Why did the Mayor stop me talking?
At full council, on January 18th, I rose to ask a question about data from Havering's budget consultation. Part way through my supplementary question, the Mayor stopped me. Why?
My initial question was simple. Would Havering Council publish the raw, anonymised data, showing the responses to the budget consultation and the level of support / objection to each proposal?
The Leader, Cllr Ray Morgon, rose to confirm that they would. Which is brilliant and I commend him for that commitment.
With each of these formal questions, submitted in advance, Cllrs get to ask a supplementary question. These are used for all kinds of things. Some chose to use them to dig a bit deeper into the answer they've just heard, some use them to make a political point, some use them to try get a commitment from the person being questioned.
The reality is that most Cllrs, from this opposition and those before, do a mixture of all three. This is where they Mayor really earns his money, as the Chamber's Chairman.
The rules state that the supplementary question should be related to the first question asked, or the information just given. Cllrs are not supposed to make statements or speeches.
In my supplementary question, I decided to highlight how the Mayor of London ignored Londoner's responses to his consultation. Then going on to ask if the Leader, Cllr Morgon, would drop a proposal if it was objected to by a majority.
The Mayor stopped me just after my statement about Mayor Khan and asked that I got straight to the question.
This appears to be that I was viewed as deviating from my original question.
I regret that the Mayor stopped me, literally a second before I got into the heart of the question. But, it was an important lesson to learn.
Whilst the chamber is certainly a place for robust debate and politicking, there is a thin line to be walked.
I felt it appropriate to highlight the ULEZ consultation, as it was the release of the data that allowed Conservatives to see the scale of public opposition. It was this data that allowed for Mayor Khan to be held to account.
My desire was for the Leader, Cllr Morgon, to commit to 2 things. 1 - that he would publish the data and 2 - that he would drop a proposal were it massively opposed. He confirmed the former, the latter is to be seen.
Ultimately, I could have made the ask without reference to the ULEZ consultation and this would have avoided the Mayor from stepping in as he did.
It's not likely that any supplementary question will secure much of a commitment from the administration, and, one must assess whether asking for such a commitment is a good use of time.
Havering is lucky to have Cllr Treveor McKeever (Lab) as the Mayor. He is a very reasonable, level-headed guy who rises above party politics.
Whilst I wish that he had let me run on for a further 2 seconds, to get to my question, I can understand why he stepped in. Others have faced the same fate on other occasions.
The challenge of learning on the job, as a Cllr, continues for me! It's a steep learning curve.
Review my work
As I am on a steep learning curve, I'm asking people to review my progress so far. I've setup an online system that allows you to rate me out of 10 (on my performance as a Councillor) and to let me know how I can do better. You can leave an anonymous reply, or leave your email if you'd like me to get back to you.