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Obituary: George Bamber

Obituary George BamberWe're sad to report the death of an old stalwart; Alderman and former Councillor George Bamber - a man in his council days of independent mind, great mathematical acumen, and forthright common-sense views.

He was a man of the people and 'Mr Wesham' as far as anyone was concerned. He was widely known and loved by locals and he fought hard to ensure Wesham always had a fair crack of the whip.

A period of military service left him with the formality and self respect that is it's hallmark. We doubt anyone ever saw him unshaven. He was always smartly turned-out in collar and tie when he was 'out'. His style was always crisp and clear cut, you imagined he would have been shamed if you couldn't see your face in his shoes.

Off duty, he was an able sailor, and he liked a drachm of whiskey now and again.

It was Cllr Bamber who, when Mayor, was responsible for enriching the culture of Wesham offices Council Chamber with some of the Council's rural artwork by Richard Ansdell.

But his greatest gift was in figures. He could add up columns of numbers using mental arithmetic faster than anyone we knew, and he seemed to be able to sense it when figures didn't   tally properly. In the days before everyone had a computer and spreadsheet, we've seen him use that gift to devastating effect.

To be fair to officers, the system was somewhat stacked against them. An officer would produce a report to go to the Council.

Within his department it would be argued and checked and eventually became something the Director of his department was happy to propose. If the deadline for Committee items was, say, the Friday, it would go to the Admin department (to be assembled with reports from all the other departments) as a rough draft agenda.

That, in turn, would be an item on the corporate Management Team agenda for the Tuesday following, where all reports were reviewed and considered by the Chief Executive, the Finance officer and the other departmental directors. Each Director had to explain, and often defend, the proposals they brought, in the face of competition for resources and the report's wider impact of the Council.

Often Management Team would require changes to the proposals and, especially if the changes related to changed staffing or budget arrangements, parts of the report might have to be changed or deleted on the Tuesday afternoon in order that the final agenda could be sent out on the Wednesday night post, ready for a pre-agenda chairman's briefing on the Friday, and Committee or Council on the Monday.

If there were items within the report that impacted on others, it was not uncommon for late changes not to be fully worked through all the calculations in the time available before the postal deadline, and sometimes, there might be, let's say - anomalies - in the figures elsewhere in the report

These may or may not be spotted at pre-agenda briefing, but if hey were not, and it was a Committee that Cllr Bamber sat on, he would always spot them.

We watched several meetings where an officer introduced the report only to hear the Chairman utter the dreaded words "Yes, Cllr Bamber."

That introduction from he Chairman was inevitably followed with something like 'Now Mr Officer, I've read your report. Could you explain why on page 2 the figure adds up to £3,000 but in the conclusions on Page 6 it adds up to £2,400? or some similar statement.

You could watch an officer shrivel as he had to publicly explain what appeared to be his incompetent mathematics.

It could also open up clues for other Committee members about late changes that had been made to the report, and the more astute might probe these somewhat to make sure they fully understood what they were voting on.

That, of course was in the days when all Councillors - like George Bamber - were actually in charge of what they decided, and even in charge of the details of what was budgeted to a much greater extent than today

We can't help thinking Cllr Bamber would not have felt comfortable serving in the policy-driven council of today where almost everything is delegated to officers.

We mourn the passing of a good man, an able councillor and one of nature's gentlemen.

Dated:  7 October 2011


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