But with all rules, there are exceptions. And the Monday night meeting of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Place Scrutiny Committee was just such an exception.
There was actually a bloke sat behind me in the unusually full public gallery, muttering to Cllr Aylen about how boring the meeting was. I’m not sure how he knew this, mind, since he seemed to talk all the way through it.
But I digress. It did start of rather boringly, but it didn’t stay that way. In fact, for an observer, it was unusually exciting and nearly ended up coming to blows.
The issue in question was the Surface Water Management Plan, a document that I confess I have not yet read. But it seemed to excite Cllr Courtenay (CON — Blenheim Park).
Despite the slow start to the committee meeting, it quickly turned into a heated argument between Cllr James “The Man Who Would Be King” Courtenay, and Cllr Martin “Chicken Run” Terry (IND — Thorpe). It sounds absurd, but it really did get rather angry, over whether the committee was being asked to make a decision on the plan before certain parts had been properly consulted on and debated.
I have some sympathy with Cllr Courtenay, even if I suspect he was playing up for politics’ sake. There was one notable moment when I thought it was going to descend into violence, and Cllr Tony Cox (CON — West Shoebury) tried to calm him down. Cllr Courtany should take Cllr Cox’s advice; shouty and out of control isn’t the best of looks.
It has to be said, though, that Cllr Terry did not help himself at all. When in a hole, as the saying goes, stop digging. Cllr Terry, though, did not. I’m slightly shocked at how badly he handled it. He could — and probably should — have closed the discussion down. At one time he was taking friendly fire from Cllr Mike Assenhime (IND — Shoeburyness) as well.
Sadly for those in the public gallery, there were no fisticuffs. Next time, perhaps.
It is fascinating, though, just how fragmented the Independent
Party Group are. There was a later point where council leader Cllr Ron Woodley (IND – Thorpe) wanted the committee to send back a decision on parking that the cabinet had not made to his satisfaction. Which, as the Conservative councillors noted, was a little odd.
Ultimately, though, I suspect that the only reason that the Independent councillors voted with the administration was because Ron himself was present and watching them.
It becomes increasingly clear that whilst the leader of this administration is an Independent councillor, this is not an Independent-led administration.