The most important obligation that every councillor has, whatever their political persuasion, is to agree a balanced budget. Last night's budget debate was a slightly surreal experience as eloquently put by Del Thomas in his blog today.
We had a long debate and astoundingly all opposition members agreed with every aspect of the budget warts and all, without putting it to a vote. I may be simple sole but if I had strong feelings and disagreed with any aspect of council business, then I would want my objections noted, recorded and put to a vote just like I did with a separate item aside from the budget on last night's agenda.
As all the opposition members agreed to the budget in full without having any objections publicly recorded in a vote, this means that all the Independent Party members agree with the financial management of the council, including borrowing, borrowing repayments and the formulating of the budget without using Zero Based Budgeting.
It also means that Cllr Woodley and the rest of his Thorpe Ward colleagues agree with pay and display charging from 10:30 - 18:00 in the car park behind the Camilia Hotel although he couldn't really object as he and his colleagues proposed it in the first place!
What was also surprising is that we had a petition handed to the Mayor by Labour Group Leader Cllr Ian Gilbert from Southend Against The Cuts which asked for 'support against the cuts' and 'calls on our local councillors and MP's to do as much as they can to oppose the cuts in the strongest possible terms'. SATC are Southend Labour in all but name as their contact address advertised on their website is the Southend Labour Party HQ in Sutton Road. You just couldn't make it up!
I'm sure the 1,321 who signed the petition feel rather let down today as well as Unison, who bankrolls the Labour Party and even organised a rally before the meeting asking members to oppose the budget. I feel someone might be in for a bit of explaining...