Councillors taken to task for 'giving local politics a bad name' at first full meeting in Immingham
CONSTANT bickering at North East Lincolnshire Council meetings is giving local politics a bad name. That was the claim of Conservative group leader Keith Brookes at last week’s full council meeting in Immingham. Local Government Reporter Simon Faulkner reports on a night when both main parties accused the other of trying to score cheap political points.
IT IS a historic night for Immingham as the town is hosting its first ever full meeting of North East Lincolnshire Council.
Councillors unite, but with some contentious issues on the agenda, the verbal hostilities begin.
The first item for debate is a motion by Labour’s Ray Sutton (Lab, Freshney), calling on the council, MPs and the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership to secure faster rail connections.
BLINDS & CURTAINS MADE 2 MEASURE WE COVER SCUNTHORPE & GRIMSBY...View details
******FREE MEASURING & FITTING****** TOP BRANDS****** WOOD BLINDS*** ROMANS*** ROLLER & VERTICALS*** NEW VISION AND PERFECT FIT BLIND***** VIEW wwwgrimsby-sunblinds.co.uk phone 809887 for a free quote
Contact: 01472 809887
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Although the motion welcomes government support, Karl Wilson (Lab, Heneage) wastes no time in having a pop at the coalition.
He claims North East Lincolnshire has been ignored by the Government in a document outlining planned rail improvements in the north of the country.
“I would argue that the Government has abandoned North East Lincolnshire.”
Matthew Brown (Lab, Croft Baker) accuses the Conservative Government of the day of making a “big mistake” by not putting a railway line across the Humber Bridge when it was built in 1981.
David Hornby (Con, Scartho) is the first to respond to the anti-Tory rhetoric.
“Once again, Councillor Wilson gets on his soapbox. At every council meeting, it’s the same story. We all know the reason for the cuts. It’s because the last Labour government left the country in an economic mess.
“I wish that Councillor Wilson could grow up and understand why the country is in this mess.”
Dismissing Labour criticism of the coalition, Philip Jackson (Con, Waltham) said: “It’s good to see we have a government that is looking to make investment in the rail network because we certainly didn’t get it in the days of the last Labour government.”
After promising not to be political, Jane Hyldon-King (Lab, Yarborough) has a change of heart, and says: “Actually, I will be political. Who did the Beeching plan which devastated the railways?”
The debate then moves to a motion by John Colebrook (Con, Humberston & New Waltham), proposing that an Olympiad is held next summer.
Labour are quick to point out that such an event would cost money and could not rely on volunteers.
Councillor Brown (Lab, Croft Baker) claims the coalition government has created an Olympic legacy “we should be ashamed of”, citing the G4S security fiasco and the “privatisation by stealth” of school sporting facilities through the academy conversion programme.
Rounding on the Conservative group, council leader Chris Shaw (Lab, Sidney Sussex) adds: “Although I do believe the first part of the motion is very good, it does make me think that the party opposite doesn’t know anything about finance.”
Responding to Christina McGilligan-Fell (Lib Dem, Park), who brought a tennis racquet to demonstrate the lack of free tennis facilities, Councillor Shaw says: “That was the last administration – a vintage racket that did nothing for North East Lincolnshire.”
Councillors debate a motion by Conservative group leader Keith Brookes (Con, Haverstoe), calling on East Midlands Ambulance Service to rethink plans to replace 70 existing stations with 13 hubs.
Councillor Dave Bolton (Lab, Immingham) says the motion shows that Conservative councillors had “finally smelled the coffee as to what this government is doing to the NHS.”
Councillor Shaw, who put forward an amendment, proposing that the council express its objection to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, says: “We need to write to the secretary of state, or perhaps we should write to Rupert Murdoch and cut out the middle man.”
Councillor Brown jokes he “must be coming down with something” to be supporting two Conservative motions.
Continuing along the same theme, Councillor Wilson (Lab, Heneage) says: “I thought it was a Labour motion. It doesn’t directly criticise the government but indirectly, wow, I couldn’t have done better myself.
“I’ve got a job lot of Labour joining forms here if you’re interested.”
Councillor Brookes responds by sarcastically thanking them for “reminding us that Labour left us with no money to spend”.
Then he delivers this: “Everybody has got the right heart. They all know what we are trying to do, but I just think how sad it is that the Labour group have had greater interest in political point-scoring than seeing this motion passed.
“Labour are losing respect. People are fed up with politicians and with listening to the bickering of this council.
“When the Conservatives bring something forward, there has to be some way of meddling with it.”
Now it is time for the minutes of meetings to be formally approved.
Councillors can ask a question on any of the minutes.
Iain Colquhoun (Con, Waltham) asks why Waltham Parish Council and other burial boards had not been notified of NELC’s decision to increase its burial charges. Councillor Shaw says that if he was so concerned, Councillor Colquhoun could have “called-in” the proposal, before it went to Cabinet.
Councillor Shaw said: “We have a process of calling in council decisions and that’s not waiting until three months after a decision and then raising it on a minute for a cheap political point.
“It’s nice to see you are learning lessons and being politicians. You are supposed to be politicians. I said supposed to be.”
Taunting the Tories, Councillor Shaw adds: “This authority has got to balance its books. I’m not going to say why we have to, because we might get people being sulky.”
When pressed on the same issue by Councillor Jackson, Councillor Shaw replies: “As soon as the decision had been made, Councillor Jackson could have conveyed that information to the parish council if he wanted, not waited until tonight to make a cheap political jibe.”
Referring to both councillors, he says contemptuously: “I expect them as ward councillors to do their ward work.”
When the issue of the Cleethorpes saltmarsh is raised, Councillor Shaw says: “It started growing in 2003 when the previous administration cut the budget for cleaning the sandbar, which ensured the saltmarsh didn’t grow.”
When John Fenty (Con, Humberston & New Waltham) asks about the progress of the Freeman Street Regeneration Project, Councillor Shaw blames the delay on repeated objections being raised by Tories.
He said: “The reason it’s taken so long is because Councillor Jackson and his colleagues keep calling it in because they wanted to repopulate it with council staff from other areas and make those parts of the borough collapse.”
The meeting ends with council leader Mr Shaw attacking Councillor Jackson, accusing him of misleading the planning committee in a meeting last year.
Rising to approve the appointment of a new independent member of the standards committee, Mr Shaw decided to comment: “I hope the new independent member will not allow Councillor Jackson to mislead the council like he did on June 29 last year when he told the planning committee, and I quote, that in his opinion the committee had made a recommendation to refer the matter to officers to look at this again when the minutes of April 6 clearly show otherwise.
“Councillor Jackson mislead the planning committee and he owes the residents of North East Lincolnshire an apology.”
Councillor Brookes stands and calls on monitoring officer Rob Walsh to intervene: “As a point of order, this can’t be allowed to continue.”
The Mayor of North East Lincolnshire Council, Mike Burton swiftly moves to the next and final item on the agenda.