You are cordially invited to a holding-to-account of Wokingham Borough Council, on the day of their budget. It take place at Shute End, at 8pm on 23rd February, and I look forward to seeing you all there.
On Thursday, the day I’ve been ranting to myself about for a while now will get here. Yes, Wokingham Borough Council will be debating their budget. Well, I say debating. Since I’ve called everything correctly so far, from their refusal to let anyone see it more than a week before time, to the complete unsustainability of year on year council tax freezes, I’ll reiterate my predication that it will be passed with a drab raising of hands from the Conservative majority.
Except, that doesn’t sound like democracy is supposed to work. Or at least, it’s not in my book. When was the last time that any of you felt you had any control over what your local representatives did in your name?
Do you remember when the petition against the privatisation of the libraries was going around? Maybe you even signed it? That was the first time that a popular petition had forced a debate at a full council meeting. It showed the concern of the people at how one of their valued public services. What the Conservatives do? They ignored the concerns, and belittled those presenting the petition. The whole performance was a complete disgrace.
There are some more petitions that will be coming up to the correct number soon, including one which will trigger a debate on the council’s decision to remove public toilets. But as long as the Conservatives think that they can do whatever they like and at no point face scrutiny or consequence, exactly the same thing with happen as with the previous debate.
So here’s what I’m proposing. On Thursday 23rd February 2012, at 2000hrs, Wokingham Borough Council we be debating the sham of their budget. I will be there, watching from the public gallery. If you want to see the contempt that your local government holds you in, if you want to come and voice your displeasure with their actions, then why not come and join me?
Every resident has the right to come and watch public meetings. The public gallery isn’t particularly huge, but we can get a fair number of people in there- and imagine how uncomfortable it would make councillors to know that the very people by whose votes are there are watching and paying attention to their words and votes.
Let me be clear: this will not solve the problems in Wokingham local governance. That will take time, and it will take effort. But this will be a start, a first step on the road to putting people back at the heart of politics. Wherever you consider yourself to be politically, come see our council in action.
If you want to, then the council chambers are at SHUTE END, WOKINGHAM RG40 1BN. The meeting starts at 8pm, and goes on until we’ve all lost any faith in humanity (though, if you’re there for 7pm then you can watch the Executive Committe eat their meeting, too). If you want to talk to me about any of this, then you can do so in public in the comments below, or in private using my contact form.
But it really would be wonderful to see you there.
UPDATE: Somehow I missed this on the agenda, but The Wokingham Times are today trailing a non-story about the library privatisation plans– with the only piece of new information being that the Executive Committee are debating it tonight. For anyone who felt a little distanced from the general budget discussions, this might be of interest to you.
I’ve written about the library plans before, but the gist of it is that after last May’s elections (despite having made no mention of it in the campaign) the Conservatives announced they were “outsourcing” the library service. No consultation, and no asking what anyone thought. The plan is to award a contract in May (after the elections, perchance?), but strong indications have already been made that US company LSSI will get it.
If you’re interested, the Executive Committee meet at the same place, starting at 7pm. I’ll definitely be trying to get there for it myself.