Newly–Elected Leader of Peterborough Liberal Democrats, Cllr Nick Sandford explains:
“A lot has been made of the fact that the Conservatives are no longer in majority control of Peterborough City Council. That needs to be reflected in the governance structures which the Council adopts. As Lib Dems have long argued we need a more consensual approach and one in which decisions are made in public and can be challenged at the time they are made and not weeks later. That necessitates in our view the scrapping of the current Leader and Cabinet model and replacement of it with a system of decision making committees.
“The Localism Act passed by the Coalition Government gives us that choice and it is one which we should exercise.
“We would prefer to make a decision now, which is why we will be backing Cllr Harrington’s motion to decide in principle to adopt a committee system and then work out the details over the coming months.
“However, we are equally comfortable with setting up a cross party working group, so long as those on it take a genuine look at the issues and don’t seek to use the group as a means of kicking the proposal into the long grass. That is why we as Lib Dems have insisted that the working group must report back on its findings within six months.
“Arguably more than any other group on the Council, Lib Dems have spoken out repeatedly about the worst excesses of the current Conservative administration: the cathedral square fountains the incinerator, the brown bin tax…. The list could go on and on. We will continue to oppose the Tories on such issues and they need to recognise that they will have to moderate their policies if they want to avoid continual defeats at scrutiny committees and at Full Council.
“But …and it is a big But…. The arithmetic is clear. The Conservatives do not have a majority but they have 28 councillors (only 1 short of a majority) and the next largest opposition group has only 12.
“No alternative administration could be formed without having to involve every other councillor agreeing on every issue. Cllr Harrington might be prepared to bring UKIP into government in Peterborough but Lib Dems are not. The system we operate involves the leader of the largest party (or coalition of parties) forming an administration and that is what should happen.
“And let’s also remember the financial situation facing the Council. Tens of millions of budget savings will be needed in the next financial year. In that situation, the Council needs a period of chaos and instability like I need a hole in my proverbial head.
“We need to tackle the wasteful expenditure, reform our system of government to make in more open and accountable but at the same time avoid pretending that all our problems would be solved if one person were to be removed from the scene. Lib Dems will continue to form a strong opposition on the Council but our opposition will be responsible and based on issues and principles not personalities.”
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