SOME may view the actions of Councillor Jeremy Balfour, exposed today playing solitaire on a taxpayer-funded iPad during a city council meeting, as a bit of a joke.
We do not.
The behaviour of the city’s former Tory leader, made worse by the fact he was caught by the council’s own TV camera, is completely indefensible.
Many may sympathise with the feeling of being bored in a long meeting, but how many of us would have the downright gall to start playing a game, especially as the person sitting next to us is speaking?
And this wasn’t just a brief shuffle of the pack. The footage clearly shows Cllr Balfour playing for several minutes and starting at least one new game.
At best, it shows disrespect to his colleagues. At worst, it shows contempt to the voters who elected him.
The webcast of council meetings is a fantastic way to show democracy in action. The petitions committee which Cllr Balfour was sitting on is an excellent initiative which allows ordinary citizens to influence local authority policy. With one click, Cllr Balfour has threatened the integrity of both.
When we revealed last May that all city councillors were to be issued with free iPads, we suggested that the critics would take some convincing that it was value for money. We joked that the devices would have to be able to cope with “58 councillors reading reports – or playing Sudoku – at the same time”. That comment does not seem so funny now.
Cllr Balfour must now be reprimanded for bringing the city council into disrepute.
All elected members must be left in no doubt – this is no joke. If they do not want to be in a meeting, they can leave and be replaced with someone who does. Then they can play solitaire as much as they like in the way it is intended. Alone.