Local Elections 24: Democracy is fragile

We are now well and truly in the febrile pre-election period previously known as ‘Purdah’, writes Councillor Steve Allen, Conservative Group deputy leader.
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During the forthcoming weeks you will no doubt receive numerous missives from a range of political parties and their aspirant candidates, all wanting to gain your support. That is the lifeblood of local democracy.

The final Full Council meeting of the current Civic year was held on March 20; normally a meeting with an end of term atmosphere when the various parties conclude business, select the Mayor for the following year and depart ready to engage with residents in the contested wards.

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Unfortunately this year the meeting saw a case of what many would regard as local politics at its worst.

Councillor Steve Allen, Conservative Group deputy leaderCouncillor Steve Allen, Conservative Group deputy leader
Councillor Steve Allen, Conservative Group deputy leader

In an otherwise straightforward debate to discuss the Independent Improvement and Assurance Panel Report, we witnessed what I believe was a totally unnecessary and pointless challenge against the Conservative Leader Wayne Fitzgerald. This concerned his comments regarding the level of collaboration between the various political groups on the council. His point being that the Conservative group were not ‘collaborating’ with the current minority administration and its ‘alliance’ partners, (whilst being certainly supportive of the cooperation required to ensure an effective City Council).

The ensuing confusion saw Cllr Fitzgerald being threatened first with removal from the Chamber and then alternatively being silenced and unable to speak further in the meeting. His heinous crime? Saying an opposition member liked the limelight!

This ridiculous situation saw the voice of leader of the largest party in the chamber being shut down.

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Why……because current procedure allows it! What does that do for legitimate debate?

The Conservative group withdrew from the chamber together with Cllr Fitzgerald, leaving me to reinforce the points that our group needed to be understood: We will most certainly continue to offer full support to the improvement panel and always work to achieve sensible outcomes for our City and its residents, play our part in the scrutiny functions of the Council and fully cooperate with Officers and other parties to ensure the functioning of the Shareholder Cabinet and the Financial Sustainability working group – both important initiatives introduced by the Conservative Administration.

This year the local elections will give residents a stark choice between the continuance of a minority administration, made up of former Conservatives who appear to have selective amnesia when it comes to council policy and past decisions. Each and every one of them being responsible, and in some cases instrumental, for the decisions that they are now calling out!

Ask them what their policy is and wait for the silence! Other than a dislike of their previous Conservative colleagues, they will be hard pressed to come up with an answer. Conservative ‘Light’, and without any convictions!

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Looking at other parties; interestingly we have a very ‘light’ Green Group – now down to 2 members after a series of fallouts and defections. Their Councillors and Candidates are former Labour Party members who have either changed their spots or been ejected from that Party. A Green Party candidate is not the place for a Conservative voter to look for a temporary home.

Then we have the two parties waiting in the wings to grab the advantage occasioned by the current disruption; don’t be fooled, both Labour and the Liberals have facilitated the current situation to grab power at the earliest opportunity.

The message if you want the City in safe hands Vote for your Conservative candidate.

We have some fantastic candidates waiting in the wings - new faces and new voices, with new ideas, who will be out there working for your area, your community and of course your vote.

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Importantly do exercise your right to vote – we need a strong Conservative group in the council chamber to ensure those principles are defended.

Yes, including the unfettered ability to debate and defend the views and policy of the group.