IN my more than two decades in local government life, I witnessed many ups and downs, as well as surprises.
But last week’s select committee, where the Labour cabinet member responsible for finance was caught procrastinating whilst being held to account, is certainly a scene that’s achieved notoriety.
The reason it is so shocking is that the select committee was actually scrutinising the cabinet member’s controversial proposal to make deep cuts worth £11.4 million to services across our borough.
The cabinet member’s actions, where she was caught knitting in a meeting, demonstrates her total disregard for the scrutiny process and, as a result, has now sadly brought the entire council into disrepute.
With that said, we do note the cabinet member’s comments for why she was knitting but, that aside, there are certain expectations for those in elected office needing to act in an appropriate way—and especially so when you are being scrutinised in a meeting.
Moreover, what this embarrassing episode teaches us are some of the pitfalls of working remotely. Yet that is not to say that I’m opposed in principle to remote working; in fact, I’m an advocate for flexible working, which encompasses both working from the office and home.
Granted, there are both personal and financial costs to what I’m suggesting, but ultimately democracy comes at a cost. After all, given the cabinet member in question is in a position of considerable authority, perhaps the outcome would have been different had she been working in County Hall.
Admittedly, we’ll never know the answer for definite, but we can certainly speculate.
Bluntly, what would have been most appropriate last week would have been the cabinet member firstly appearing at the scrutiny committee in person, as well as not knitting.
For those of us in elected office we sometimes have to make sacrifices; but those sacrifices are not in vain but for the greater good.