Thursday, May 10, 2007
We were given a tour of the Town Hall, its rabbit-warren-esque design ensuring that I will find myself lost there frequently within a short period of time. The distance between the Lib Dem group room and the Council Chamber can probably be measured in inches, but there is still scope to become dangerously disorientated on journeys to and from meeting rooms on corridors identical to one another...
I was introduced to the Council chamber itself, a grand old room which I hope will be the scene of some good debates in the future. Unfortunately it wasn't built with amendments in mind, and the shifting ward boundaries of 2004 created a problem when three new Councillors were elected to a room with no spare seats. Hence now there are three odd chairs perched on the ends of the rows, looking slightly like the poor Councillors sitting there aren't really supposed to be there at all.
We were given some informative presentations from the Chief Executive and Leader, although I was in the fortunate position of being familiar with lots of the material due to my job in local government - I'm not sure how much of it I'd have taken in otherwise. The words "Scrutiny Panel" and "Partnership Board" are scientifically proven to induce unconsciousness without suitable precautions being taken, but I think the speed at which information was being imparted to the audience staved off the slumbers which may otherwise have been caused by the minutiae of local government jargon. And then we met some of the Council's Chief Officers over sandwiches, which enabled me to indulge two of my least favourite activities - eating finger buffets and sharing chats with people I've just met. Everyone was very kind though, a good sign, and a symbol of the close working relationship between officers and Members that I have heard very positive things about.
My thanks to Cllr Holt for showing us all round, and to the Organisational Development team at Bury MBC for putting the programme and literature together. And to those officers who gave up their evenings to meet us - I am grateful.