At this time of year, you can get a lot of knocks on your door from party election canvassers. In the Peterborough Liberal Democrats we do things a little differently… we have this radical idea that councillors should keep in touch with people all the year round and not just at election time.
We deliver Focus newsletters about once every six weeks and also seek people’s views through residents’ surveys.
In recent weeks, there seem to have been two things on the minds of many residents:
FIRSTLY: The Tory Brown Bin Tax, which is being introduced in around 30 days’ time and will involve people being forced to pay nearly £40 a year to have their garden waste collected. Many people have told us they are really angry about this and rightly so. It doesn’t make any financial sense and it will make a nonsense of Peterborough’s supposed aspirations to be the UK’s “Environment Capital”. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that people might decide to put garden waste into their black bin to avoid paying the new tax.
Or some might even fly tip the waste….even though no-one would condone such behaviour. And it will send our once impressive but recently stagnating rate of recycling into a steady decline.
SECONDLY: The thing which is causing anger is senior officer pay at the City Council. Yes there has been a restructuring of the senior officer posts at the city council and some of the directors have new responsibilities. But to give pay rises to individuals amounting to as much as 25% and then to award tens of thousands in back pay to some is seen as totally unacceptable in the current economic climate when many workers, including council staff, are seeing minimal pay rises or none at all.
And it’s doubly appalling when many of the directors receiving the money and the Tory cabinet members awarding it are at the same time making swingeing cuts in council services.
Lib Dems have taken action on both issues. We presented a petition opposing the Brown Bin Tax and we walked out in protest before the item on senior officer pay: partly as a protest but also because it was already a done deal, having already been decided in private at a meeting of Employment Committee over 2 months earlier. Cllr Nick Sandford spoke out against the new senior officer pay scales at the Employment Committee and along with his LIB DEM colleagues he remains opposed to them!
The current Tory administration is out of touch with the feelings of many ordinary people in the City. The cabinet system entrenches their power. Only by removing that and returning to a more open and accountable committee system will we have any chance of seeing the situation improve.