By recent standards, the budget Full Council was a short affair finishing at 22:30 as recent Full Council meetings have continued into the early hours of the following morning.
Short in time but not short of incident or talking points. No doubt, the main talking point in the local blogsphere is the comments made by Cllr Holdcroft to Cllr Woodley. Despite pledging to remain silent during the budget debate, for which I would have happily coughed up £10.00 for charity, Cllr Woodley stood up and told the chamber that that the budget:
"was a good budget, extremely clever budget, excellent but the damage done in previous years"
During the summing up of all the budget debate contributions Cllr Holdcroft responded to Mr Woodley by saying:
“Councillor Woodley: “An extremely good budget, extremely clever budget, excellent, damage done in previous years”. I suppose that would include the year that he supported our budget because he bought a chair of scrutiny in exchange, but no doubt that was far more important than the best interests of the budget.“
After a short recess, Cllr Woodley demanded an apology. Cllr Holdcroft refused and quite rightly. This relates to the memorandum of understanding the Conservatives signed with the Thorpe ward councillors. Remember, this memorandum of understanding was only agreed after the leadership elections following the 2012 local elections when the three opposition parties could not agree to form a coalition. The Lib Dems sat on their hands and refused to support Cllr Woodley's leadership nomination allowing Cllr Holdcroft to remain as leader and the Conservatives forming a minority administration.
The context of the agreement also has to be understood. This agreement was only signed as Cllr Woodley was upset at not receiving Lib Dem backing for his leadership nomination considering he endorsed the Lib Dem leader during his re-election campaign and to realise his ambitions for power.
The memorandum of understanding gives an undertaking that we would offer the chairmanship of the scrutiny committees to the opposition parties. in 2012, the reality was that the only opposition nominations put forward for scrutiny chairman positions were Cllr Woodley and Cllr Kaye, an Independent Party member at the time. In this current Civic year, there were no further nominations than the existing scrutiny chairs so they were duly elected.
In the context of the national climate it was a good budget. It offered a freeze in Council Tax, parking and leisure charges for hard working families, investment in street lighting, flood defences, primary school places and our roads and footways.
The opposition tactics were somewhat odd. On occasions there was even lavish praise for some of the budget items. Yet both Labour and the Lib Dems voted against the budget despite producing no alternative budget or amendments. The Lib Dems leaders speech he even suggested that Council Tax should be increased.
The Independent Party leader Cllr Terry gave a 20 minute lecture on council borrowing but was promptly reminded what a lame duck leader he now is when over half of his group voted to support the budget containing council borrowing. The proceedings from Thursday night can be viewed here.