I won’t forget my first ever visit to an annual general meeting of Bath and North East Somerset Council.
I had the surreal experience – last night – of watching grown men and women bicker – for half an hour and more – about who gets the new vice chair job and from which party. All this before me, while sitting alongside a young man wearing a cushion cover on his head!
This was the first meeting of the council since the local elections when the Liberal-Democratic Party turned Bath yellow.
From the pew-like public benches – with next-to-no leg room – l was looking down on 37 lib-dems on one side of a horseshoe of seats – facing off 11 conservatives, six independents and 5 labour councillors, who are now ranged against them.
No sooner had the outgoing council chair Karen Walker called the chamber to order than a ‘battle royal’ began about who the new vice chair should be.
For nearly 40 minutes the parties questioned each others actions in a ‘hustings-like’ barrage of insult and innuendo.
But enough of that. The person sitting beside me was far more interesting. A man wearing a cushion cover on his head and busily drawing the scene in front of us – in pencil – in his sketchbook.
I never did get an answer to why he was wearing a cushion but he seemed pleased he had got past the officials on the Guildhall door without being stopped.
I take it there were holes for his eyes behind the dark glasses he wore – judging by the impressive artwork he was sketching.
We had a conversation about the Bath branch of the Extinction rebellion Group – of which he is a member. They meet every Thursday evening at Widcombe Social Club.
He was here in support of another member who was making a statement to the Council – reminding B&NES how the group had worked alongside other parties to persuade the local authority to declare a climate emergency.
They now want a citizen’s assembly to be set up to look at climate and ecological issues and must be pleased the new ruling party have established a new cabinet seat to deal specifically with the ‘climate emergency.’
Cllr Paul Crossley – who is the newly appointed cabinet member for Community Services said : ‘
“We are taking the environment seriously, with a Cabinet portfolio dedicated to putting the Climate Emergency at the heart of what the Council does. Every decision will be evaluated for its climate impact and we will enable and inspire change in the community.
The Lib Dems are opening the doors of the Guildhall and inviting the public in. Our new Councillors are bursting with ideas for improving the way we talk to residents – from getting young people involved, to piloting Citizens’ Juries for the most important issues.”
I left at this point – leaving the man in the cushion cover to complete his artwork.
Let’s see if this new ruling group – who seem to have hit the ground running – can keep their balance and that B&NES actually benefits from their efforts.
By the way – l am more of a flat cap person these days. I will leave the wearing of cushion covers to others.
Meanwhile … Bath Newseum regular, Bob Draper tells me: ‘This is not the first time ‘The Cushion’ has participated in the local democratic process: https://www.brlsi.org/news/2010-04-30/candidates-line-brlsi
Yep – there he is again!