For my sins, I attended Ipswich Borough Council’s Full Council meeting on Monday. With it being the first Full Council since the pomp and circumstance of the Mayor Making ceremony in May (more of that night here), it was time to hold the new Labour Administration to account with 6 questions (one was strangely dropped from the order paper) from the Conservative and now very much mutually exclusive Liberal Democrats Groups. Unfortunately, Labour conveniently forgot they won power in May’s Local Elections.
To kick off Council Questions, Cllr Jones was asked by the Conservative Group Leader, Cllr Carnall, what incentives did the new Labour Administration intend to deploy to bring the Town’s empty shops and “run down areas” back into use. A curious case of verbal diarrhoea broke out with Cllr Jones spending several minutes telling the Council how the Economic Development department was not up to scratch and that it was all the Conservatives’ fault. For the members of the public watching from the Gallery we did not learn what the new Economic Development portfolio holder was going to do about the lack of enterprise in Ipswich, despite Cllr Carnall using his supplementary to ask the question again.
We then moved on to another question for Cllr Jones from the new councillor for Bixley Ward, Cllr Kym Stroet, who asked if the Council was going to work with the Co-op to save the Macaulay Road store from closing, considering how close the Labour Party is to the Co-operative Society. We were swiftly told by Cllr Jones the Labour Party had no present close links with the Co-op and there was nothing they could do to help residents in the Macaulay Road area. I think they protest too much about the lack of links to the Co-op considering the large number of Labour councillors who declared an interest at the beginning of the meeting as members of the East of England Co-operative Society!
Housing was up next, when Liberal Democrat Cllr Bates asked the new Labour portfolio holder for Housing, Cllr Mowles, would they, now Labour were back in charge, be re-opening the Area Housing Offices they so ferociously opposed and campaigned to re-open only last year. Cllr Mowles said something about the new housing structure preventing him from meeting this manifesto pledge and that “we are where we are”. So that would be a ‘no’ then.
Question 5 was mysteriously dropped from the order paper. My sources tell me it was something to do with a football club…
Then we were on to Cllr Terry vs. Cllr Rudkin – always a contest worth watching. The former portfolio holder for Culture and Leisure asked the new portfolio holder why previous Labour Administrations allowed the High Street Exhibition Gallery at Ipswich Museum to fall into virtual dereliction over the previous 25 years when they controlled the Council. Unsurprisingly, the question was not answered but instead Cllr Rudkin gave us a lecture on how it was all Thatcher’s fault despite Labour being in charge of the Council for all the time the Conservatives were in Government between 1979 and 1997 and then continued to be in charge of the Borough between 1997 and 2004 when Tony Blair was PM. The mind boggles!
Labour have never really understood Government. I can understand this at a national level considering for much of the last century they weren’t actually in Government (thankfully!) but at a local level Labour see Ipswich as their personal fiefdom considering the number of years they have run the Town Hall. They never really understood why they were not in power during the last seven years and acted as if they were still in charge. So why behave like an Opposition when they really are in power? Perhaps it’s to try and fool the electorate that it is never their fault but those nasty Tories. Unfortunately for Labour, the electorate are a lot cleverer than the Socialists give them credit for and will be watching to see how Labour perform now they are back in power at Grafton House. On Monday night’s performance at Council Questions, Labour still have a lot to prove.