Friday, 26 February 2016

Deaf to reason, democracy and debate

CWaC's budget and council tax setting meeting last night demonstrated what we had long suspected - Labour Councillors on CWaC are deaf to reason and debate - and horrifyingly last night acted to stifle democracy too.

Tradition has it that the Portfolio Holder for Finance and the Shadow Portfolio Holder can speak without time limit about the budget.  Both did.

Labour Cllr Armstrong presented the budget.  His speech was remarkable for many things.  He spent far more of his time talking about the Government, the Conservative record when running CWaC between 2007-15 and our proposed alternative budget which would have avoided half of the proposed council tax rise.  He barely mentioned his own plans.

His lacklustre performance perhaps highlights the lack of imagination which so often typifies Labour's approach.  When in doubt reach for a tax rise rather than innovate.

Conservative Cllr Eveleigh Moore-Dutton made her response to the budget and indicated that she would formally table the Conservative alternative budget - a budget that had been passed by the Chief Finance Officer as being sound, and something that had been published for more than a week, in the course of the debate.  This alternative budget would have cut the proposed council tax rise in half.

Some 25 or so councillors had indicated that they wished to speak in the budget debate.  However when only a handful of councillors had spoken the Labour whip moved that 'the question be put' - in other words that the debate be curtailed.  The Chairman accepted the motion notwithstanding Cllr Moore-Dutton's indication that she wished to put the Conservative budget to council.

The Labour councillors then voted to guillotine the debate.  This led to a mass walkout by the Conservative Group - appalled that they were not going to be allowed to speak on the budget.

Lynn and I were two out of only three Conservatives who stayed and voted against the Labour budget.  We then used the formal council setting resolution to express our disgust.  Lynn and I pointed out starkly and clearly that Frodsham is one of 6 communities in the Borough effectively singled out for the highest council tax rises - given the reduction in special expenses.  Labour's wrong-headed decisions and denial of local democracy also has a hand in the council tax rise at Frodsham Town Council - where the removal of new homes bonus monies is partially behind the Town Council's tax rise.

What with Labour's clear choice to milk communities like Frodsham  - which is responsible for more than three quarters of our council tax rise - and some poor decision making at Frodsham Town Council Frodsham residents have been handed the highest council tax rise in the Borough at 5.13%.  This is at a time when inflation is near zero.

In the few moments I had to express my disgust I pointed out that a quarter of Frodsham's residents are pensioners and about one third of our adult population is not 'economically active.'  We also have a high level of disability in Frodsham and a significant area of deprivation.  Handing Frodsham the highest council tax rise in the Borough contributes to increasing our inequality  as many people have to pay their bills out of fixed incomes.  So much for Labour's claims that it is trying to reduce inequality.

I can well understand why Labour doesn't want to listen to these comments.

If you want to see all this - it is on CWaC's webcast.  Lynn and I finally got to speak on item 12.
You can also Lynn and my speeches here.

And why were the Labour councillors so keen not to debate the budget?  Seemingly they had dinner booked at the Shrewsbury Arms.  Observers there tell me they were 'troughing' with their Union pals.   No stomach for democracy - just for themselves.