There was a bit of an incident before Tuesday evening’s Public Realm meeting.
I arrived in the council chamber at 19:15 to find the tiered seating and press
table were missing. In their place were about 40 chairs in half a dozen rows on
the flat floor.
For those who have never seen it I should explain that the council chamber is arranged a little like two U shapes one within the other, the outer U being a couple of feet higher. Each seat has an associated table for writing or whatever but except at full council meetings when more than 70 councillors and officials may attend, the outer U isn’t in use. Bearing in mind the inadequacies of the council’s sound system some members of the public choose to sit on the outer ring. It’s become a commonplace at the Public Realm meeting, there have been times when it has been filled with yellow jacketed motorcyclists. Last night I chose to sit there myself, there being no other place equipped with a writing surface. I was soon joined by five other people with the same idea. Almost at once Kevin Fox, Head of Committee Services and Scrutiny, told us all we had to go.
I never speak to anyone at council meetings unless directly addressed which happens only very rarely and Fox was ranting generally at all and sundry, so I said not a word as usual. However at least two complained that they couldn’t hear from anywhere else and given that the open end of the U had been filled in with more tables for councillors, audibility would likely be even worse than usual if anyone moved. They might not even be able to see everyone either.
Kevin Fox ranted in vain for several minutes reminiscent of the kid at the supermarket checkout denied a chocolate bar. His voice rose to only a little short of hysterical. Eventually he flounced out saying he would argue no more. The suspicion was that he had gone to tittle-tattle to the meeting chairman, or possibly his boss, because a minute or two later Director Paul Moore looked in.
If anyone had spoken to me I would have reminded them that the law now demands that bloggers are provided with all the facilities required by a news organisation but it would appear that both the Director and the meeting chairman, councillor Cheryl Bacon, have rather more sense than Kevin Fox. Nothing more was said.
For this evening’s meeting I am going armed with a copy of the relevant Statutory Instrument. Kevin Fox. What a plonker!