We have full council in Gateshead on Thursday so I thought I would look back at the last council meeting on 24th September and report on some of the issues debated.
There were 3 motions on the agenda, one from us, on public health spending, and the other two from Labour, one on the trade union reform bill, the other on Syrian refugees. Our motion was about in year cuts to the public health budget, but it also raised concerns about the £1 million underspend by the council on public health last year. After all, Labour had screamed dementedly at us when in government, claiming we weren’t being given enough money for public health when Lib Dems in the Coalition negotiated the transfer of this function from the NHS to local government.
Labour of course had to have an amendment, moved by the Rainbow Warrior of Gateshead Council, Martin Gannon. Martin reminds me very much of one of those large, leather clad cushions that retains the shape of the last person to have sat on it. In the 1980s he was sat on by militant socialism, in the 90s and 00s he was sat on by the Blairites, after the 2010 general election he was sat on by Miliband, leaving him with no recognisable shape or form at all. We await news of Martin's latest shape in the Corbynesque, back-to-the-80s Labour party.
Labour's amendment removed the words that welcomed the coalition’s decision to hand over control of public health to local councils. I pointed out that this was one of our victories in the coalition. “I won’t credit the Liberal Democrats with anything in Government,” Martin replied. I accused him of wanting to airbrush away the Lib Dems whilst praising the Conservatives, which was effectively what his amendment did.
Then came the debate on the TU bill. We oppose what the government is doing as it is illiberal. As I pointed out, I am not a union member, have no interest in being one and can find no benefit to myself being one. But in a democratic society, people have a right of assembly to do and speak about things that others oppose. The Labour motion was long winded and missed out some very key points about what the government is doing and what the TUC want to be able to do (such as strike ballots by phone/internet). I think the motion must have been written by Martin! So we moved an amendment to include the bits they had missed and also remove references to being free to go on general strikes. Amazingly, Labour accepted our amendment. There’s hope for us all yet! However, the TU issue is of interest only to a small minority of people. Labour’s enormous interest is an example of their talking only to themselves.