Posted by: iangilbert | January 30, 2013

Surreal Scrutiny

Last night saw a particularly lively meeting of the Community Services & Culture Scrutiny Committee.

The high point, or rather low point, was when Councillor Velmurugan labeled Echo readers complaining about the cost of senior management as scroungers. Interestingly Conservative leader Nigel Holdcroft who had the task of responding to Councillor Velmurugan’s point did not pull him up on his offensive choice of language. But then we all know that Councillor Velmurugan’s vote is crucial in propping up the Conservative administration.

Councillor Velmurugan went on to call for the council to sack housing inspectors and keep senior managers. I wonder how many people in Westborough share this priority.

My colleague Judy McMahon raised a number of good points with the pre-scrutiny item on homelessness, and whether we should compel homeless people to take offers of housing in the private sector rather than offering them social housing. Homeless people are by definition vulnerable, and there’s a heck of a lot that can go wrong in the private sector. The risk is that if something goes wrong the council may not be required to find alternative accommodation and the homeless person will be destitute and forgotten.

Evidently a detailed discussion of homelessness bored other members of the committee, particularly on the Conservative side of the table, because when the chair brought the matter to a conclusion they couldn’t wait to shout ‘agreed’. Judy pointed out the report gave three options and nobody has indicated which one they had actually agreed to. That’s right, Conservative members of the committee were so keen to get through this item which was no doubt distasteful to them that they didn’t even know what they were agreeing to.

The evening got even stranger when Councillor Ron Woodley, the ‘conservatively minded independent’ from Thorpe Bay, suggested that the entire private sector rented sector should be nationalised. I may have been tempted to give him a Labour Party membership form, but as my colleague David Norman pointed out, the Labour manifesto of 1919 called for such a nationalisation but we’d decided it was impractical by 1945. Some of my colleagues around the country have called for statutory rent controls however, so maybe we are moving to the same point of view! Councillor Velmurugan countered that private landlords should be able to make money and perhaps we should build social housing on Thorpe Bay golf course.

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