I attended last night's Council meeting to have a look at local democracy in action - I had been told the main focus would be the budget, but it turned out the main topic of interest was the proposed planning development for William Hunter Way, a matter of intense controversy locally. The plans were being brought to full council for approval - leading to the public areas being packed with opponents of the developments.
I have no strong views on the development - I haven't studied it in enough detail, but it was clear to me that the only way this was going to fail to pass was if there were sufficent opposition from within the local Conservative group (as a majority of the council is 19 and they make up 28 of the 37 councillors). In the end - despite the absence of three Conservative councillors, and a "rebellion" and a few rebels voting against, 20 votes were cast for the development and it passed.
The thing that appalls me though is the number of councillors who had to step out of the chamber for the debate because they had publicly expressed opposition outside of council to the development - this was a cross party issue, as Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative councillors all excused themselves. Some of the councillors actually represented the ward in which this controversial development is to be built. Legal advice was that this was a requirement laid down by central government.
If this was a swear blog, I'd make the Devil's Kitchen look the soul of reason. This is totally ridiculous - what's the point of electing local councillors if the moment they start to represent the interests of those who voted for them they lose their ability to vote on the issues they care about? It wouldn't have made any difference in this case, but it's still fundamentally flawed.