‘Resign! Resign! Resign!’ Residents at the doors of the Council chamber at Tuesday’s council meeting
Residents forced open the doors to the Council chamber to demand the resignation of Mayor Hugh Rayner after he changed one of his many tie-breaking votes at last night’s council meeting. Under the Mayor’s watchful eye Cllr Alison Moore had read her motion calling ‘for a halt in plans to cut the library service until LB Barnet has re-consulted residents on a full range of options in order to secure the long-term future of a full professional library service in Barnet’. While the Mayor had appeared to listen Cllr Anne Hutton had presented her amendment to the motion: ‘Council asks that the CELS committee agree a new process and timetable along these lines at its next meeting.’ The Mayor was still in his chair when Cllr Reuben Thompstone presented his amendment, which, unsurprisingly, eviscerated Cllr Moore’s motion and paid lip-service to residents’ involvement in the consultation by failing to acknowledge their overwhelming opposition to the options it presented.
The Mayor called for a vote on Cllr Thompstone’s amendment. Cllr Danny Seal has a lot to answer for, as another of his too-frequent absences led to a tied vote. Mayor Rayner stated his right to cast the tie-breaking vote and said ‘I vote’ and there was a dramatic pause before he uttered ‘against’. Against! Against fellow Tory councillor Thompstone’s amendment! Amazement and jubilation amongst the Opposition in the council chamber, and amongst residents in the public gallery and in the overflow room, where the proceedings were being relayed. Did the mayor view the reaction his vote had caused and realised what he had done, or did someone have to whisper in his ear? Either way, it took some minutes before he changed his vote. And that’s what caused the outrage. There were calls from the chamber floor demanding to know the legality of his action, and calls for his resignation from residents who pushed open the doors to the chamber. Resign, Mr Mayor, because you didn’t pay enough attention to know what you were doing; because you dashed a moment’s hope that the library service would be saved; because you voted for he party line rather than for what the people of this borough want.
And so it went on all night. A thoughtful speech by Alasdair Hill, who presented a petition of 9000 signatures demanding a new consultation on the libraries and answered councillors’ questions clearly and sensibly; a motion by Cllr Reema Patel for a cross-party committee to take evidence from residents on what they want; an alternative budget from LibDem councillor Jack Cohen that would have precluded the need for a cut in the library service by removing special payments to chairs of committees, trimming all councillors’ remunerations and making councillors pay £100 a year for their currently free parking permits. All these good, sensible ideas lost on the tie-breaking vote of the mayor.
We might be thankful that this mayor’s term is coming to an end but the next mayor doesn’t promise much: in his acceptance speech he said how much he and his wife would like the dressing up