is
avoiding comment here, especially about smalls, brief holders, and being impotent - before this column too degenerates into a farce).
Into the midst of all this mayhem the Commissar strode manfully and took control, saying that requiring written questions would make them look more professional as a Politburo
because there would be time to prepare proper information and answers.
Some observers took this to mean that Politburo Brief Holders wouldn't know the answers themselves, and they needed to have the questions in advance so the officers could
prepare written replies they could then read out. This led to accusations that it was really the officers that were running things now, and that the Commissar was really not in
charge at all.
The Commissar denied this, saying that Paul Hayhurst wouldn't turn the clock back if he were in power - at which point he was stopped in his tracks as Paul Hayhurst burst out "I
certainly will change it, I hate this Cabinet system"
Looking round the room, counterbalance thought that most of The Commissar's voting fodder were quiet. Several had their heads down, and a few had their heads in their hands when
the Commissar resumed: "Yes we have looked at the South Ribble model and it is a good system, but Fylde has not got the political maturity to run such a system"
Out of the mouth of babes.....
Moving toward the vote, the new temporary acting part-time Chief Executive and dedicated follower of fashion, Bill Taylor threw a dose of confusion into the process by saying
that if they approved the resolution as proposed, it was tantamount to saying they would adopt the whole of the South Ribble Constitution and he would have to bring a further
report about its content back for them to approve formally at a future meeting. This was probably a bit like overkill, but hey, when your Commissar's potentially in trouble,
you do what you can to help.
The vote came out (more or less as expected when the voting fodder did their business) 20 for Liz Oades' amendment and 26 against.
And so democracy died in Fylde.
The only thing missing was a priest to administer the last rites to a good friend who has been mugged by skinheads and given a good kicking by bovver boys, whilst almost
everyone else watched the attack in silence, then passed by on the other side.
Dated 28 February 2006