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Councils try to bore us into submission

PUBLISHED: 06:00 14 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:01 03 March 2010

TWO council meetings I attended over the last week convinced me that councillors and their officers don't really want the press and public anywhere near their cosy little world.

TWO council meetings I attended over the last week convinced me that councillors and their officers don't really want the press and public anywhere near their cosy little world.

Full meetings of Ipswich Council have, for many years, been full of repetitive questions and yah-boo politics that really don't really advance the cause of democracy a millimetre.

This month we had 34 questions – many of them repeated from previous meetings – which took an hour and a half to get through and left no one any wiser than they were at the start of the evening.

Even the Hayhill Road allotment protesters, whose questions were once like a breath of fresh air, have now joined in the war of attrition whose aim seems to be to bore everyone into submission.

Two councillors made clear their frustration about the way the questions have been hijacked at the meeting: John Mowles and Tim Watson, who's so disillusioned about the council in general that he's standing down in May.

But hero of the night was former mayor Eric Grant.

According to the standing orders, questions can only take up half an hour.

But every meeting someone gets up and moves that standing orders are suspended so the rest of the questions can be asked. All the councillors then shove up the hands like so many lemmings.

Last week, however, Mr Grant voted against the extension. Good for him!

If the rest of the council realised just how ridiculous they looked they wouldn't want the questions to last more than 30 minutes either!

And what's the point in having the 30 minute rule if it's always cast to one side?

IF the borough's meeting was long-winded then Suffolk County Council's Sustainable Suffolk Theme Panel was the perfect cure for insomnia.

It was run purely for the benefit of officers whose workplace is only a short walk from the committee room and without any concession for anyone who wasn't a member of the council or an employee who might have an interest.

We had to sit through two hours of waffle about "action plans" and "performance targets" that are meaningless to anyone outside County Hall before we came to a very good debate about the Ipswich Local Plan which affects anyone who lives in, or visits, the town.

Was any concession made to bring the debate forward? Was any effort made to make it more attractive to members of the public who might be interested?

Not on your life – members of the public interested in politics? We can't have that, they'd get in the way. They're just their for councillors to moan at every four years when they don't get out and vote!

WHAT do you buy a Prime Minister who's got everything for Christmas?

A dictionary with the word tomorrow on every page? A "Ricky Martin" Singing Santa? A Christmas tree that opens its branches to reveal Santa's Grotto?

They'd all be very acceptable, I'm sure. But please don't buy him a Big Mouth Billy Bass to put on the wall. I'm reliably informed he's already got one!

Tony Blair is, of course, not the only VIP to have one of these amusing toys on his wall – last Christmas it was revealed that the Queen has one, a present from the Duke of York.

LEADER of the House of Commons Robin Cook has decided to bring Prime Minister's Questions forward by three hours to noon, so "honourable members" can quiz the boss before lunch.

Apparently this will make them behave better than they do in the bear pit that is the House of Commons at 3pm.

What is he saying about what MPs have for lunch in the various restaurants and bars around the Palace of Westminster?

IPSWICH Town director Lord Ryder has a new job – he's been appointed deputy chairman of the BBC.

Apparently this is to balance the board of governors – Lord Ryder is a former Conservative chief whip in the House of Commons while chairman Gavyn Davies is a well-known Labour supporter.

But there could also be a clash on another crucial issue in the hallowed offices of the BBC in London.

Mr Davies is a keen Southampton fan – he was a backer of a consortium which tried to buy the club a couple of years ago – while Lord Ryder's connections with Portman Road are quite clear.

With both clubs up to their necks in the relegation mire, it could make governors' meetings rather entertaining!


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