I was looking for an old file on my PC this evening and came across the text below. It was in a file path D:\Users\Stephen\Documents\Council\FullCouncil\Budgetspeech that was created 18 February 2003 22:51:00, modified 20 February 2003 11.12 and printed 20 February 2003 12:34:00. When I read it I was amazed by how little things had changed in Hartlepool Council Chamber over the last 6 years.
So let's take the Time Tunnel back to February 2003. The Council tax setting meeting of Hartlepool Unitary Authority........
In May 2002 the people of Hartlepool voted for change, despite the best efforts of the three mainstream political parties to rubbish the idea the people voted for a Mayor, THEY VOTED FOR CHANGE. In May 2002 the Mayor promised much but so far has delivered very little. He promised Bananas, but after he was elected he said that was only a campaign gimmick and no one really means what they say during a campaign. His second promise was to bring down council taxes, and today he faced another failure to deliver, was this just another campaign gimmick Mr Mayor?
In my opinion the way the Mayor has folded under pressure on the 3.5% Council tax increases is regretful to say the least. The people wanted someone who would fight for change, not knuckle under to the establishment when the going got tough. In an earlier council meeting Mr Mayor I believe you said something along the lines that now you know how the system works you don’t think you can realistically bring down council taxes, well Mr Mayor you CAN bring down the tax, all it needs is someone with the political will, the strength of character, the backbone and the real desire to do it.
You have been quoted as saying “next year” and that you are throwing down a challenge to the Council to bring down the Council Tax “next year”, I thought you threw down this challenge in May 2002 when you were elected, I appreciate you are learning the job but surely you must have realised that there would be a budget in March 2003. You've had 10 months to get ready for this moment and when you were faced with the hard decisions I’m afraid you showed a woeful lack of bottle.
We’ve been told that unless we take Officers' advice and put up taxes at least 4.5% then they will leave and the council will collapse, so if any decision that goes against Officer’s advice will have such disastrous consequences then I suggest that all the elected Councillors, and yourself Mr Mayor, resign en-mass and let the officers get on with running the town, if I as a Councillor can’t challenge an Officer when I think they are wrong then what is my function??? If you Mr Mayor can’t make a decision that goes against officer’s advice then what are you for?? What exactly do the people of Hartlepool get for the £1,000 per week plus that you are being paid
I also joined the Council for the first time in May 2002 and was almost immediately in trouble for questioning things. Since I’ve sat in this council it has become obvious to me that the Civic Centre is a perfect Ivory Tower where the real world intrudes as little as possible, secrecy, petty party politics, one-up-manship, personal agendas and individual egos are the key players. Council Committees and meetings almost always start and finish, and have a considerable portion in the middle, where the main business is congratulating everyone on what a fantastic job they are doing, it really is a mutual admiration society, we must be doing well because we did so well on the last inspection, we must be doing well because we are all so fantastic, we really are wonderful aren’t we, only people with a life outside the inward looking, self obsessed world of local government think there are any problems that need to be faced. Appended to the reports for this Council meeting are figures showing more than half the wards in Hartlepool lie in the bottom 10% for deprivation in the country, How can we as a Council preening ourselves over an Audit Office assessment while the scale of real people’s problems is so huge.
I suggest getting out of the fairyland castle atmosphere in the civic centre, try getting the views of the real people, the people who don’t vote because they feel it doesn’t make any difference, the people who don’t come to consultation events because they feel no-one listens anyway, the people who don’t attend neighbourhood forums because at 10:00am in the morning on a Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday they are out at work trying to earn enough money to keep their family fed and clothed and to pay the ever increasing council taxes which we blithely raise year after year after year. I will therefore be opposing the motion to raise council taxes 4.5%