CONSERVATIVES SUBMIT OFFICIAL COMPLAINT FOLLOWING ‘STATE OF THE AREA’ COUNCIL FARCE
LABOUR’S ACTIONS HAVE GIVEN DEMOCRACY IN TAMESIDE A GOOD KICKING
Tameside Conservatives have submitted an official complaint, and a demand for a full investigation, following Labour’s refusal to allow a full debate at last Tuesday’s so-called State of the Area Address ‘Debate’.
The democratic snub was in breach of the Labour-controlled council’s own rules which allow for a debate following the council leader’s annual address.
However, the debate ended in FARCE when it was curtailed to just THREE speakers – Council Leader, Cllr. Roy Oldham; Conservative Leader, Cllr. John Bell; and Mossley Independent Leader, Cllr. Roy Etchells – as Labour sought to block Conservative councillors from speaking by claiming the debate was only for group leaders.
This led to angry scenes in the council chamber, as Conservative councillors demanded the right to be heard.
They brandished their official Tameside Council procedural standing order booklets, which clearly stated that councillors are, “…entitled to conduct an open debate on the content of the address” – a fact reiterated on the meeting’s agenda paper.
However, their demands were brushed aside as Labour councillors obstinately refused to accept the council’s own rules.
Labour’s embarrassment was complete, when the Conservative Leader, Cllr. John Bell, called the controlling group “dictators”, before reading out the relevant rules to an audience watching from both the public gallery and on the internet.
In a further blow to democracy, an edited video version of proceedings has since appeared on Tameside Council’s website without the comments of either Cllrs. Bell or Etchells included.
Commenting on the matter, Cllr. Bell said, “Democracy was suspended in the council chamber as, once again, Labour blocked political debate, in a blatant contradiction to the council’s very own rules, in order to deliver their autocratic style of democracy.
“Tameside Council is made up of 57 councillors. Even by the dictatorial standards of Labour a ‘debate’ is not defined by the comments of just three councillors without the opportunity for further comment by the remaining 54 councillors.
“Several members of my Group wished to speak on matters relating to issues such as community safety, education, the environment and transport – but were unconstitutionally blocked from doing so.
“Furthermore, the comments Cllr. Etchells and I made have now been deleted from the edited video that now appears on the Tameside Council website. The event costs council taxpayers £10,000-a-year, and they have a right to hear the views of the opposition.
“Consequently, Labour’s actions have left us with no option but to lodge an official complaint, coupled with a demand for a full investigation as to why the democratic process was hijacked by the dictatorial demands of Labour.”
TAMESIDE COUNCIL’S S.A.A.D. PROCEDURAL STANDING ORDERS
The State of the Area Debate is governed by Tameside Council’s P.S.O. 33, which states:
33. State of the Area Address
33.1. The Civic Mayor shall chair a Civic Meeting of the Council in November/December each year to which the Executive Leader will present a State of the Area Address.
33.2. Members of the Council and the Civic Panel will be entitled to conduct an open debate on the content of the address.
[SOURCE: TMBC P.S.O. 33, http://www.tameside.gov.uk/constitution/part4a/orders#33]
A S.A.A.D. HISTORY
It is not the first time the State of the Area Debate has touted controversy since it’s introduction to the political calendar in 2001.
The event which costs approximately £10,000-a-year, is estimated to have cost Tameside taxpayers over £88,000 since it’s inception. Last year the event cost £10,928.
No comparable event is held by any other local authority in Greater Manchester.
In 2001, the Labour Leader promised that there would be a Conservative mayor in 2003, but went on to renege on his promise. This resulted in the Conservatives boycotting the Debate from 2002 until their return in 2008.
[SOURCE: “…Cllr. Oldham added that should the Civic Mayor be retained the role will be rotated across political parties and there will be a Conservative Mayor for 2003. The role will then be rotated according to the ratios of councillors for each party.” “U-TURN, Now Council WILL hold poll for elected mayor” Tameside Reporter, 13th December 2001, pp.1-2]