Edna Mopbucket's been on - laughing like a drain. Never known her so jolly. When she told me it was all thanks to the Lib Dems, I was worried. The sheer symbolism of Edna deserting me would do very bad things to my confidence. And then she explained. I didn't think it was that funny - but I suppose you had to be there.
Edna's working full-time for Powys County Council at the moment. When I asked her if she was one of these thousand plus employees on over £30,000, she audibly snarled down the phone something about 'peanuts' and the b******s wanting to charge for parking her car. In truth she only took the job because of this thing she's got for Councillor Bob Mills. Goes all gooey when I mention his name. And she knew he'd be there today. Anyway back to the story.
It was budget day at County Hall. The motion from the Management Board, which had been put forward by the Lib Dems and the Montgomeryshire Independents was an increase in Council Tax of 2.99 %. I'd been expecting two amendments - an increase of 3.99% from the Powys Independents, and just 2% from my lot. I guessed that the two amendments would probably lose, with the motion to carry. The Conservatives knew that if their amendment was lost, the arithmetic demanded they vote for the motion - or the Council would be in the same boat as the Scottish Parliament. No budget at all.
And then the fun started. The Lib Dems began talking about an amendment. That's right - to their own motion! Even dafter it involved charging Council employees for parking their cars. Edna reckons they were beaming with pride - coming up with such a brilliant wheeze. She reckons she heard one of them say "Bound to make the papers - that's all that matters". Then someone said this must be put in writing, and the only bit of paper they could find was the back of a canteen menu that Richard White happened to have in his pocket - or so Edna said. I never know when to believe her. Everyone started laughing. Then they took a break so that one of them could write it out, and photocopy it for everyone. But no-one could read the writing, and the figures didn't add up. People were laughing so much that a doctor was sent for - so Edna says. Then someone asked what the union response had been to this idea. The poor Lib Dem leader looked as if a rat had run up his trouser leg. They hadn't thought of that. And then someone asked what plans the Lib Dems had to stop staff parking on the grass, or in the nearby Metropole car park and taking up all the free car parking in the town. Questions were coming in thick and fast. The whole chamber was erupting in joyous laughter. Then they started falling out amongst themselves, and the Lib Dem leader started dancing around wildly. The rat was clearly sinking its teeth into something tender! The amendment wasn't so much withdrawn as forgotten about. Took ages to calm things whole. I'm sure Edna exaggerates sometimes. It sounds as if it was almost as ridiculous as the political column of the Daily Sport.
Edna told me that all the Conservative speakers were polished and persuasive - so much so that the Montgomeryshire Independents abstained on the Conservative amendment. Everyone opposed the Powys Independents amendment, and everyone but them voted for the 2.99% increase in Council Tax. So 2.99% it is. But fair play to the Lib Dems. They brought joy and hilarity to what would otherwise have been an austere debate.