Following the last council meeting, Simon Cook (the Conservative Leader of the Council) published an press release expressing with sadness that ‘an era of co-operation between the political groups on the city council appears to have ended’ and accusing Labour Councillors of ‘artificially creating headlines’. His statement suggested the local party were adopting a tone which mimicked parts of the country where, in his words, ‘the militant, hard-left Momentum group have undermined the work of democratically elected councils’.
Responding to these accusations, which have now mysteriously been taken off the Conservative Party website, Leader of the Labour Group, Councillor Alan Baldock today discussed the need for an effective opposition, stating firmly and fairly that ‘Canterbury is a one party state no more’.
In his full statement he made clear, his belief had always been that, that “councils are run on democratic lines. Indeed, it’s the responsibility of the opposition to scrutinize the proposals of the ruling party and challenge those that are unsound and to simply roll over and co-operate is to go against the interests and views of the many thousands of electors that did not support the Conservatives at the last local election in 2015.”
He also undermined the case that what Labour was doing was ‘ a sudden shift to the left’, defending its amendments which:
- Proposed £50,000 be put aside for strategic plan to improve housing in the district because step change increase in the building of new council houses. Although some limited progress has been made, Canterbury City Council still has a waiting list of 2,700 and owns 700 fewer council houses than it did in 2012, so clearly a game-changer was needed. What the Conservatives are doing here, isn’t working. The aim was to create a 10-year strategic plan, obviously dovetailing with the work already underway, but setting up the conditions to build 100 new council houses every year in that period starting in 2020.It would have been a complex plan that needed to pull together partnerships, funding and opportunities hence the necessity of setting aside project funding.
- Asked for a little extra funding to kick-start local community-led projects reducing single-use plastics and packaging.We felt the opportunity for 1,000 new homes by 2030, to be owned by the council, may have been further investigation. The decision was made to reject the amendment. That’s politics. Labour lost.
- Proposed increasing from £10,000 to £20,000 money set aside already for residential on-street electric car charging next year. That £20,000 would have been matched by a further £60,000 of government money from the national “On Street Residential Charge-Point Scheme”. It would have enabled around 20 car charging points to be installed across the district. We took on board experience from cities much further forward with this technology than we are in Kent and decided this still small number would have given a much more robust start to this great and important initiative in our district.
In a final comment Councillor Baldock reminded Councillor Cook that Labour was committed to ‘working the Conservative, by being the opposition you so desperately need. Only when failings are pointed out, can anyone – even Conservative-led Canterbury City Council – be helped to do a better job.”