David Amess, it seems, isn’t the only one with a desire to speak.
Your blogger wasn’t at Thursday night’s full council meeting, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I don’t have to be. Yes, Southend Borough Council now broadcasts its meetings online, so that ordinary voting residents can be bored to tears too.
I jest, mostly. The meeting was interesting to someone who has a pre-existing interest, and probably should be interesting to anyone who has a stake — i.e. all of the residents of the borough. Whether or not that was the case, I couldn’t say.
It did however last nearly five and a half hours. Five and a half hours of talking. Starting at half six, and finishing at midnight. Apparently the public gallery was fairly full at the start. I don’t imagine it was by the end.
The discussion of the electoral changes was at the end of the agenda, which some might argue isn’t the best place to put something directly impacting the voters. Out of the way. Though the administration, having already been forced into a u-turn on closing children’s centres, might have been glad of that.
In the event, Cllr Holdcroft repeated his arguments that it would make things simpler for the voters, and Cllr Cox repeated his still-flawed comparisons with the US senate as he called for a reduction in the number of councillors. That would be one way of keeping the length of meetings down, I suppose.
Elsewhere counter-arguments included that frequent elections are the only things which might keep politicians honest — something which might chime with voters — and that the estimated £50k savings were a miniscule drop in the barrel. We also heard a slightly rambling story from Cllr Norman about the Suez crisis turning Prittlewell Labour, and the — less compelling — claim that all-up elections could decide four years of governance on a whim.
The motion failed (naturally). Cllr Holdcroft characterised opposition as “this was their cosy club and what a disaster if the electorate chose to sweep us all out and replace us” (naturally). Cllr Cox accused the opposition councillors of being “mere lickspittle to their party leaders” (naturally).
But the issue that stood out to me was the sheer bloody length. I can’t help but feel this is the result of the full council meeting only every two months or so. Perhaps if they met more frequently (every month, say?) then they might be done at a sensible hour.