Sunday 9 September 2007

Council Leader’s “State Of The Borough Address” Is One Party State

H&F Council officials have now written to inform me that they have been instructed not to allow politicians other than Conservatives to hear Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh’s (Con) self-styled State of the Borough Address on September 26th. The event was previously financed from Tory Party funds but the tab for this year's address will now controversially be picked up by the borough’s council tax payers.

While seeking to ape the American’s Presidential State of the Union Address, Cllr. Greenhalgh seems unaware that that monologue – as with Britain’s Queen’s Speech – is given to elected representatives from all parties.

Cllr. Greenhalgh has had his officials invite over 800 local “opinion formers”. However, he has instructed them to also write to me in my official capacity as Leader of the Opposition to say “Because of the nature and purpose of the event and the limited capacity” I will not be invited.

Oddly, the address is not taking place at the Town Hall but has been moved to the BBC to guarantee a high level of security. That is situated in Andrew Slaughter MP’s (Lab) parliamentary constituency. However, he has also been refused an invitation.

Cllr. Greenhalgh “strongly denied wrongdoing” when this was investigated by a local reporter but his democratic credentials are being increasingly questioned after he also acted to end Opposition Councillors right to debate at the Annual Budget Meeting - during which he introduced £34million of cuts to services.

I recognise that Cllr. Greenhalgh has become ever more nervous of criticism but he is the most senior local politician in the borough and he should realise that analysis and criticism of his Administration's policies are an aspect of our democratic process .

Several Conservative councillors have recently confided to me that they feel “uneasy” with their leader’s refusal to allow even the smallest critique of his Administration's actions – even in closed Conservative only meetings. That can’t be good for democracy or for the effective running of an administration.

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