Aside from not running trains again the only event on the calendar today was to accompany Linda to the cabinet meeting of the Walsall Council at the Town Hall. She had been invited to give a brief submission to the Cabinet regarding the stance made against proposed cuts to our countryside services.
We made our way to the meeting room as the pre-meeting was held in the room next door, which led me to wonder why have a meeting then another on the same agenda. Then the members of her Majesty’s press arrived and it became clear that this was more a meeting to make political points to an eager readership than to knock about a few ideas. The agenda was shot through at lightning pace with only a merest nod towards procedure.
Linda was duly invited to speak and although I am a fan of hers, it was an eloquent and well thought out speech. It highlighted the proud successes and the benefits, it championed the professional and dedicated workforce currently suffering an unknown future and no doubt an anxious Christmas unable to plan or enjoy, lives on hold until a rubber stamp decides their fate. I heard the words spoken by the Councillors, that these were proposals and nothing was decided but someone has sent out notices to staff and someone organised redundancy workshops. By my reckoning to provide the required notice period and hit the budget deadlines, notices of redundancy would have to be served in the next week. The Express and Star led with a story that the cuts were finalised but this has been denied by the Council, only time will tell how accurate this wild guess was.
The words were carefully chosen and said very little, the in vogue opportunity to blame the previous Government whilst neglecting to point out the current one is frankly piss poor wasn’t really appropriate, I actually don’t care whose fault the problem was, if I went to the hospital with a leg hanging off I wouldn’t expect them to remove the other one as well as punishment for previous transgressions. Walsall isn’t an opulent location, there are no golden paved streets, this council will have to bear the brunt of the hardship placed upon its’ citizens by Westminster, which to my mind would be a perfect opportunity to make a stand and say no but one thing made abundantly clear, the budget will be achieved.
The council are scared of a community charge referendum that would be enforced if the 2% increase ceiling is exceded but felt it was proper and right to put the proposals out to public consultation. To say that they want to involve the people and to thank one for coming to a meeting that 300,000 didn’t bother to attend, Cllr Bird words, not mine, screams out that a referendum is the only way forward. The truth is, everything costs more and we get less for our money but in these times probably more so than ever before, we need services protecting not reducing. There are ways to make cuts, there are ways to increase revenue and there is a process for protecting the rights, amenities and quality of life of the electorate and yet despite the careful choices of words, the odd not so careful words make me fear that the die has already been cast.
Whether it works or not, I cannot praise highly enough, the dedication, tenacity and bravery shown by Linda. She isn’t a political evangelist or experienced in martyrdom and yet she did make a difference. I hope that she can take some time to see what she achieved and maybe just relax a little bit.