Seriously though, tonight was all about the ceremonial mayor making and confirming the composition of the various committees, panels and cabinet etc.
First things first, two things really impressed me tonight. As with every experience of the Borough Council staff so far, the event was very well organised, councillors being photographed for ID cards and website information etc and being welcomed and introduced to staff from various different departments from democratic services to communications. I was also very impressed with the Town Hall - my first time inside what is a very historic looking building from the outside and I can only say it is every bit as historic looking from the inside - wasn't able to take it all in tonight but will make it my mission to explore and soak up as much of the culture as possible over the coming months and years.
So what of the ceremony? Have to admit that I felt a little ambushed to have been asked to stand as the Mayoral procession passed through the hall then remain standing for the 'chaplain's prayers'. As a firm atheist I do not like having religion imposed upon me and it was all I could do to remain standing against my better instincts.
I became involved in the first party political actions as the Labour councillors abstained from the voting for the position of Mayor - a protest at not having been consulted in the nomination process. I can understand the point of view as the opposition councillors feel that such non-political decisions should be a little more proportional now that the Tory majority has been slashed from 5:1 to 2:1. The flip side of this is of course, that even if the Tories had agreed to a fully consultative process they could still have skewed the result in their favour by dint of their majority anyway. The hope is that an opposition councillor will be given the opportunity to stand as mayor in future years but by the tone of some of the conversations I overheard afterwards I would not hold my breath.
I discovered that I had not only been nominated as a member of the Community & Culture Panel but had been nominated as Vice Chair. Had mixed feelings when my nomination was voted down by the majority Tory contingent. On one hand I am not sure such an inexperienced councillor should or could be an effective Vice Chair of any panel but it is clear that, as the Tory contingent was able to pass pretty much anything it wanted at the full council meeting, it might have been useful for at least some of the positions of authority to be filled by opposition councillors.
Had an interesting, long conversation with one of the aldermen of the council in attendance, a ward constituent and Labour party member who I met for the first time back in October as the ward members met to consider the available candidates for our ward. I was very grateful on that occasion as a new party member to have been so readily accepted as a potential councillor by party members and was very pleased to have the chance to have a catch up this evening, especially as it gave me the opportunity to learn a little more about some of the issues I will no doubt be involved in in the next few years - in particular regarding whether or not there should be a West Lynn Parish Council; it appears there is a growing campaign for such a body but it seems to be based in all of the positive things that could come out of having a parish council for the locality and does not really cover any of the negatives, principally the requirement for a parish council precept to be added to council tax bills. As the Council's chief exec explained at our new Councillors' induction session on Tuesday, this can be as high as an extra 10% of the existing council tax bill.
Will be attending my first Community & Culture Panel on Tuesday next week and in doing so will miss the first meeting of the West Lynn Forum since the election (also had to miss the South Lynn SNAP meeting on Tuesday due to the new councillors inductions). With so many conflicts already in the diary, it seems the hard work has only just begun....