THAT WAS THE WEEK: Help – wanted

Black Lives Matter
Wokingham Borough Council Picture: Phil Creighton

It’s been a week where it isn’t just health systems that have been creaking under the strain, political systems have too.

Friends in Need

Over in the US, President Trump has been downgraded to “that man” and publicly disowned by Republican colleagues after the mob took over the Capitol building (the US parliament).

Twitter has permanently suspended “that man’s” account. And while some would say it was 10 days early or four years late, there was no new law passed, no judge’s order, it was just a decision by a commercial company.

Some have described him as inciting his followers to riot while others have suggested he’s violated his oath of office to protect and defend the constitution.

What’s played out in public, on television, social media and newspapers seem to have parallels with the Tennis Court Oath near the start of the French Revolution in 1789.

German politicians compared this week’s storming of the Capitol with the Reichstag fire of 1933 – one of the pivotal events in the establishment of Nazi Germany in the lead up to Second World War.

Spare a thought for the more level-headed Americans who are working to help their country learn from history and step aside from the path towards chaos / collapse.

Friends in Deed

Despite all of the bickering and posturing that’s gone on during the Brexit negotiations, the UK has a healthy academic base on which innovations such as the Oxford vaccine for Coronavirus got developed.

Our politicians are finding out that while the service economy might have kept the country fiscally sound, it’s left us dependent on others because manufacturing went overseas. What seemed like laudable cost-cutting decisions in the 1980s and 90s aren’t so good for the nation’s health, let alone an individual’s.

However, even in our time of need, we’d do well to help a neighbour country – particularly one that controls the main goods transport access to and from the UK.

So spare a thought for President Emmanuel Macron in France who’s being pilloried for his country’s lack of vaccines and now faces the unpleasant choice of buying vaccines from either the British or the Germans.

Who needs Friends

If you want to be sparing with the thoughts you’re sparing for others, then go no further than sparing one for ‘Mott the Hoopoe-less’.

Mott’s ministerial visit to a GP’s surgery this week was expected to be a good photo-op of the man responsible for the NHS, personally experiencing part of the vaccination programme.

Except that when he arrived the staff there had to let him know the vaccines hadn’t.


Keeping up Appearance

Monday night this week saw a meeting of WBC’s Standards Committee. This is the watchdog that monitors any misconduct, including the operation of the Members’ Code of Conduct, the Officers’ Code of Conduct and the Council’s Whistleblowing policy.

The meeting opened with a question from a member of the public and this was duly answered then followed by a supplementary question requesting clarification of WBC rule 9.1.1.a) on the composition of the committee.

Rather than provide the answer the supplementary deserved, the person who asked it was just cut off in mid-flow, and the meeting then continued …

… and continued …

Allowing sufficient time for me to get WBC’s constitution up on screen, read the paragraph in question and realise that not only was the standards committee unconstitutional on three counts (and possibly a fourth), but also that the Assistant Director responsible for the constitution and its application (under WBC rule 1.1.4) should have stopped the meeting immediately.

Because the problems were there for all to see, in simple language in the first paragraph of the Standards section, and they’ve persisted since May 2019.

And everyone missed it – staff, politicians and press alike.

While this might all sound a bit dry, for want of a standard the meeting was lost. For want of a meeting the chairman was lost. For want of a chairman someone needs to consider an Assistant Director’s position very carefully, for want of an AD his Director could become lost and for want of direction our Council could become lost.

Particularly as our Council seems not to have worked out that “quis custodiet ipsos custodes” is a quote in Latin (“who guards the guards” is an OLD problem).

Perhaps it’s realised that every single one of the matters since May 2019 should now be reviewed with fresh and independently minded consideration that isn’t joined at the hip to the Executive as this lot have been.

It’s time for Wokingham to stop the internal mantras about “being on a journey” and saying that “we’ve learned a lesson”.

We should be there by now and doing things well.

The last word

As local taxpayers, please could we the paying public have a Council that works properly, that’s respected and that builds on that respect because it’s earned it?

These are far from ordinary times.


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