At the Stevenage Borough Council Annual General meeting on 22.5.2013, the opposition Liberal Democrat group once again refused to support the choice of Labour’s mayor for 2013/2014. “The town’s mayor has no political power whatsoever, so is supposed to be non-party political” said Manor borough councillor and Chells county councillor, Robin Parker, “but until 2006 the ruling Labour majority group always insisted the mayor had to be Labour. We had campaigned for 24 years to take the party politics out of the mayor and, in 2006, we finally succeeded in getting all 3 party group leaders to sign an agreement whereby councillors of any party, and those of no party, if any, would be eligible to be mayor. Labour honoured this agreement for just 3 years, until 2010, when they unilaterally tore it up without notice or discussion. We remain disgusted at Labour’s actions on this issue and will not support a return to Buggins’ turn, which has thrown up some pretty appalling mayors over the last 30 years.”
Yet another new scrutiny system starts as from the date of the AGM, to replace the totally discredited previous system, which replaced another previous system, all of which were totally unfit for purpose. Robin Parker reported: “The basic problem, which Labour repeatedly fail to grasp, is that if all the scrutiny bodies continue to be chaired by Labour councillors – as they are – on a council which has had a huge Labour majority since the 1950s, then you will not get the most effective scrutiny, and the best value for money, for local council, taxpayers. I have challenged the Labour leader to allow just one scrutiny committee to be chaired for just one year by some member of the opposition – but this has always been met with a flat refusal. An independent review some years ago suggested exactly this approach, but Labour refused to implement it. The Liberal Democrats refused to support a continuation of this farce.”
Robin Parker also drew attention to the fact that, although the Liberal Democrats have always won the borough council elections in Chells Manor (Manor Ward), Labour once again grabbed both SBC reps on Chells Manor Community Association – reneging on an agreement last year that the two places would be shared between the two parties. One of their reps (Burrell) does not even represent, or live in, Chells Manor.
“I have raised these important matters many times at SBC Annual General Meetings in recent years, so this year, rather than wasting my breath again, we simply abstained on all of them” concluded Robin Parker.