Monday 25 June 2007

When the going gets tough it’s best not to get nasty

“Let’s have a big round of applause for the out-going Labour Administration!” So said Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con), the Leader of H&F Council, last year at its Annual General Meeting on 24th May. It was a generous act, made only weeks after his victory in the local elections. This year’s AGM was very different in substance and tone. “We’ve made mistakes!” he exclaimed when talking about his administration’s education policies.

He was right about that. But they’ve made mistakes across plenty of other areas too. On crime, the Council has cut police numbers in the wards with the highest crime rates; they’ve been forced by the police to water down their “Zero Tolerance” plans to little more than a few laminated signs and they’ve failed to guarantee any funding for local police after April 2009. On housing; the Tories propaganda promises home ownership for all, yet they’ll deliver far less than Labour had, offering a mere 125 homes to buy while cutting affordable homes to rent by as much as 500 units. On the environment; the Council’s plans to rip out traffic calming have backfired and they’re now cutting investment into street cleaning and refuse collection by £1.5million. The worst mistakes the Administration has made have been reserved for the most vulnerable in our community; putting voluntary sector organisations out of business by removing funding and reducing help to children, the elderly, the homeless and the sick.

It must have been a difficult year. At this year’s Council AGM, Cllr. Greenhalgh’s approach was very different indeed. His speech focussed on attacking the previous Administration. Many of his comments were highly personal and against people who were not there to defend themselves. One local Tory Grandee sought me out to apologise saying of Cllr. Greenhalgh “he’s let us all down by quite a bit tonight”.

The next Council meeting will take place at 7.00pm this Wednesday, 27th June. The Opposition has called an Extraordinary Council Meeting to review many of the issues I listed above and this will follow the Council Meeting. Any members of the public can attend. I hope that they do. It is my experience that the public have a positive effect, forcing all to raise the quality of debate.

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