An Open Letter to Stevenage Comet from Cllr Robin Parker about The Last Word
I am pleased to see that, after 28 years, the Comet has at last realised and reported the fact that, at Stevenage Borough Council, it is myself and the Liberal Democrats alone who challenge, criticise and generally hold the overwhelming Labour majority to account and, in so doing, punch well above our weight (The Last Word, page 4, Comet 3 June). It was always thus! I wonder why it was never noticed before?
The recent disgraceful actions by local Labour councillors, in tearing up the agreement I made with them and the Tories in 2006 to allow Mayors who are not Labour, is a huge insult to the 67% of voters who did not vote Labour. I believe the Mayor should represent the borough, not just the Labour party. The Tories were happy enough to take the post of Mayor in 2007/2008, but they did nothing to help my 24 year long campaign to get this from 1982 – 2006.
Labour also kicked the only opposition councillor off the decision making Executive. This is a position I held for the first 8 years of the existence of the Executive, and I made sure decisions were subject to a degree of pre-scrutiny – even if I was outvoted by Labour. The meetings were a re-run of the previous day’s secret Labour cabinet, except that I put my spoke in. The Tories had this seat for the last two years, but I do not remember any significant comments from them. Now the Executive will be indistinguishable from the secret Labour cabinet.
As for the official scrutiny committees, Labour has (once again) grabbed all the chairs, despite independent advice that opposition councillors should be more involved – a fact highlighted several times in public by me (not the Tories). Labour even had a Labour chair who conducted absolutely no meetings in 2009/2010, but still collected his extra allowance of over £8000 a year. The Tories said nothing about this, or Labour’s illegal radio adverts or the huge payoff for the previous Chief Executive. By contrast, I made it all public – and those are only a few examples.
It is perhaps, then, no surprise that Labour have, even in their present “grab everything mood”, thrown a few crumbs to the ineffectual Tories by way of chair of a local forum and a vice chair. Labour never allowed the Liberal Democrats these things in similar circumstances. Furthermore they have just grabbed the only Liberal Democrat place on Chells Manor Community Centre, even though we hold all three seats in the area. It is because the Tories are no threat to Labour, who are clearly suffering from post election defeat paranoia.
The Annual General Meeting of Stevenage Council on 26 May was entirely typical, in that I alone spoke 7 times to raise important points and challenge Labour taking everything. The Conservatives said absolutely nothing and, as usual, either voted with Labour or abstained.
Your readers may like to ask themselves: What exactly are Labour so scared of? And why on earth do some local residents vote Conservative in Stevenage Borough Council elections?