The scene at the Civic Offices on Wednesday 9 December was particularly tense when major issues were due to be debated at the cabinet.
Before the meeting there was a demonstration outside the Civic Officers calling for Councillor Fionuala Foley to resign.
Some demonstrators also attended the meeting and demonstrated peacefully. At the initial, pre-cabinet informal session they, and others, asked a number of questions about the need to close all of the remaining Children’s Centres in the town, when less than a year ago, Cllr Foley had promised to retain them – and to resign if they were closed.
She had already offered her resignation on this, but Council Leader David Renard had declined to accept it. A member of the public reminded Cabinet of longstanding concerns that Cllr Foley had not been open and transparent with the facts on a previous serious matter in 2010, raising the question as to whether her behaviour on the Childrens’ Centres was an isolated incident. She then asked the direct question “Is Coun. Foley going to resign?” The answer was “No”.
There was also a lively debate about the proposal to lease out Lydiard Park, and some differences appeared within the Cabinet about who knew what and when about this whole subject.
This coupled with a lack of clarity about the benefits and measurable or timely objectives of an additional £2,000,000 funding for Forward Swindon in these straitened times did not inspire confidence.
The question of parishes was also raised, with Cllr Faramazi stating that consultation had not finished – quite a feat, as consultation has not yet started.
At the end of the informal session the demonstrators exhibited a number of placards & banners.
During the formal session Cllr Holland, in his preface to discussions on the 2016-17 budget, reinforced the importance of facts quoting John Adams: ‘Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.’
It is impossible to disagree with this sentiment.