It will be very easy post election to work out of there was a deal between the Greens and Labour over Park ward in exchange for allowing them to take control of the council. Follow the money!
Earlier this year, Labour spent the most fighting the election in Park, so now it will be more than interesting to see whether they think putting resources into the ward is a good use of their money. After all, they can pretty much depend on the Greens to roll on their backs and waggle their arms and legs in the air and back them in power whether or not the Greens wish to admit publicly to that agreement. In that respect a penny spent in Park, is a penny wasted for Labour.
This is all the more likely now when, in the least surprising news of the year, Jon Hartley is standing down to spend more time with London. I suspect that many in the Labour group are quietly cheering. Indeed there have to be questions asked as to why he was appointed as a lead councillor to a made up post in the first place. Perhaps the local party didn't want to upset his girlfriend who just happened to be the Chair of the local party.
He's made no impact in the role and given his previous track record when the SACRE committee wanted to chuck him off for failing to attend three meetings in a row you have to wonder whether we were seeing not only nepotism at work but that we will discover that his position was more the result of him having pictures of the rest of the Cabinet in compromising poses!
When it comes to the value for money and service he is meant to have championed, Jon Hartley has failed to deliver any having failed to attend the last three Cabinet meetings, all the time whilst trousering the £3,816 Special Responsibility Allowance paid to lead councillors. That's a failure to attend 50% of the meetings which he is paid to attend and this seems to be being tolerated by his colleagues. I think Council tax payers can quite rightly ask whether he should be forced to pay back monies paid to him for services not-rendered.
However, after the obvious election deal with the Greens, would Park residents' notice any difference if they had all Green councillors? Very doubtful for pretty much the same reason.
Their group leader can't be bothered to represent them at council meetings for which he is paid a bonus of £2,147 to attend, consisting as they do his extra duties as Green group leader. What exactly does he do to justify that money? What responsibility does he actually take?
Does he turn up at Cabinet to put forward the Green agenda? No.
He's been seen there once once out of six meetings. Couldn't even be bothered to turn up to speak on the item on abandoned trolleys which no doubt will be laughingly referred to as a Green win. Got to be in it to win it.
Does he turn up at Personnel Committee to stick up for the workers? Nope.
A complete no show all year, leading to the squirmingly embarrassing motion he put forward to the last full council meeting demanding that RBC adopt a minimum wage policy at a rate which was below that actually in force and asking for a policy that was already in place and had the full backing of all previous administrations.
Does he pontificate about councillors receiving perfectly permissible and lawfully declared gifts whilst at the same time asking for free inkjet cartridges paid for by the council that do not appear on any list of declared expenses. Oh yes!
There is of course nothing wrong with him doing so. It is an allowed expense, but he seems to be selective as to what he sees as acceptable. In the case of Reading Festival tickets there is no cost incurred to the council. In the case of printer cartridges there is an actual expense incurred. Perhaps to avoid accusations of hypocrisy, he should pay for his own home printing in future and come into the Civic where the Greens already have a perfectly good full colour laser printer in their group room.
And for a Green he did not attend a single Environmental Scrutiny Panel last council year to make the Green case for anything.
There are some people who complain about the Council gravy train and about how they believe councillors get elected solely to get the allowances. That is demonstrably nonsense unless people genuinely think that being a councillor should be the preserve of the rich and retired. There's a lot of work required. I can safely say that in the vast majority of cases the rates paid by RBC are below the minimum wage for the work put in even for those I may have in the past tagged as "lazy". That tag I am more than happy to state is a relative term.
On the other hand, Special Responsibility Allowances are paid specifically for extra work and responsibility. If you are not doing that extra work or taking any responsibility, it is tantamount to obtaining money under false pretences and perhaps there is a case for Councillors Hartley and White being asked to pay some of it back!