|Ed Miliband approving of Crawley Labour's 'open' town hall|
"Last Friday evening was the Crawley Borough Council Annual Council meeting. It was all-change as Labour officially took over control with a new Leader and Cabinet appointed. It was also my first main meeting as Leader of the Opposition although I suspect Holland’s 5-1 World Cup thrashing of Spain that I missed, was probably a more entertaining spectacle.Last week I wrote about my concerns for this meeting and sadly I was proven to be correct. I highlighted the inclusiveness of my own Conservatives during our eight years of running the Council and always giving some committee chairs or vice-chairs to opposition members. However, last Friday saw an unprecedented move in Crawley as Labour took all 18 out of the 18 most senior positions on the Council despite only having 20 Councillors out of 37.
Of most concern was that both the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee were appointed from the controlling Labour group. This is almost unheard of at any other Council where there is a large opposition and goes against the sound advice of the highly respected Local Government Association and the Centre for Public Scrutiny who both say having an opposition Chair or Vice-Chair is best practice. Good scrutiny is important for the good running of any Council but sadly Labour put narrow party interest before the wider interests of both the Council and of Crawley.
All new Administrations deserve a honeymoon, but prior to this changeover meeting we had already seen two very concerning intentions stated by Labour. Firstly they appear to have thrown in the towel on major town centre regeneration. Secondly they made reckless statements that risk creating a culture of non-payment of rent for those on housing benefit who live in Council homes with spare bedrooms. Labour’s shockingly poor decision on Council Scrutiny was made just ten minutes after they officially took control. For me this was ‘three strikes and you’re out’ and after just ten minutes of being in control, Labour’s honeymoon was over."