‘All the world’s a stage and these are the players in it’ - what went down at the first meeting of the new Fenland District Council
- Credit: HARRY RUTTER
Normally, you’d find me sitting in the third row of the Cambridge Arts Theatre or at the Light Cinema in Wisbech writing about the latest movies and plays, but on Thursday afternoon I found myself sat at the press table of Fenland Hall for the first meeting of the new council.
When the editor asked me to write about the goings on from a theatrical perspective, I took up the challenge and, frankly, the whole thing is like a panto; they even spent half an hour arguing about amending the date of an upcoming meeting… back and forth, their indecisiveness is not dissimilar to the Brexit fiasco.
The talk of the chamber before the meeting starts? Councillor Chris Boden's stunning new hair cut - some of his colleagues haven't noticed, much to his disgust.
As the clock strikes 4pm the gavel hits the table, thus commencing proceedings. After a "tut tut" from the public gallery at the notion of two absences from the meeting, the key players for 2019/20 are announced.
At the top of the hierarchy this year as council chairman is Kay Mayor (nominated by Cllr Boden and seconded by Cllr Skoulding). Presented with her shining medal - applauded by those in the public seats who eagerly photograph the handover - she gives her first address as chairman.
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"It has been an honour and privilege," she says, "and I'd like to thank everyone for putting your trust in me to serve another year on the council."
Up next is the role of vice-chairman of the council - this year named as Cllr Alex Miscandlon, who ensures everyone "I will do my best".
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The room is then handed to the king of the castle - aka leader of the council for a four-year term - Cllr Chris Boden who, whilst smiling like the Cheshire Cat, announces his new team - think of them as the Avengers of the Fenland political world.
"Thank you for the honour of being elected as leader; it is my intention to serve for the benefit of everyone in Fenland," he assures.
"We are counting on everyone to make contributions to make sure we make decisions that will result in the best possible outcomes for the people of Fenland," he adds, before declaring who else makes it into his gang: Cllr Jan French, Cllr Steve Tierney, Cllr Sam Hoy, Cllr Sam Clarke, Cllr Chris Seaton, Cllr Peter Murphy, Cllr Ian Benney, Cllr Maureen Davis and Cllr Dee Laws.
Asked about how the council will tackle the issue of affordable housing, he is defiant in his response: "Across the country there is a difficulty to supply affordable housing. Given that what we have done in the past has not worked satisfactorily - we need to do something different.
"Things aren't going to get any better by doing it the old way. Innovative and radical ideas will be coming to this council in the next couple of months."
When the question of councillors' behaviour on social media is brought up he has one simple answer: behave appropriately.
"Councillors should act in an appropriate way at all times, that's my personal opinion but the legal side is very different.
"Social media is very dangerous for people with a very trigger happy response. It all too often, as we know, encourages individuals to react and descend to the bottom of the pile in terms of the comments that are made."
It's not all plain sailing, though, as Martin Curtis, a one time county council leader and former district councillor, makes his voice heard; delivering some home truths to the council.
"You're putting yourselves first and your residents second," is his opening gambit concerning the recent local elections and the problems that led to such a low turnout in voters
Stunning the room into silence, he adds - briefly taking on the role of the panto villain - "things have got to change and the only way to do that is for people like me to tell you what you're doing wrong."
Rather than taking offence by his comments, Boden assures Curtis that "while we haven't done enough - or anything at all - in some places, we can't change anything overnight but it is going to happen."
Only time will tell...