Back then council committees did not have to reflect political balance by law and Labour tried to negotiate a position where they had a built in majority of one on every committee. The Tories were more pliable (it must be in their genetic make up) and they agreed to perfect balance on all committees, a substitute system, and the ability of all named Committee spokespeople from each of the three Groups to list items on agendas. What fun we had in driving forward our agenda!
The four big policy changes we pushed through during our four years were to significantly expand the role of the voluntary sector in the provision of commissioned services so that they became a realistic alternative to the private sector or Council-provided services; to expand the Social Services budget which was severely under-funded compared to other Councils with similar characteristics; to start up a Performance Review Committee which for the first time aimed to set performance targets for each Council department (which just did not happen back then!), and to make the first attempt at considering environmental issues in Council procurement, for example in buying school furniture which used wood from sustainable sources.
The four of us held it together for four years, holding the balance of power in an authority that had an annual turnover of £1bn in 1989 and 17,500 employees. When we had finished we had three broken marriages, two redundancies and two failed businesses between us. We went our separate ways after that.
I came to London, Tim Wright stayed on the Council for another four years but then moved into social service contracting and I lost touch with him. Frank Parker moved first out of the County and now lives in the Republic of Ireland, and Bill Tuffnell, my long-lost caller now lives in a tiny hamlet in the Burgundy countryside.
To say we scattered to the four winds appears to be the correct analogy. I think I might be the only one who re-entered active politics (in 1998 when I rejoined the Liberal Democrats), and who has had a second spell in public life. Actually, this time round I have lasted longer than when in Hull.
It's even more bizarre that Bill tracked me down via the Camden website to give me a call, for only a week earlier I had decided on a short break to see my only surviving friend who lives in the East Yorkshire area at the beginning of June. I aim to revisit my old stomping grounds in Hull and Beverley, along with a pub or two, since I have not been back for about 15 years. Whether I will get misty-eyed when I recall my earlier minor successes only time will tell. But I am sure that will be a subject of a future blog...