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Severe tax cuts and budget overspend scrutinised by committee eyes only

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

Policy and Resources Scrutiny Committee 15.11.22

Like most readers, unless you are buried in politics and it runs through your veins, the processes and procedures are likely to appear quite confusing.

I have taken to reviewing each council meeting as they come in order to shine some kind of light on the machinations of the people governing our city.

Truth be told, these meetings are often riddled with tiresome speeches about how important filling in a pothole is, planting a tree and dogs defecating on the beach.

Whilst these issues do matter, it is the incessant rambling that stretches these meetings unnecessarily long.

So, as I opened up the recording for this meeting, which with popcorn at the ready, I had earmarked for a long 3-hour epic given the seriousness of the subject, I was bemused to find it over in 4 minutes.

There is this term often used in these meetings known as: ‘part 2’. It means that the item in the discussion cannot be in the public domain due to confidentiality.

The topic tonight was the minutes of The Shareholder Board.

In that meeting, it was announced that Southend Council is projected to overspend on the budget by £12m (reduced from £14m) and is due to cut the capital budget by £20m.

These are enormous sums that will negatively impact our lives. We have yet to know what has been cut, but one of their solutions was to close five floors in the Civic Centre!

I was looking forward to a dissection, interrogation and, as the name of the meeting suggests, robust scrutiny.

Instead, the public was privy to no member of the public asking questions (we must do more here); apologies for absence, for which there were quite a few; and declarations of interest, for which there were none.

The Chairperson asked for the councillor to introduce the topic but then agreed with the members to go straight into ‘Part 2’.

However long that section of the meeting was, the public was then permitted to see ‘Part 1’. This consisted of the Chair saying, ‘thank you very much and good evening’.

I am not sure which information was so confidential that the public could not know, but I cannot see how discussions are not able to be conducted without divulging sensitive information.

It really ought to be the very last resort because this justification is all too easy to apply.

Extremely disappointing to leave this meeting with zero idea about how our services are being eroded.

This will be the last meeting where a Southend Confelicity member will not be in attendance and asking questions.

If the councillors will not scrutinise in public, then we will be perfectly happy to do so.

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