Does a three hour Policy and Resources Committee meeting sound dull?

At the last Policy and Resources meeting one Green, six Labour and six Conservative councillors sat together to discuss and agree what would be put in front of the next full council meeting for a balanced budget for the next five years. We decide where council money is spent. There was cross party agreement for a new climate change / sustainability officer, money for better enforcement of on street parking and dog muck, money for out of hours street cleaning as well as an agreement to help bring empty properties back into use by doubling council tax surcharge on empty properties. I love it when we are united and can agree to move forward on a cross-party basis.

But as you can imagine there were some things that were not universally accepted. As chair of the committee I do try my best to give and take between the two groups and do my best to bring the temperature down to allow some compromises. It’s not easy – in fact it is exhausting – but I guess that is what Green’s are hard wired to try to do. Probably getting flak from both of the other groups in the process.

We met for three hours and the subjects discussed were not trivial so I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow account here just suffice to say that I’m pleased that the committee is prepared to spend some money on supporting county council libraries, that we are going to put some more money in the pot for a future walking and cycling bridge and that we will invest in some new compacting bins for the city centre that will hopefully help to keep our streets clean whilst allowing people to recycle their waste and reduce the impact of scavenging gulls.

Tackling homelessness is rightly a big subject at the moment with the last count showing that the problem has doubled in the last year now to 24 people. Money is being cut by the county council for outreach services but the committee agreed to maintain funding to current levels whilst options for the future are investigated properly. We also endorsed the Communities Committee recommendation to invest in new temporary accommodation that will reduce the amount of people that we currently home in really unsuitable B&B accommodation.

Last but by no means least we also agreed to increase the council tax on empty properties in the city. Empty properties now attract double council tax – this should create a bit more pressure to bring these properties back into proper use in the city.

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It’s an honour and privilege to be a city councillor and I thank the residents of Battenhall for giving me the opportunity to play a part in shaping our city.