Gedling councillors spoke about local issues on Thursday as Nottinghamshire County Council held its first assembly.
The newly-elected council chairman, Mike Quigley MBE (Conservative), set the tone by telling councillors that they are here to “work together”, “not to slag each other off”.
He aims to establish a “new relationship” in the chamber, as meetings are to be “succinct & to the point”.
“Don’t boil your cabbages twice”.
Acknowledging the local swing towards the Conservatives on 6 May, Labour’s new council opposition leader, Kate Foale, said that getting elected this time round was “harder”, and “clearly it was a disappointing day for Labour”.
But she congratulated the new Conservative council leader, Ben Bradley, and his new team.
“We look forward to working together”
She then raised an issue raised by many during the meeting, stating “at times this was nasty election”.
“It doesn’t have to be”.
She urged “Reasoning” rather than “insults”.
‘We will not descend into name calling and will vote for motions which will benefit residents’.
Conservative councillor for Newstead Chris Barnfather also advocated reconciliation.
“Politics is a brutal game”, but people voting for different candidates “is democracy”.
Cllr Tom Hollis (Ashfield Independents, Sutton West), meanwhile, summed up the mood by stating that he was glad that agenda papers are now green and non-partisan rather than blue or red.
This atmosphere was interrupted soon, however, as Foale asked how Bradley, given his two roles, as MP and councillor, what assurance he can provide to residents that he will be able to work for them.
Bradley reverted to his default response to this concern by suggesting that his is not a unique situation and there is “a lot of crossover” between the two roles.
The council’s Conservative group will ‘hold me to account on my delivery’.
He then announced that the council will launch a large consultation with communities to put together a wider council plan for the way forward.
This will possibly be via the internet and forums.
Carlton West’s Errol Henry (Labour) highlighted how “It is again disappointing that I am the only BAME member in this chamber”.
He said that there is, therefore, still “some work to do” with regards to local representation.
Bradley, outlined new bodies to replace current place and covid recovery committees.
Gedling’s Cllr Barnfather (Newstead) seconded this motion, adding that it will “empower” members and committees to make decisions and use resources. “More bottom up than top down”.
New committees will include
- Communities committee.
- Transport and environment.
- Economic development (Covid recovery)
Labour’s new Nottinghamshire leader, Cllr Kate Foale, supported these committee changes but also wants joint Health Scrutiny Committee with city.
Steve Carr (LD, Bramcote and Beeston North) added that parts of Gedling use health services in the city.
Foale stated that the new Economic Development Committee needs to have a “real focus” on developing and supporting local economy after the impact of the pandemic.
Cllr Sue Saddington (Con) emphasised how the Health Scrutiny Committee will aim to improve Queens Medical services, including those focused on maternity and diabetes.
Ambulance services, primary care and mental health will also be prioritised.
The latter has been exacerbated by lockdown, she says, and the council will treat patients “As a person, not given a tablet and told to go away”.
On special needs resources, Cllr Tracey Taylor (Conservative, Misterton) emphasised “direct engagement” with families which will inform a strategic action plan.
There are an “estimated 11,000 young people with additional needs” in the county, and the council’s priority is to “understand the needs” of this group with a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment completed in “6-12 months”.
Gedling’s Jim Creamer (Labour, Carlton Hill) was the most vocal of Gedling’s councillors.
He asked about local social care reform.
The Conservative grouping quoted the Queen’s Speech – “Proposals on social care reforms will be brought forward” and suggested that the £300bn spent on pandemic response meant there had not been “bandwidth” for proposals for social care reform.
Creamer also agreed with a motion to reduce the use of single use plastic.
He urged work with partner councils, including Gedling, and contractors, as well as the use of Ben Bradley’s second position and push it in Parliament.
We can “encourage” at local level, but national law is more influential.
Plastic masks and other material are “clogging the Earth up”.
He also urged a climate impact assessment for committee decisions.
Cllr Neil Clarke MBE (Conservative, Radcliffe), Transport and Environment Committee chair, stated that the council is “making carbon reduction a priority” and “discussing” with officers to initiate a review of the county’s existing contract in order to streamline local recycling.
A motion to declare a climate emergency was passed convincingly by members.
Carlton East Cllr Mike Adams said “we need to all agree that we need to change.
‘For our kids, for everybody we care about, and for the future of our area’.
Hydrogen, he suggested, could be used for independent energy generation and car fuel.
Perhaps the most acrimonious issue was the idea of a ‘Super Council’ which would disband borough councils like Gedling in the county.
Cllr Zadrozny of the Ashfield Independents – predictably leading the charge – called the notion that the disbandment of local and borough councils will save money is “a fallacy”.
A ‘Super Council’ of Nottinghamshire would make “a mockery” of local democracy.
He then went on to say the council leader Ben Bradley cannot “walk on water” as he had sent a letter stating that unifying councils was not the council’s priority after Cllr Zadrozny put forward a motion against it.
Despite being a good politician, he’s “not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy”.
Bradley read out the said letter which read “I can’t predict the future”, but “I hope that we can avoid having a massive debate” about unitary local councils.
Although it’s “not an imminent priority” formally, “I’m sure we wouldn’t want to rule out future conversations on how we can work closer together”.
Nevertheless, he did say that the plans had been “put to bed” and are “not on the table”.
Another Ashfield Independent, Cllr Tom Hollis, accused Bradley of trying to “ride both horses”.
The scheme, put forward by the Conservative-controlled county council last year, would see all extra-city councils disbanded, replaced with one super council.
This would have represented approximately 828,000 people.
There would also have been an elected mayor of the East Midlands.
The prospect has been in the hands of the Government since September.
On roads, particularly potholes, Cllr Neil Clarke warned that expectations need to be managed, but we should still ask are we “using the latest innovation”, are we doing this the most efficient way? “Is there a better way?”
“This is a countywide problem” and it “needs to be cross party”.
First report expected on 15 June agreeing “scope and terms of reference”.
Conservative John Ogle urged that quality needs to be assured as well as quantity.
Damage to cyclists and vehicles is a potential hazard with patching and rough tarmac.
Gedling’s Jim Creamer added that the council needs to look at the state of the pavements also, as they are used by mobility scooters and push bikes.
E-scooters too, despite it being illegal.