At a stormy meeting of Oldham Council the 2022/23 Budget was eventually approved after well over three hours of sometimes bitter argument, falsely claimed points of order and, at times, highly personalised insults.
In such circumstances, given his own history and that of fellow Failsworth Independent Party Member, Mark Wilkinson (read here) it is no surprise at all that the most embarrassing, and concerning, moments belonged to Cllr Brian Hobin.
Repeatedly disrupting the meeting with shouts of ‘Point of Order’, when he plainly has not even read Council Standing Orders, or actually understands when such an intervention can be legitimately used, it was a shameful spectacle and many other councillors could not conceal their disdain.
These were the Budget headlines:
3.99% rise in council tax, averaging an extra 88p a week for residents, comprising:
2% precept which will go towards a pay rise from £9.50 to £9.90 for adult social care workers
1.99% precept for other core services such as highways, street cleaning and youth work.
Council Leader, Arooj Shah, described this budget as the toughest task the Council has faced in a generation.
Liberal and Conservative amendments were both defeated with some signs of what was to come later as the Tories were repeatedly trashed over Central Government’s cutting of local council allocations.
The Conservative’s proposed amendment was the first in roughly a decade. Cllr Graham Sheldon, their Group Leader, blamed this on the Tories being small in number, lacking a researcher and “they have not had much help”. It was described by Cllr Shah as ‘blatant electioneering’ as she ridiculed their proposal not to increase council tax at all.
Cllr Hobin, as FIP Group Leader, had put forward an amendment to the Budget that amounted to two paragraphs on an A4 sheet of paper. It, effectively, accepts the Labour budget, the council tax rise, and both the LibDem and Tory amendments. Which might move voters in their wards to consider if backing FIP at the polls is, actually, ever going to be a sensible, worthwhile venture.
Cllr Shah mocked the amendment proposed by the FIP, calling it “rushed” and criticised them for suggesting the hugely successful, and popular, ‘Don’t Trash Oldham’ campaign should be scrapped.
She added that they would have to start calling Brian Hobin “Cllr No-Bin” to mark this “poor proposal” for waste management which Cllr Abdul Jabbar had already described as “unacceptable”, adding that the FIP proposals on spending on waste disposal would worsen recycling efforts in the Borough.
After further terse exchanges, and two Points of Order being struck out by an increasingly frustrated Mayor of Oldham, Jenny Harrison, as not meeting the necessary criteria, the FIP amendment was, unsurprisingly, voted against.
With feelings still running high, the meeting then returned to the original Labour motion to approve the Administration Budget.
The first in hot water was Cllr Max Woodvine, Conservative Member for the wealthy Saddleworth South ward, who said he opposes the Budget, accused the Council of “pick-pocketing” Oldhammers and says “everyone has to make sacrifices”. He is then accused of breaching the Members’ Code of Conduct for calling Cllr Jabbar “The Abdul Dodger”, a clumsy reference to the pick-pocketing Charles Dickens character, Oliver Twist. He was forced to make a retraction soon afterwards.
As the temperature in the Council Chamber rose again, Cllr Shah in a spirited defence of the budget, once more criticised Cllr Hobin and the FIP’s “half-baked” amendment. The FIP Member for Failsworth East presented a further two points of order, taking issue with Cllr Shah’s comments. She responds by saying he has been “acting particularly sensitively” this evening.
At this point, the meeting descended into chaos with Mayor Harrison having to remind Members of their conduct. Cllr Shah was unable to continue due to Cllr Hobin taking issue with her comments and shouting over her.
After order was restored by the Mayor, Councillors voted on the original motion, the adoption of the Administration Budget. It was approved with Labour voting for, the Liberal Democrats abstaining and FIP and the Conservatives voted against.
The meeting closed just after 9.30pm.
The full YouTube film of the meeting can be viewed here:
The meeting opened with a poignant minute’s silence to mark the lives already lost since Russia attacked neighbouring Ukraine with democracy and freedom of a sovereign state at stake. At times, it felt like the various factions had declared war on one another in the Chamber last night over a council tax increase of 88p per resident per week in the Borough of Oldham. Most of which will be recovered by many through the £150 Council Tax Refund scheme.
Page last updated at 1145hrs on Thursday 4th March, 2022
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