Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Tim Kent - Timewaster?

One of the motions put forward in last nights council meeting was by Labour Cllr Judith Price. Essentially it refers back to a motion amendment put forward on the 24th February by Lib Dem Cllr Gary Hopkins which proposed that instead of employing 15 more housing benefit officers, that the £310,000 thus saved be used for energy efficiency instead. She apparently wanted to highlight that the Audit Commission had criticised the amount of time taken by Bristol City Council to process housing benefit claims, and that if the Lib Dem motion had been carried the situation would be even worse.

When Cllr Hopkins put forward his motion on 24th February the Lib Dems were in opposition - by the end of the day they were running the council. It appears that at some point, once they were in control, they changed their minds about the need for housing benefit officers and not only did they employ the 15 Housing Benefit officers, they actually added a further 8. This is good news - such good news in fact that you would expect the well-oiled Lib Dem PR machine to make a bit of a song and dance about it - especially as some of the areas that are most affected by improvements to the housing benefits service include those wards such as Lawrence Hill, Easton and Ashley that the Lib Dems are fighting hard to win elections in.

But apparently, nobody told Tim Kent, the executive officer responsible. Or maybe they did but it was on the inside pages of a report and Tim is now following apparently established Lib-Dem procedure of only reading the front and back pages of reports?

Whatever, the point is, that the motion was put down over a week ago, which you would think gave Cllr Tim Kent plenty of time to find out that the number of Housing Benefit officers had in fact increased thus making the motion pointless - and, in the spirit of transparency and openess promoted by the Lib-Dems (and in order not to waste council time) he could have communicated this to Cllr Price and perhaps the motion could have been withdrawn.

In fact Conservative Cllr Ashley Fox had put forward a written question for Cllr Kent for yesterday's meeting.

What plans does the Executive member have to either increase or reduce the number of staff processing housing benefits claims?

An accurate response to that would surely have caused Cllr Price's motion to be withdrawn. But, apparently, in his written response to this question, Cllr Kent did not know the answer. When queried on this by Cllr Fox in last nights meeting, Cllr Kent responded "I didn't know whether it was 23 or 25 and wanted to be sure my facts were accurate". It appears that the time between when he provided the written response to Cllr Fox, and the time when he responded verbally to Cllr Price was just the time needed to get his facts accurate.

Of course it was Tim, I am sure that was the real reason and it had nothing to do with you seeing an opportunity to respond to a possible attempt at political point scoring by Labour with some political point scoring of your own.

In the event, the motion was debated at length with much heat and little clarity, including numerous examples of speakers accusing the other side of political point scoring whilst taking the opportunity to do so themselves. Do as I say not as I do.

As a result the 45 minutes that were allocated to debating motions was used up in this self-indulgent tit-for-tat over a motion that proposed no changes and achieved less. As a result 3 other motions regarding the funding of policing in this city, the openness and accountability of various public bodies that affect this city, and the potential improvement of transport in this city were pushed off the agenda. As a result the city council once again made itself look like a school playground for exchanging insults rather than an elected chamber representing the people of this city and intended to improve the state of the city and the quality of life of its residents.

Tim Kent has to shoulder a major share of responsibility for this wasting of council time and thus tax-payers money - all it needed was a straight answer to Ashley Fox's written question and, in all likelihood, councillors could have been debating motions that actually show potential to make a difference rather than throwing insults across the chamber. But he saw an opportunity for pointscoring and, like a moth attracted to the light, couldn't stop himself.

Is this what we want more of when we vote on June 4th? - or do we want councillors who put the needs of the city above their own petty agendas on behalf of their political parties?


  1. Tim Kent=useless. Never seen in Whitchurch Park and his reputation is shot amongst the people that probably voted for him

  2. Well I have to admit that most of my family voted for him - mainly as a protest vote against Labour. They switched back to Labour within a year.