A council at war is not healthy

Speaker's Corner columnists -  Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
Speaker's Corner columnists - Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday

T he times they are a-changin. And how much so, with the leaders of North and South Korea having met to hail the start of a new beginning to end their nations’ 68-year-old conflict, says Werrington First Cllr Steve Lane.

Moreover, even Donald Trump wants to meet his arch-enemy Kim Jong Un and foster friendship. Earlier this year, there was also a bold move towards ending a middle-eastern conflict, albeit unsuccessfully, when the Afghan President asked the Taliban to commit to peace talks with him, and that in return they would be recognised as a legitimate political group.

Closer to home, there was a somewhat similar peace movement declared at the Peterborough City Council’s Annual General Meeting this week. It revealed the newly- appointed Labour group leader, Councillor Nawaz, offering to patch things up with relations between his party and the Conservative administration in the council chamber. He wants to see an end to the bitter interruptions to debate and showed a conciliatory hand to propose an end to hostilities.

Let us not get too carried away with this unexpected softening of two adversaries. We must take this one step at a time, softly, softly like. A convenient marriage such as this is something I had called for a couple of years ago in this very column, and I am heartened by the current mood. It’s about time that opposing factions admit that open-warfare not only hinders progress towards building a prosperous city, but that their political antics leaves a lasting sense of incredulity with the tax-paying public. I am sure it would rather see councillors from all parties working together to make much-needed savings to meet a financial squeeze imposed on us by Government.

So far, Peterborough has met the challenge of budget pressures, and I would expect it might still be able to meet its statutory obligations, but the schedule for planning and delivery is always very tight. A council at war with each other is not healthy, and things could be made so much easier if the body of elected members adopt a collective and mutual approach to each year’s budget.

Unfortunately, I will dash my dreams and succumb to being more of a realist. The aforementioned togetherness will no doubt be short-lived, as town hall gossip tells me that Labour may not be joining the Cross-Party Budget Working Group, and will propose an alternative budget for next year’s proceedings.

I wish Cllr Nawaz well in his new appointment, but if he was expecting a lasting courtship with Cllr Holdich, I feel that he has taken one step forward with his olive branch, and then made two in reverse by not extending the relationship that might give him at least some potential to influence. Despite this faux-pas, I am sure the Leader will take note of the prolific 19th century writer, Oscar Wilde. His wit suggested that you should always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much.

Anyway, I feel the moment will be an opportunity missed if Cllr Nawaz did not realise the need for some kind of consensus in local politics. I still live in hope that elected members and colleagues in the council chamber will soon begin to realise that it’s time to wake up, because the world has moved on. The financial pressure being levied by government means we just have to talk to each other. We don’t need to rise up and challenge an evil empire as our forefathers did – save that for Parliament.

Our role in local government and its institutions are changing and we have to make an effort to share that responsibility these days. Take a tip from Dylan, who famously wrote: Your old road is rapidly agin’. Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand. For the times they are a-changin’.