Yesterday there were some improvements in the way Council behaved and worked but there is still a long way to go.
The Council meeting started after a pre-meeting between the Lord Mayor and the Group Leaders (well three of the five of us turned up!). He wanted to raise the way council operated and wanted to ensure that the Council meeting kept to its own rules of engagement called the standing orders. He proposed nothing new but wanted to ensure that Council as a whole understood the way that it was supposed to behave.
Tome Crone, Joanne Anderson, and I agreed with him. The behaviour of a handful of councillors has undermined the way that the public think about us. We should not be trying to emulate the House of Commons and Prime Minister’s Question time. We should be better than that and should show courtesy to each other and disagree with each other, when we must, on a reasonable basis.
On those grounds the Council meeting was a success. Not one improper falling out at all. It may be a bit boring to some but there was a genuine attempt listen to each other and to add to each other’s ideas rather than dismiss other people’s ideas.
But in other ways it still did not work in the cross-Party way that I would like it to. There were two examples of this yesterday:
Firstly, a debate on the energy crisis. The Mayor moved a motion on the immediate people issues of cost of living and coping over the coming winter which have only partly been dealt with by the borrowing proposals of Truss. We agreed with 95% of what she moved. The Liberal Democrat’s Mirna Juarez then moved a proposal which dealt with the medium and long term needs to use all council and publicly owned assets in the City to harness wind, sun, and waterpower in the City. This is good for the economy and good for the environment. Labour supported most of what had put in the amendment according to their speakers.
Before coming to Council, I had tried to composite the two motions so that we produced one motion which would have agreed the short, medium, and long-term elements. Labour refused to do this and then voted against our amendment most of which Labour speakers said they agreed with. We however still voted for much of their amendment.
We then had a rubbish debate – actually a debate on rubbish!! My Liberal Democrat Colleague, Richard Clein moved an excellent motion which incorporated five very practical ideas which would have cost little and in the medium term would have save money. He also congratulated all the Womblers from throughout the city who go on litter picking exercises in their own area to keep their neighbourhoods clean and tidy and get a buzz out of doing it at the same time.
The speeches from Labour supported most of what Cllr Clein moved but they moved an amendment which neutered the motion, left it with no action at all on a pressing issue and removed the bit about thanking that army of volunteers. They basically supported it and then basically unsupported it at the same time!
So, there is still a lot to be done in the way that the Parties in Liverpool cooperate with each other.
After discussion with the Lord Mayor, he and the Group Leaders present agreed that his direction to Council should be replicated in Committee. Uppermost in the minds of the Mayor and I were the disgraceful scenes at the Audit Committee last week when one Cllr appeared to be in an over-excited state and continually to raise an item which was not on the agenda.
Cllr Kris Brown who chaired the Committee handled this well. Despite continued provocation he agreed to look at the issue and get it responded to. This was even though Cllr Cummings failed to make clear what he wanted and was actually raising the issue at the wrong Committee. As it was a question of a housing matter there is a specific Select Committee to deal with this where the Committee and Cabinet Member would be able to respond.
This has been followed up with disgraceful and ill in formed emails and Twitter messages to Cllr Brown one of which can only be looked like a physical threat and has been referred to the Police.
Similar but not as bad scenes have been played out at other Select Committees where various factions of Labour and ex-Labour seem to be aiming more at each other than finding solutions to the pressing problems of the city.
How to behave is abundantly clear and there are rules to provide the framework for our behaviours. Being courteous, listening to each other, working with each other, putting the needs of our City before the needs of our Political Party should be inside the heart of every democrat working within a democratic system.
Liverpool has improved hugely since the days of Joe Anderson rampaging around the Chamber in his usual abrasive and bullying way, but it still has quite a way to go.