So that was my sixth Annual Council Meeting, and the last one before the Mayan apocalypse strikes us all. I expect the next one will involve the survivors of Colchester kneeling before our new alien lizard overlords and declaring them Mayor.
I’m sure the mighty Chronic will have the full rundown of what transpired, but suffice to say that it was a remarkably pleasant full Council meeting for once – as the annual meeting usually is – and we got through all the business relatively quickly. This means I’m now a member of the Planning Committee for the next municipal year, which is what I wanted to do. After being on the Cabinet and being on scrutiny and policy committees before that, I wanted to do something practical this year, and I’ve learnt a lot about planning from being cabinet member for it, so I should be able to contribute to the committee.
Still, it should be a nice uncontentious first meeting to help ease me in…ah, University car parking.
Two full Council meetings for the price of one last night, as we had to follow the main meeting with a special meeting to decide whether we should stay with our current system of election, where one-third of the Council is up for election every year, or switch to an ‘all-up’ system, where there’d be one election for the whole council every four years.
My feelings on this have always been clear – I don’t support switching to an all-up election until there’s a change in the electoral system. As it currently stands, we have many wards that elect multiple members (like my own Castle Ward) and that just compounds the iniquities of the first past the post system, allowing a party to get an overall majority on a very small share of the vote, especially if the vote is split many ways and/or localised in one part of the Borough. Electing by thirds isn’t a perfect system, but it means a party has to have consistent support over a period of time to get control, and gives the voters a regular chance to have their say over the direction of the Council.
To change the system, there needed to be a two-thirds majority of the Council in favour and there wasn’t that level of support – 28 in favour, and 26 against so we carry on with the current system.
We also briefly discussed whether Colchester should have an elected Mayor, but the main debate on that will be at another special Council meeting that will take place after the December regular Council meeting. I’ve already expressed my views on why I think an elected Mayor is a bad idea but now it’s time for you to have your say on it. The Council’s holding a consultation on whether we should switch to a Mayoral system before that special Council meeting, so you can say which system you’d prefer. So make sure you get along and comment there to have your views heard.
Looks like it’s going to be a long one, even though there are only two main items to discuss – an open debate on future electoral arrangements, and then what promises to be a long debate over the school closures and whether the Council should release open space to Philip Morant School, so they can build an access road on it. I shall hopefully be posting to Twitter during it, so keep an eye out for updates, screams of anguish and requests for caffeine.