An interesting feature of last night’s Council meeting was the appearance of the Stainthorp family en masse. As I indicated in the previous article, Cllr Richard Stainthorp spoke to illustrate his complete lack of understanding about the current economic situation.
However, it didn’t end there. His wife (former Caversham Labour Councillor) Sue Stainthorp asked a question as a member of the public, about what would have to be cut to implement the Conservative proposal of a freeze in Council Tax. Naturally this was too good an opportunity for Labour to miss, to explain how they could make “efficiency savings” of several million Pounds but that Conservatives would make “cuts in services”.
After Sue Stainthorp came a lady by the name of Lindsay Mullaney who asked about Reading University plans to cut some courses. I am reliably informed that Ms Mullaney is in fact Cllr Richard Stainthorp’s sister! So the only “public” questions were from a Labour Councillor’s immediate family. Couldn’t they find any non-related members of the public?
Last night at the Full Council meeting Conservative Leader Cllr Andrew Cumpsty proposed an amendment that would cut Councillors’ allowances for the 2009/10 year from the current level back to the level that existed last year. He explained that this was in recognition of the hardship many local people were suffering, with reduced salaries, shorter hours and lost jobs. It would also save around £12,000 that would go directly back into Council coffers to support hard stretched local services.
This proposal was met by a cacophony of rage from the Labour benches. Labour Leader Cllr Jo Lovelock expressed her “disappointment” once again (she really should get a new phrase book); Cllr Peter Jones gave us all a lecture about how he deserved every penny and he could remember a system before allowances; Cllr Richard Stainthorp astonished Councillors when he said that he didn’t know anyone who had had their pay cut and he didn’t see why the Independent Panel that recommends increases should be ignored ( he completely forgot that Labour were also proposing to ignore its recommendations by proposing a freeze on allowances).
Labour has very few Councillors who work in the private sector and it showed. They were completely out of touch with what is happening to many of their constituents.
In the end Labour decided to abstain on our amendment (to which they were so opposed) and the Lib Dems supported it (although Lib Dem Leader Cllr Gareth Epps described it as a “cheap gesture”). Therefore the Conservative proposal of approximately a 2.5% cut in Councillors’ allowances was passed into policy.