As Joni Mitchell once screeched “Don’t it always seem to go, That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone….”
Sometimes we do not know how lucky we are to be blessed by those who work tirelessly and efficiently behind the scenes, unmarked, unthanked but desperately efficient. I can only blame myself for not noticing the departure of the dapper, courteous and immaculately efficient Julian Gale as monitoring officer to Somerset County Council. His absence was made very visible at the May County Council meeting.
Now many items of a council agenda may cause controversy and debate, but approving the minutes of the last meeting rarely provokes controversy or any kind of comment beyond polite mumbling. This time it was not to be.
First off was Dean Ruddle. Noting that although the minutes had recorded his apology for absence, he had in fact been very much there. He knew he was there – he remembered it well, had he not been there, he would certainly have noticed. And proof there was, for his name appeared in one of the recorded votes.
A muttered apology from those who look after these things and the minute was adjusted.
But gentle reader, there was more….
Now Jane Lock rose to wonder why comments she had made on SCC’s capital programme, had been left off. Yes she had asked them to be minuted, no, no-one had objected to them being minuted, but in the space where they should have been the paper was embarrassingly white and empty of type.
Now normally if something is amiss it will illicit groans and lots of impolite mumbling from the floor. Not so much as a mutter.
At the front of the room sat above a pool of icy embarrassment, the new Chair, Nigel Taylor had the various officers charged with dealing with this sort of thing, scurrying here and there. Whispered advice passed along a line of official one to the next. There was much muttering though it has to be said, no overt wailing or gnashing of teeth.
For a few moments the entire meeting was engulfed in a cold paralysis. Could Councillor Lock could recall her exact words to the meeting from 3 months ago so they could ink them in there and then?
Gifted as Councillor Lock may be, unsurprisingly she confessed to not having perfect recall, certainly not without her notes and definitely not from three months ago.
More scurrying, red faces and general consternation.
Happily the meeting had been audio recorded. Could they perhaps replay the tapes and transcribe Councillor Lock’s comments. Possibly, but surely not now while the council, all 55 members plus officials were waiting to move on.
More embarrassed silence, and then Leader David Fothergill leapt into the void to point out they could hardly approve the minutes if there was an addendum that they hadn’t actually see. You could almost feel the relief in the room. The meeting would move on after all.
In an outbreak of public spirited agreement, or perhaps merely of out and out desperation, all concerned agreed the minutes without the amendment and that the extra notes could be appended at the next meeting for agreement then when all had seen them…..