The Labour group walked out of the full council meeting on Thursday 7th November 2013 in protest against the controlling Conservative group’s contempt for the democratic process by placing three self-congratulatory statements on the council agenda masquerading as motions.
Motions to full council should have some sort of action associated with them, but the only actions that these motions had was for council to note them and reaffirm the actions already undertaken by the Cabinet. This was enough to allow them not to be ruled out of order. However, the Labour group does not consider them to be worthy of debate.
The first Tory statement notes the council’s school building programme and misrepresents the Labour group’s position. For the avoidance of doubt, The Labour Group are in favour of providing a decent school place for every child in the borough, but we strongly object to green belt land at Lake Farm, Botwell Common being used to build a school on, especially when other Council sites such as the old Hayes Pool site are being sold off to developers and supermarkets.
We also believe that the lack of full and frank public consultation and the lack of joined up thinking has contributed to a position where the Tory administration have not ensured that sufficient local infrastructure (in the form of schools, doctors surgeries etc.) is properly considered when sites are sold off to developers.
The second statement that the Tories put forward was to pat themselves on the back for new leisure centres and Library refurbishments, which were achieved with funding from the last Labour government. However there are quite a few issues surrounding these projects that should be debated but the Tories have placed these issues in confidential and restricted documents. It is interesting to note that whilst they promote these projects as “wonders”, the Leader of the council rewarded the Cabinet Member responsible for them by giving him the sack. Perhaps that says more about the “blunders” than the “wonders”.
The third and final statement sees the Tory administration praising itself for setting an affordable housing target of 149 units but actually achieving 188 units. With the housing crisis we currently face this is an absolute insult to residents in housing need. The Tories then go on to reaffirm their approach and state that they will not build houses on green spaces. The Labour group are of the firm opinion that the Tory’s approach is exactly what is wrong and the lack of comprehensive planning briefs for the borough’s towns and the lack of consideration for local services and infrastructure is exactly why they are building schools on our green spaces.
The Labour group also refutes the accusation that Labour threatened to build houses on the Green Belt. Not one single house was built on Green Belt and open land by Labour. In fact Labour increased the area of Green Belt land in the borough. All development on Green Belt and open land has been under Tory administrations. It is also interesting to note that part of the Green Belt secured by Labour in a legal agreement during the development of Stockley Park is at Lake Farm / Botwell Common, which is now being built on by the Tories!
The Labour group did not consider these statements worthy of debate, for the reasons outlined above and so we noted them and then voted with our feet by walking out.