Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Difficult decision

Probably the most difficult decision today related to an application to build a sheltered scheme for people who were at risk of homelessness.

There was lots of talk about institutionalising people and was the scheme in the right place. Our wan-a-be Labour MP made an impassioned speech about needing to care for these people and I assumed the Labour Whip was in and the scheme would go through. However, we are often told there is no whip in planning. In most meetings this is obviously not true and the majority Labour vote is en-bloc. In this meeting however there was an equally impassioned speech from a Cabinet Rebel who wanted the scheme throwing out. I must admit I listened to his speech and was swayed by it but for a brief moment considered ignoring it and allowing my personal feelings to take over since this same cabinet rebel has had more than one nasty, personal dig at me in Council meetings.

However, I decided that it would be petty and small minded to vote against a proposal just because of who made it. After all it often appears to me that certain Councillors vote against anything I say just because it is me saying it and I wouldn't want to think I allowed myself to sink to their level.

So I voted "NO" and in fact the scheme was rejected.

The papers before Planning did say the Council owned the land but Cabinet had agreed to sell it to the Housing Association subject to planning permission for this development. Hence my use of “Cabinet Rebel” in describing the speaker against the development. As a Cabinet Member he had already agreed to sell the land in the Cabinet Meeting but was now speaking against it in the Planning Meeting. The doctrine of collective cabinet responsibility obviously doesn’t apply in Hartlepool.

My final thought on the matter related to the site itself. Almost half an acre of town centre land. I wonder what that would go for on the open market?

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