I sit as a ward councillor and watch every vote taken in our council chamber return the same result, thirty nine, twenty six ,with one abstention (the Mayor), vote carried, or not depending how the ruling Labour party top brass decide.
As a Libdem with only five seats on this council you can be forgiven for thinking that I am writing this from a position of sour grapes but this simply is not the case.
Wirral is one hundred percent Labour run, with a one hundred percent Labour Cabinet and has recently dictated that all scrutiny chairs will be from the Labour Party. This effectively means that all decisions are passed due to a hard Labour whip ensuring all Labour members vote accordingly, and that they are now effectively controlling the scrutiny of their own decisions.
So, is this a healthy way to make decisions for the people of Wirral?
Each committee contains members from all parties but the makeup of the numbers has to be representative, therefore in any committee the ruling party has a large majority of the seats, again ensuring that all and any decisions are favourable to the ruling Labour party.
Is this democracy when any and all of the ruling Labour council decisions, good bad or indifferent are guaranteed to pass the vote regardless of opposition or any real scrutiny. It could be, and has been shouted, that “of course its democratic we were voted in” but in fairness a large part of the peninsular have never voted Labour but, this be as it may, they were voted in.
Being in opposition is always an easier place to sit, it is easy to be critical of decisions made by others, that is true but it is also frustrating and disheartening to see mistakes being made and know that all you can do is have your objections noted for the record.
“Surely that is how politics work”, and “aren’t you being a bit arrogant thinking that you know better”, I can hear some people thinking, well look at some of the decisions this council has taken recently,
The closure of the Lyndale Special School
The closure of Girtrell Court (last respite centre)
Building a new Golf Course in West Kirby (on the Green Belt etc)
A monthly edition of a Council Newspaper (costing £207,000 and going against central Government dictate)
A £6.5 million youth centre in Birkenhead (closing all local youth hubs)
A 1.6 million cost to change the bin collection
to name but a few,
Ahhh but this is all due to Conservative austerity cutting all our funds! you say.
Five years ago Wirral had a Conservative/Libdem run council where child services were graded by OFSTED as Good,Good,Good and Outstanding, whilst now it is poor on every level and requires immediate improvement before central Government steps in, so two million pounds has been found to hurriedly give to the service to tick a box in the OFSTED’s requirements.
Where did they find this money and if it has been down the back of the council sofa for some time , why were they not given it sooner? No heads have rolled, and to add insult to injury, the people in charge of this fiasco (Director and Cabinet Member etc) are now on the appointed board to investigate what went wrong.
You often hear the words said in council meetings about being open and transparent, why then do I, as a councillor, have to make freedom of information requests because the council will not give me the information requested.
In an environment where anything can be done without due consideration, knee jerk reactions can be the order of the day. If ill conceived and badly planned projects can be implemented without having to verify their ability to hold water, or the need to measure or prove their effectiveness or value for tax payers money because they are guaranteed to be voted the go ahead, regardless of objections from any quarter, this can’t be democracy…….can it?