Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Joan Symons essay written on the bus on the way to school

At each Cornwall Council full council meeting, councillors receive reports from each of the Cabinet members. The aim of this exercise is (as the council report states):

"It is important for members of the Council to have an opportunity to understand the priorities and activities of the Leader and each member of the Cabinet... (reports) set out the activities that each one has undertaken, meetings they have attended and upcoming meetings and events that are taking place relevant to their portfolio area."

Typically, reports are meant to take up a page of A4 but Cabinet members frequently go over that and we get a pretty good idea of what they have been doing and what they feel is important in their portfolio area. Councillors also get the chance to ask questions of the Cabinet and this is vital to our job of holding them to account. The rules state that questions must be based on the report and we tend to have pretty good debates which easily take up the half hour allotted for the purpose.

Yet at the November 30th meeting we have the following report from Leisure, Libraries and Culture Cabinet Member Joan Symons:

"Since the last full council I have been very busy working on the budget, I have however found time to attend several evening meetings and attended all committee meetings relevant to my portfolio."

That's it.

There are no details of the meetings she has attended, with whom or what was discussed. We have no idea what issues are coming up that she feels are particularly interesting, controversial or tough.

She could have chosen to write about Camelford Leisure Centre, Bude Sea Pool, Jubilee Pool, Hayle Pool, the library service, one stop shops, the bid for European Region of Culture Status, the work to develop Porthmeor Studios, the call centre, the Cornwall Centre and local studies library, the work to change the revenues and benefits service or the museums and historic collections. All of these fall in her portfolio and there have been plenty of tough decisions taken or about to be taken. But we get not a word on any of them.

Joan's report reminds me of the sort of effort turned in by someone who forgot about a piece of homework until they were on their way to school and promptly scribbled something while they were on the bus.

I've written to Joan suggesting that she might like to try again. Councillors - and the public - deserve better.

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