These are the people who run Ipswich and it is the first time (I’m aware of) they have been filmed, outside of the stage-managed arena of the Full Council meeting at the Town Hall, in the power base that is the Executive Committee.
It is the Executive (also known as Cabinet at some local authorities) where the crucial decisions affecting Ipswich residents and businesses are made. Even the Council Tax is set at Executive and only rubber-stamped at Full Council when the ruling party has a majority – which the Labour Party certainly do, having 21 more councillors than their nearest Tory rivals.
I congratulate Ben Redsell over at the Ipswich Spy parish for spending a large amount of time getting to the point where he could film the Executive Committee last night. Grafton House mandarins have been reluctant to comply with the Local Government Secretary of State’s advice (soon to become Law) to Councils to allow filming, tweeting and reporting at all local authority public meeting, but with persistence Mr Redsell was able to overcome these obstacles with some caveats. Officers were not filmed – a whole bank of them – probably more than the number of councillors present are sitting to the right of the Executive Chairman and Council leader, Cllr David Ellesmere. In local government, councillors are paid an allowance not a wage and certainly not enough money to make it a full time job (if they want to eat and pay rent/a mortgage that is) so the Officers wield much more commensurate power (with many decisions delegated to them to save on councillor time) than civil servants have in Whitehall – making a case for senior officers to be filmed as they direct proceedings. Ipswich Spy – whilst filming is in its infancy – have, rightly, taken the decision not to antagonise the powers-that-be by filming the Chief Executive and his Directors.
Ipswich Spy is also taking full responsibility for data protection, which would not be the case if they were just filming say the external architecture of the beautiful Town Hall on the Cornhill – another public place just like the Orwell Room at Grafton House was during the Executive Committee’s meeting. That’s a discussion for another time but you can gauge how difficult it was for Ipswich Spy to film last night and they should be congratulated for their public service.
The decisions made at this Executive meeting were to increase council housing rents and approve funds (details excluded from the public) for the Holywells Park renovations, amongst other items. The full Agenda can be read here.