Wednesday, 17 July 2013
Tired councillors make tired decisions
DEMOCRACY is a funny old cause which seems to mean different things to different people.
Take a recent full council debate in Weymouth over the Local Plan which saw unsuccessful block voting by Labour over various changes they wanted made to the Plan before it was sent off to Government.
Some of their group then expressed concern at the way full council meetings no longer seemed to offer the pinnacle for debate which increasingly occurred at management committee.
Tory councillor Kevin Hodder - himself no mean debater - then caused a little stir by lamenting the loss of full councils past when debate waxed fulsome and passionate.
He wanted this decline over the last 15 or 20 years reversed with more final say for full council because, as a non-management committee member, coming to full council was his only real chance to draw attention to things he wanted changed.
Now I’ve got a great deal of respect for Mr Hodder who is one of the sharper politicians in the council toolbox but there is an old saying.......Be careful what you wish for. You may get it.
When I first started covering Weymouth and Portland full council meetings more than 33 years ago they were the kiss of death.
Proceedings still started at 7pm but, unlike modern meetings where an element of common sense prevails (well most of the time), press and public knew full well back then that three hours later at 10pm didn’t mean the meeting was nearly over but more likely that it was just getting started!
Midnight plus finishes were common and bad nights, such as those for budgets, could extend well into the wee small hours of the morning.
My point is that democracy doesn’t gain by tired people making tired decisions.
If Mr Hodder’s hopes are ever realised and full council does regain greater mastery of council decision making then someone somewhere has got to change meeting times from an evening start to an afternoon start because I have personal experience of seeing some councillors actually fall asleep at night because the meeting was so late and they were so exhausted.
Propose making that change to afternoons and Mr Hodder may well see a different sort of democracy... from colleagues voting against it because they can’t get the time off to attend during the day.
Democracy tries to be all things to all people but the bottom line is that the course chosen for it will be by majority and the council currently carries out its business the way it does because councillors voted to have it that way.
Need to encourage night time economy
WEYMOUTH has long wrestled with the problem of how to make more productive use of the gap between its shops closing and the night-time economy getting into gear.
That fallow period was never better illustrated than the other evening when sunshine drew me into town for a stroll along the seafront.
So I parked in the multi-storey about 7pm and walked out of it past TK Maxx and Debenhams, up past the White Hart pub, over St Thomas Street and St Mary Street and right to the top of Bond Street before going out on to the Esplanade.
The point is that during the whole of that walk I didn’t meet or see a single person. It was like a ghost town.
Various initiatives want to inject new life into this barren middle period, to encourage street events and the cafe culture and to have more going on so families are enticed in. That drive is clearly needed because if a sunny summer’s evening isn’t enough to bring people in to town then no wonder more ordinary conditions leave the town centre a deserted and unwelcoming shell.
What is being considered had better be year-round solutions because half the summer is already gone and it may already be too late for the tourist season.
Before you know it Easter will be here
NIGHTS are drawing in now and it has been pointed out to me that Christmas is a mere 23 weeks away.
Almost incredibly, the reason why the festive season is registering with me is that I’ve also been told that certain shops are poised to take their first delivery of Christmas cards.
This beggars belief since we can presumably only be a few more weeks away from seeing Easter eggs in the shops!
I have commented on this blurring of the commercial season before, but it does seem to be getting worse.
Please can we, the long-suffering general public, be allowed a bit of a breather between each campaign to capture our cash. I would appreciate it and I’m sure many other people would too.