IN THE INKY-COLOURED CORNER
Paul "Not Iain" Dale of the Birmingham Post.
Not for the first time, you have to pity poor Peter Douglas Osborne. There he was, giving an involved answer to a question at today's council meeting and nobody heard, much less cared, what he was saying. PDO could have been declaring the creation of Birmingham as an independent city state and nobody would have noticed.
For all the interest was on the spat between Pauls Dale and Tilsley.
The root of it is the Post's ongoing story over the Working Neighbourhood's Fund, but today's little floor show arose out of this article in today's paper, which also revealed that John Denham, the Secretary of State, is highly critical of the pace at which the WNF money is being splashed around the City.
Almost a week has passed since this newspaper asked Be Birmingham some straightforward questions. Name the projects to benefit from the £2.5 million you have actually managed to spend on tackling worklessness; identify the projects benefitting from the remaining £27.5 million you have spent; name all of the projects allocated funding from the £85 million yet to be spent. We are still waiting for the answers.
The Deputy Leader was clearly up for a fight and it fell to Cllr Ray Hassall to open proceedings when he chucked a gentle underarm question towards Tilsley, who immediately batted it straight back in the direction of Dale's head. Tilsley spent some time detailing the spend on each constituency and went into detail about the spending on worklessness projects in Hodge Hill, which is all very fine. Cllr Tilsley claimed that these projects had all been agreed in an August meeting of the Be Birmingham board and that details were available on the website to anyone with a 'modicum of knowhow.' I think I've got a modicum of know how and I can't find details of these documents that covers the same ground as Cllr Tilsley in today's meeting. That said, the Be Birmingham website seems to be unnecessarily ineffective when it comes to open corporate governance. The documents are almost certainly there, but they aren't easily accessible through the document library - which has nothing at all for August.
If anyone has more luck in finding the documents, let me know. The point being, that if they were so easily accessible, then this could have been at least partially resolved by sending a hyperlink to the Post or just a copy of the relevant documents.
So, after Paul T had waxed lyrical about all that that the WNF is doing for the city - although some of his statements appeared to suggest that the targets required of some of the projects in Hodge Hill had already been achieved, but that may have been a verbal slip on his part - he concluded that these documents were there for anyone who knows what they are doing.
Ray Hassall commented that the Post clearly didn't know what they were doing and the question time moved on.
Paul Tilsley didn't. Clearly in a bad mood, he was stomping the aisles of the chamber and could be clearly heard from the public gallery alleging to other Liberal Democrat members that Paul Dale - seated at the front at the press table - had told him to 'eff off.' I can't comment on what Mr Dale did or did not say, as it wasn't audible to me, but at this point, Mr Dale decided to quietly gather up his notes and took his leave through the door on the right hand side of the chamber. Tilsley, denied his chance to raise the matter with the chair of the meeting, then scuttled out through the door on the left hand side, so that the two must have met in the ante-room or corridor behind the council chamber.
Paul Dale didn't return.
Then the police turned up.
Fortunately, it was the Chief Constable and one of his ACCs to attend the annual report of the lead member of the police authority, rather than the local constabulary arriving to cart one or other of the Pauls off in chains.
Sparkling good fun, but not adding much to the debate over the destination of the WNF millions.