It is with deep regret that we have to report that have been unable to negotiate a power sharing agreement with Labour after the recent May elections. Such an agreement would have taken the Tories out of power.
We have had three meetings with Labour over the past week, two positive and encouraging but the third, sadly, not.
As Labour have one more councillor than us (13 Labour to our 12 Lib Dem councillors) we had quickly acquiesced to their request to hold the Leader and Mayor roles within a joint administration. Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council operates on a “cabinet” model, similar to central government, and as such, we were seeking broad equality with Labour in the number of cabinet posts our councillors would hold. We were also seeking limited control over the budget, in order that we could deliver on the promises we have made to the residents of Welwyn Hatfield.
Whilst Labour did eventually concede an additional cabinet place (although this just shared our existing agreed roles and therefore offered no increase in scope) they refused to allow us any control over any part of the Council budget whatsoever. We were seeking a mere 0.2% of the budget, to be shared equally between all wards irrespective of party, as a locality fund to support local projects. Had they agreed, Labour would still have retained effective control over the remaining 99.8% of the budget. Labour’s inflexibility and lack of goodwill on this issue was a matter of extreme concern to all involved in the negotiations and did not provide the foundations on which we felt future constructive governance could be built.
We hope that residents understand why we could not go into a close relationship like this on the basis of Labour's calls to “trust us”, without any binding commitment on their part. How many people would go enter into a personal or business relationship on such a basis?
Our Priorities for 2019
Looking forward to the year ahead we still have our priorities for 2019 and we are willing to work with forward-minded councillors of all parties to achieve them. These are:
- A long-term solution to the parking nightmare on our residential streets, with a joined-up approach that includes enforcement and creating more parking spaces for residents plus protection of our verges.
- A local plan that reflects local, not those of the Government or developers. We will fight tooth and nail to preserve our Green Belt and provide sorely needed affordable homes, back up by proper infrastructure.
- A review of the Council’s housing policy and provision for the homeless. We need to insist on adequate social housing being provided on all larger new sites.
- Tackling anti-social and criminal behaviour, not only through partnering with the police, but with a prevention approach that puts more resource into youth programmes.
- Maintain and improve our sports and leisure facilities including reversing the cuts to Gosling and keeping the ski slope. Longer term we still want a swimming pool in WGC.
- Put the environment higher on agenda – the Conservatives have let recycling rates drop dramatically; we need to reverse this and start to reduce pollution in our air, especially near schools. We would like to declare a Climate Emergency as many other Councils have.
- Keep in the forefront of our work the mental health of our residents. Tackling the things which seriously impact on their daily lives such as parking problems, neighbourhood conflicts, anti-social behaviour, loneliness, littering and fly tipping.