Wednesday, 26 September 2007

This is why we said "Labour can't be trusted"

One of Redcar Liberal Democrats slogans, during the Council elections in May was: "Labour can't be trusted."

They had spent the past four years promising everything to everyone. Their leader on Redcar & Cleveland Council practiced opposition for opposition's sake. He jumped onto every populist bandwagon and often opposed things his own pre-2003 administration had set in motion.

The Evening Gazette's letters column was filled with one paragraph sound-bites, supporting the Labour stance, many of which were in the names of people we suspect do not exist (and here and here).

Listed below are just some of the issues where Labour have shown that what they say in opposition is different to what they do in control:

The Lib Dem led Coalition 2003 -2007 took many difficult decisions that lifted the Council from being rated as only 'fair' when we took over in 2003 and to 'four star excellent' within three years.

Coatham Links

When we took over in 2003 the previous Labour administration had appointed Persimmon Homes as the preferred developer and the scheme was launched by Councillor George Dunning just prior to the 2003 elections.

Cllr Dunning became Labour Group leader after the election and aided by Labour MP, Vera Baird, Labour flip flopped this way and that over the scheme and encouraged a very nasty campaign by a small group of protesters.

No sooner had they won back control but they were all for it (and here and here).

Closure of Eston Town Hall and James Finegan Hall

The Coalition were faced with the task of what to do about the Poulson designed 1960's town hall at Eston and Finegan Hall alongside it. The previous Labour administration had cut the Council's maintenance budget years before, to prop up their "no compulsory redundancy" policy and claw their way back from having the second highest Council tax in the land. Both buildings were in need of major investment and are unsuitable for 21st century local government.

The Coalition decided it was much more economical to provide a new civic hall in the more accessible centre of Redcar, rather than have main council services split over three main towns. The Audit Commission had criticised the previous Labour Council for this inefficient set up. Moving the town hall to Redcar would reduce travelling for staff and make it more accessible to the borough's residents.

Although we promised that a brand new replacement for Finegan Hall would be built before the hall was closed a group of dancers launched a campaign against the closure plans. Councillor George Dunning, the council's Labour Group leader, backed the protesters. Over and over again he was reported as saying: "Our position is that when we get back control in 2007 we will keep open the James Finegan Hall and refurbish it along with the Town Hall." Read more here and here.

No sooner are they back in control than they have now voted to do exactly what the Coalition had planned. They have done a complete u-turn. It is interesting that they held the Cabinet meeting in Saltburn, far away from Eston.

Councillors Allowances

In opposition Councillor Dunning went on and on about Councillors allowances complaining that Redcar & Cleveland's allowances were higher than other neighbouring Councils. But at yesterday's cabinet he said "Tees Valley Councils need to catch up with us" as they voted to go on with the current system.

Land at Church Lane

Councillor Dunning and his deputy. Councillor Sheelagh Clarke, led the opposition to the Coalition Cabinet's plan to sell a small section of land, alongside the town hall, to Tees Valley Housing Group. This would provide some much needed homes in the area and in particular provide more options for people moving out of the South Bank renewal area, whilst at the same time preserving a substantial area of green space.

Labour twice managed to win the vote to reject the proposals at planning committee but Tees Valley Housing Group appealed and this was upheld by the Government Inspector.

On taking control Labour still had the choice of not selling the land to Tees Valley, and thereby preventing the houses being built. Councillor Dunning promised in this letter that this is what he would do.

But yesterday, in far away Saltburn, the Labour cabinet voted to hand over the land and allow the houses to be built. They have achieved exactly the same outcome as the previous Coalition Cabinet had attempted to arrive at.

The new Labour Cabinet have shown once again that they say one thing in opposition and do exactly the opposite in control. They owe the residents who trusted them to do what they promised a most humble apology.

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