If you missed last night’s Scrutiny Committee meeting you are going to have to
wait until 4th February for another scrutiny opportunity. Not that you can do
anything other than watch a selection of your elected representatives ask a few
questions if they can be bothered so a public audience of five that quickly fell to two is understandable.
As I somehow digressed into a critique of the chairmen when reporting the last two scrutiny meetings I suppose I should do the same for ‘Places’ chaired by councillor Melvin Seymour. There is not a lot to say, his chairmanship is entirely unremarkable. None of the showmanship to be seen at ‘People’ and totally free of what looks like an unnatural display of unbending discipline to be seen at ‘Resources’.
The proceedings were not entirely humourless and there were occasional glimpses of what might be termed ‘the common touch’ for the meeting is in no way ‘The Melvin Seymour Show’. The councillor manages to be in charge without imposing his own personality on it so if anyone is interested, I am going to rate him the best of the bunch. Plain and simple and not being subjected to cringeworthy moments suits me. It wasn’t the chairman’s fault that the meeting went on for three hours and eighteen minutes; it was a very full agenda.
The public are however still treated with contempt. There is no clear view of proceedings because seats are no longer tiered as they were in the old chamber but it is entirely unnecessary because seats were tiered for the first couple of meetings in the new chamber. The promise to use a horseshoe layout to improve sightlines has been abandoned even though the Places Committee numbers would allow it.
Audibility is a problem too. I have noticed it before but when sitting immediately behind a speaker the sound is blurred because what is heard directly precedes that which comes from the public address system by enough to make the effect disturbing. And then there are the microphones which appear to turn themselves off at random. Noises from nearby members of the public don’t help either but maybe there is not a lot that can be done about that.
At the ‘People’ meeting I was tempted to use a close up of Alex Sawyer’s ears to illustrate the meeting, maybe last night’s view is a small improvement.
The first hour was taken up with a presentation by Peabody Housing who took over Thamesmead about a year ago, followed by questions. All of them were answered favourably and no one offered any criticism but neither did anyone learn a lot beyond the fact that Peabody have great plans. Schools, shops, banks, jobs are all in prospect. Unusually, the chairman allowed a Thamesmead resident to ask a question. Now that’s a first, although public questions are not forbidden under the council’s rules, never before have any been allowed.
I might have been more impressed by the Peabody presentation if their Tavy Bridge site had not been a pile of rubble for the whole of the past year and more. Planning permission was granted two years ago.
The remainder of the meeting was mainly concerned with parking, recycling and the next round of regeneration plans. There were two things about which I struggled to suppress laughter. More of that anon.