Challenging Decisions

Blogging has been on the back burner for age, not because of the “hate mail” threats but because of the heavy schedule of training sessions and meetings demanded by County Hall. I’ve had three compulsory training sessions, and more are in the diary, plus Overview and Scrutiny, Corporate Governance and Local Government and Democratic Services presentations. As I’m on the Audit Committee, we had to learn how to read an accounts sheet and fathom the mysteries of Local Government finance. The Authority turns over some £360 million and manages a pension fund of £900m. The Council is legally bound to produce a budget by a given day and 100’s of officers are involved in closing the accounts for the year ending March 2008. The statement of accounts had to be presented to the Audit Committee on 25th June and questions were invited and then the full Council were invited to attend the next day to vote acceptance of this important document. Everything went according to plan apart from my querying why no mention had been made of my question the previous day as to the whereabouts of the A&D Waste management accounts. This is an “arms length” company of the Authority and looks after all aspects of dealing with landfill and waste collection in the County. However, my persistence was rewarded and I have been sent my own copy. (Its not the most exciting read but as Ewloe is fast becoming the tipping ground of Flintshire, its right to keep up with what is going on). The Planning Committee met on 18th June and now trained, I was entitled to take part. Despite being allowed to rise three times by our courteous Chairman, I failed to sway my colleagues to vote against Dormer windows in a proposed prestigious building development in my ward. I sympathised with my constituent who did not want to be overlooked by this new development and the best I could do was to insist that the house nearest to constituent was rotated sufficiently to lessen the problem. Amongst the members of the public entitled to sit on was one Mr P Bernie. He introduced himself and reminded me that he was the builder and that I had knocked him off the Council in 1995 when I stood for the first time as a Labour councillor in Ewloe. He must have been bewildered that I was back again but this time I was representing his party Shelia Stewart, Capricorn Animal Rescue was also in the public gallery and must have been appalled to listen to those councillors, and seemingly one officer who turned their faces against allowing the charity to move to badly needed larger accommodation. This was the second time Shelia had asked for permission and despite good Labour support, (from a particularly but unexpected source), the Committee threw it out by two votes. The width of the lane was the excuse this time. Main Labour Support came from Bernie Attridge who told us that the bus taking councillors to a pre-meeting site visit, had no difficulties at all in reaching the site and manoeuvring to turn round to leave. It was thought that obstructions had been strategically placed in the lane to coincide with this visit but all obstacles were successfully negotiated. The Highways officer’s advice was brutally unhelpful. Something about difficulties in reversing. I got told off twice for failing to keep my comments on Planning issues I was really upset by such an opinion as I’ve admired the excellent work of Capricorn who has been helping the community for years. Where else can we take our damaged birds and our neglected and abused animals? The vote was recorded – meaning every councillor’s name is called and we reply ‘for’ or ‘against’ or ‘abstain’. Thus the record will show for posterity those councillors who did nothing to help with this most deserving cause. I really felt for Shelia and rang her that evening to tell her that a highly experienced councillor, with years of Planning meetings under his belt thought she had excellent grounds for appeal. By the time our conversation finished, I had promised to take Sadie, a Yorkshire Terrier whose owner had died recently. “What have I done?” I thought, “That will make four plus the cat.” Sadie was in the main room at Capricorn’s HQ surrounded by a variety of all sized kittens, some in cages, others draped about the furnishings. I went to stoke one particularly tiny creature who was huddling against another and her front claws shot up to defend herself.
”Abandoned in a shed,” only arrived yesterday”
was Shelia’s explanation. She named seemingly identical kittens who were stomping around a big cage.
“Joe, he’s going out tomorrow.”,
another was due to be re-homed the following day and so it went. This one is on hourly feeds, that one needed something else. A bell clanged and Shelia went to answer to return holding a young bird that had just been handed in.
“That’s what happens when you tangle with a cat,”
she scolded as the hand full of feathers fastened its beak on a finger. Whilst she was sorting out the new arrival I took in the photographs adorning the walls, all showing the state of some wretched creature that had found sanctuary with Capricorn.
“That one was thrown to three lurchers. That one had open wounds and needed 24 hour nursing,” she stated nonchalantly.
“Did they survive?”.
“Oh yes,” she replied.
I was incredulous. Whilst the paperwork was being sorted, I noticed all the birds in cages crowding the floor of an outer room. There must be 10 at least, including an angry looking crow that was bashing and jumping around his cage. “How do you cope?” I asked. She smiled, finished Sadie’s paper work and walked me to the gate. I left clutching Sadie, even more an admirer of Capricorn and Shelia and even more frustrated that she had lost her bid for better accommodation.

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