Speaker’s Corner: Our voices will be heard in future
The council elections have taken place and, at the end of it all, not much has changed. The Conservatives have one extra seat and a new leader, and I would like to congratulate Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald on his election (writes city council Lib Dem leader cllr Nick Sandford).
The council elections have taken place and, at the end of it all, not much has changed. The Conservatives have one extra seat and a new leader, and I would like to congratulate Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald on his election.
By the time you read this, he will have been confirmed as leader of the city council at the council AGM. But, despite their large “Covid bounce” in the polls nationally, the Conservatives do not have a majority on the city council. They are reliant on the support of the three “Werrington First” councillors. Those councillors stand in their ward on a platform of being independent and aloof from party politics, but we shall have to see how they actually behave in the council chamber. Will they genuinely look at each issue on its merits, or will they invariably back the Conservative group position?
I am grateful to the residents of Paston and Walton for re-electing me as their councillor and to the members of the Lib Dem council group for re-electing me as group leader for another year. We had some excellent hard working local candidates in Fletton and Stanground, Gunthorpe and the two Hampton wards who were not elected but I am sure their time will come in future when there is no longer a strong national swing to the Conservatives.
The new council leader has a hard task ahead of him on a range of issues, not least the financial predicament that the council finds itself in. Lib Dems will engage constructively where we are asked to put forward our views. I hope we will not see a continuation of the way the Conservatives have run the council over the past few years: progressively making it harder for opposition councillors to put forward their views and culminating at the March Full Council meeting, when the Tories prevented us from having any debate at all on the council budget.
Debate and challenge is an important part of democracy. Even if you have the votes to get your own way in the end, you should at least allow opposing voices to be heard and not try to silence them.
People sometimes tell me they don’t know what Liberal Democrats stand for. In this year’s elections, we had a detailed election manifesto but I know not many people read manifestos. In wards where we have councillors or active campaigners people know that we work hard on behalf of residents. But I am convinced that we now need to set out to people more clearly what a Liberal Democrat-led city could look like. Over the past five years we have doubled our number of city councillors, but we now need to set out a clearer case and some positive ideas for the future of our city. Lib Dems already run councils in Chelmsford, St Albans and many other places and most recently Cambridgeshire County Council was added to the list.
So, I hope to do that in this column over the next few months with the help of some of our leading Lib Dem councillors in the city. In the meantime, please refer to www.peterboroughlibdems.org.uk/manifesto for more information on our ideas and policies.
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