Your Waverley says goodbye to 2020 with political rows and a lesson in grammar.
Because they know how to make the Season To Be Joyful – la, la, la, la, la!
The cycle of Full Council Meetings of 2020 ended with some very testy – and testing – moments, including personal insults, a lesson in grammar, a legal argument and one councillor describing the new administration as “An Unholy Alliance”, which was followed by a stinging rebuke from The Mayor! Hey, Ho, is that the sound of the monitoring officer we hear?
In fact, the council’s December meeting proved to be anything but It’s ‘Looking A Lot Like Christmas’ and was more akin to ‘The Grinch Stole Christmas.’ Thankfully the meeting was held on Zoom otherwise there might have been fisticuffs in the Chamber or, as one Waverley-Web-Wag succinctly put it, no nipping into the Mayor’s Parlour for a post-meeting mince pie and a punch up!
The pantomime atmosphere began after Waverley’s very own ‘Chancellor’ – Finance Director Cllr Mark Merryweather – completed his gloomy forecast of the council’s financial position, after grappling with challenges imposed by Government cuts and COVID-19. All of which he advised was leading to an imbalance in the budget of an estimated, £3m next year, falling to £2m from then until 2023/24. Despite identified efficiencies and savings! Some of this deficit could be addressed IF – and only IF (and yes, it’s a BIG IF), the Government allowed councils to retain more of the business rates they collect.
He said, “What with COVID and BREXIT, we are living in very uncertain times.”
Cllr Liz Townsend asked how she was supposed to explain to Cranleigh traders on her high street, paying £8,300 pa business rates, that Waverley would only receive £415 of their hard-earned cash for the local economy?!?!
She was followed by Cllr Follows – who drove the knife into the Government a little further, saying, it had not met its pledge that the pandemic would not leave local authorities out of pocket! He said promised government grants had covered under half its shortfall.
Twas ever thus, according to senior Tory Cllr Peter Martin, despite the Government saying it would make changes to business rates.
It was the opinion of Farnham’s Jerry Hyman that the Government was deliberately forcing councils into bankruptcy in a bid to bring on more Unitary Authorities.
“It is absolutely disgraceful and is a direct attack on democracy and a financial attack on us all.”
It was then that Simon Dear, the Tory Cllr for Haslemere & Grayswood, came sweeping in, like the Wicked Witch of the North on his broomstick, to smack Waverley’s new boys and girls, and those moaning traders. He said he could easily explain the good news on business rates to Cllr Townsend’s Cranleigh traders. They had received a business rate holiday from the Government for a year, a “free gift to overcome the difficulties faced by the high streets.”!
He said :
“Just like our own dear Waverley Council, Elmbridge Council was taken over by an unholy alliance of liberals – local residents’ associations and others, who had just increased parking charges to keep businesses afloat.”
Interrupted by a fuming Leader John Ward shouting “I don’t wish to be associated with an unholy alliance,” didn’t stop Cllr Dear who was now on a roll continuing with…
“While our own unholy alliance here this evening will not put up parking charges and to have that glorious moment recorded on U-tube for posterity.”
Hasn’t anyone told him that some of those businesses are already on the brink – because they haven’t actually been in ‘business’ for most of the year? Never mind – back to Planet Zonk Dear boy!
The Mayor – was not amused and neither was Cllr Anne-Marie Rosoman who demanded an apology for his reference to Waverley’s administration being called “an unholy alliance.” However, the Mayor’s rebuke and Cllr Rosoman’s request fell on deaf ears – or maybe it was just the Northwind whistling up Councillor Dear’s broomstick!
Responding to Cllr Dear’s “pantomime question”, Cllr Merryweather said his colleague obviously hadn’t understood the changes to parking charges either. The council didn’t have a blanket charging policy now.
After a vote of 50 for, with just two abstentions, the recommendation to approve the budget was adopted. Needless to say, Simple Simon abstained.
The second act of Waverley’s Pantomime Season began when the Council’s Corporate Strategy came up for discussion.
It was then, adopting her very best schoolmarm tone, that ‘Oh Carole’ – AKA Councillor Cockburn – switched on, with the alacrity of a set of faulty Christmas lights – and gave the Full Council – and the few dummies, like us who listen in – a lesson in punctuation from the Pantomime Dame who knows a thing or two about grammar and punctuation, don’t you know! Of course, she omitted to mention that reports/documents put before the council are produced by Waverley officers! Oh dear – now, living up to her nickname Oh Carole! There won’t be too many Christmas cards from staff coming her way this year then? Never mind, she can blame it on the Post Office’s poor performance during COVID – why not, everyone else is!
You can listen to the complete tirade on the link below, but, to give you a flavour, if you can’t be *ssed, this was one of her questions: “Have you eaten Cllr Follows?” Careful observers might have seen her claws unfurl as she stretched and arched her back and added, “If he had read that, he would have thought I had accused him of some heinous crime – even though he wears those awful ties from time to time?” MEOW!
Lack of space prevents us from giving you the whole-long diatribe – but it ended with an unforgivable dig at Waverley’s treasured Worshipful Mayor, Penny Marriott. Although we were not among those fortunate enough to receive a card with her good wishes. Obviously, not-so-dear ‘Oh Carole’ obviously had!
“One rule that may come in handy Madam Mayor – next time you do your Christmas Cards don’t use a double negative.”
So, as you can tell folks, the Spirit of Christmas is alive but not very well on Planet Waverley!!
A post will follow on the debacle prompted by a Tory revolt on a decision, on the advice of the council’s legal eagles, to take an item in Confidence and behind closed doors. However, you can watch it for yourselves here:
Apologies to Cllr Cockburn from the Waverley Web team who had only hours earlier partaken of some amber nectar at our virtual Christmas get-together. Our excuse for any grammatical or punctuation mistakes. Thank God she didn’t move on to chastise everyone for using split infinitives.