Tuesday 4th – presentation from officers in Parks Dept about their plans for urban woodland (supported by the Forestry Commission) in urban sites across the city; and to change the way they manage some parks – “rewilding” parts of them rather than short-mowing every green space. It doesn’t affect any sites in Central ward, there aren’t any big enough green spaces.
Wednesday 5th – petitioned by a city centre shop owner, fed up about what he calls the “occupation” of the streets around him: the city centre management team rents out pavement space to all manner of stalls and tents and entertainments. He feels it brings the centre down and that footfall does not equate to improved trade in the existing shops. Hard to know how to influence what happens in the city centre – back to SCRAG’s call for a city centre champion to make sure there is a strategic plan which all departments are aware of and try to follow.
Later in the day I contributed to a focus group on “member support,” as the ever-reducing pool of legal officers, democratic services and group secretarial staff try to cobble it together. We covered IT, case-work, training for our various committee responsibilities. I made the case for a more shared, cross-party, reflective approach to training and was soundly put in my place by the most vocal of the Labour members in attendance. The council is the furthest from a “learning organisation” I have ever come across and many members of the ruling group have no sense of the council as a corporate body beyond the administration itself.
Friday 7th – budget day. There was large contingent of blind and disabled people petitioning the council to reverse the loss of their early morning travel passes (see earlier); and some die-hard library campaigners. But considering the scale of the cuts, it was telling that, on the whole, the public have stopped trying to influence the council. The motion and three amendments were duly put; Labour duly blamed the Lib Dems opposite for everything and the Lib Dems duly said that Labour was making the wrong choices. We called for a referendum on increasing council tax to keep the libraries open for another year, at least while a better way of supporting volunteers and sharing resources is worked out, to save some of the cuts in social services and increase the hardship fund for those in receipt of council tax benefit. Labour’s amendment and substantive motion were duly passed. Graham Wroe, our website officer, filmed the last hour and Rob Murphy and my speeches are on the Green Party website, so I will not say more here.
Saturday 8th – International Women’s day celebrated in the Town Hall with a wonderful speech from one of the Women of Steel (Kathleen) and workshops … and in the afternoon I met some young men who want to open a community café in Broomhall, which involved sampling their wares and talking very openly about the difficulties of making the café acceptable to their elders as well as to the younger generation and the wider cultural mix. But I have every hope they will find their way through it: food is a great way of getting people to mix and share!
Sunday 9th – ended the week with a long morning catching up with desk work, a mass canvass in Broomhill (SO different from Central!) and a Ceilidh in aid of Stannington Brass Band at the Broomhall Centre. I was really hoping they would do a floor spot … but enjoyed the dancing and bring and share meal, anyway. And, finally, will watch highlights of United’s match this afternoon.