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Just call me shallow…

January 12th, 2006 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · No Comments · Politics

I went to the council meeting tonight, and boy was I wrong about a couple of things.

First of all, the gasworks site is not withdrawn completely, but deferred until a planning judicial review thingy is complete for the North-East sector.

In reality this means indefinitely, but strictly speaking it would mean that is hasn’t gone away. The way I see it, if the consortium get their permission to build new houses then they will do so, which would preclude a travellers site. If they don’t get permission they will have to wait for the runway issue to be settled. If Gatwick gets a new runway then the travellers site is not feasible and if it doesn’t the houses get built. Whichever way you look at it English Partnerships will never be in a position to release the land, but in theory it would still be a possibility.

Secondly, I thought everyone knew about this letter from English Partnerships, but the Tories insisted they only got notice at 5:30pm today, so were claiming some sort of conspiracy. Thats a bit misleading as I know that one of them knew yesterday – I was there when he was told yesterday evening – but I guess it sounds better to stick to not having had the official letter. I was told yesterday, by the leader of the council, that the opposition had been told and he wouldn’t bullshit me on that – he did believe what he told me so either there was an almighty cock-up or a bit of dissembling for effect by the Tories. An effect of zero, since the Tories admitted it would not have changed their intentions at all.

Anyway, against that background we had the meeting which was much as I expected, with a large, loud crowd behaving in a way totally at odds with their wardrobe, shouting speakers down, slow-hand clapping, etc.

Crawley council is in a very finely-balanced state, with 19 Labour members, 16 Tories, and 2 Liberal Democrats. Two of the Labour councillors are away on a five-week holiday which would have put us in the minority, except that one of the Tories was not there either.

So the meeting had 17 Labour councillors and 17 others. The Tories made it very clear they were voting against Labour and the LDs seemed to be intending to vote with them – I think thats what he said anyway. Gordon likes to give both sides of a story and explain his position at such length sometimes that I lose track of exactly what the position is, also I remember the LDs having a habit of speaking strongly for or against something, calling for a recorded vote and then abstaining so I can never be 100% sure of their intentions.

Anyway, it was looking like being a hung vote which would need the mayor’s casting vote. During the debate one of the Labour councillors said that he had misunderstood the full meaning of the English Partnerships letter and it sounded like he therefore intended to vote the other way. Now that would be a very significant thing since the Labour group were under a very strong whip, and if he voted against it would mean Labour losing the vote, unless the Liberal Democrats abstained in which case it would be back to the casting vote again.

As you can imagine, this was quite exciting. When it came to the vote a recorded vote was called for. This was not unexpected and I know from experience that it prolongs the vote considerably. This was a vote on a Tory amendment so it would be followed by a vote on the substantive motion, or if it failed a new amendment would be proposed.

This is where the moment of extreme shallowness struck me. If I waited for the vote on the amendment and then the substantive motion I would have missed the beginning of Lost on Channel 4!

It was no competition really: Jayne and I snuck out, grabbed a chinese take away and got home with it just in time to catch the end-of-season double-bill, and having sat through two hours of hearing a lot of people say nothing which I have not heard them say before, punctuated by crowd interruptions, I didn’t even get to hear how it turned out.

One result though. Before the meeting we enquired at the box office and found they had seats for tomorrow’s concert by Think Floyd so we are going back to see that. Should keep me going until Pulse is released on DVD.

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