Sandy Martin, labour leader on Suffolk County Council, was asked for his comments on the the plan for a community interest company to run the council libraries (see earlier post). This is what he said:
Suffolk County Council is responsible for Libraries. They are already owned by the people of Suffolk. We don’t know the details of the so-called Community Interest Company – and why do we need it anyway?
By all means let’s make any possible savings that won’t damage the library service, and let’s involve the local people even more than they are already. But how can we trust a word that the Conservatives are saying on divesting libraries?
Why have they released this so-called “news” just 3 days before the local elections? What has changed since this whole libraries “consultation” process first started? Cllr Terry is still talking about local communities running their local libraries, she’s still talking about making a 30% overall saving, and she’s still not categorically promising that all the libraries will remain open.
Another powerful blast from Caroline Page, the Lib Dem county councillor for Woodbridge, who is providing the most vocal opposition to the Tory county council “government”.
However, I would urge you not to confuse national policies with our current disgraceful local vandalism. For a start, such confusion could – no, WILL – let those responsible off the hook! The New Strategic Direction has been a long time in the planning. It is making cuts greater than required in services the administration doesn’t value. A cynic would suggest that it is using the national situation as a cover for doing so.
Remember, in Suffolk the Liberal Democrats are not in any kind of coalition – they are very strongly the opposition party. And as you know, both I and my colleagues have been fighting these cuts from the day they were first heralded, back in last September. Let us be clear here – although we are in opposition, Suffolk Lib Dems are fighting this New Strategic Direction as a matter of common sense rather than party-political politicking. We are fighting it because the effects will hit people of all ages, and backgrounds and political hue.
Opposition on Suffolk County Council is certainly difficult with the Conservatives holding 54 seats. Liberal Democrats, the main opposition, has 11, Labour 4, the Greens 2 and UKIP 1.
But that does not excuse the lack of real opposition. A trawl of the internet produces very little evidence of great activity except by Page
Her leader Kathy Pollard’s blog is much less active. Pollard’s last post was on January 22: it, like the two previous entries, was doing little more than pointing at stories in the East Anglian Daily Times.
The Labour group does have a website, www.suffolklabour.org but it is not working and has not been for some time.
There is, however, this comment from the Labour leader, Sandy Martin, in a booklet put out by Local Government Leadership:
I would like to give Jeremy [Pembroke, Conservative council leader] a “pat on the back” – asking questions at Cabinet allows opposition Members to contribute to the democratic process.
An image of him tugging his forelock would come to mind, if he had enough hair. It would be funny if it did not reflect the complacent opposition to the governing majority.
PS. The first comment on Page’s post is from someone called Karen. It says: “What a clear outline of a looming social disaster. The small voice of common sense. Please appoint this woman to a position of more power. Soon -Suffolk needs more of this.”
Ipswich Spy has a thoughtful piece about political opposition to county and borough council spending cuts. It concludes:
David Ellesmere [Labour leader on Ipswich council] and his colleagues want the people of Ipswich to vote for them in May and to return them to the leadership of Ipswich Borough Council. Yet he is unable to articulate one single cut that he would be making to the current council services in order to save money. That is not a credible position. Nor is it credible to say this is all the fault of the Tory led Government, since the only plan put forward by Labour so far would lead to roughly the same, if not greater, financial squeeze on local government. Labour needs to think very hard and very quickly about what it is offering the electorate in Ipswich, otherwise Cllr Ellesmere will once again wake up the morning after the election as the Leader of the Opposition group.