Friday, 27 January 2012

Opposition with no strategy

The Tories and Lib Dems in Ipswich seem to put little thought in how to be an effective opposition. This was highlighted again by their performance at the Full Ipswich Borough Council meeting that was held on Wednesday (25 Jan )

It started with their questions to the Labour executive, Cllr Stroet seems to be struggling to ask anything useful and has not yet learnt the art of not asking a supplementary if the answer to the first question has made it obvious there will no value in pursuing the matter. Even former leading Ipswich Tory Gavin Maclure seems to have the same view on Cllr Stroets’ performance so far.

I have asked a number of questions at Full Council but the Tories seem very loathe to allow their backbenchers ask any questions.

Then we had yet again an attack on Area Committees by the Tories – not only in the Council Chamber but also in the local media. Cllr Carnall and Cllr Maclure both had questions on Area Committees and both would seem to imply that the Tories have a negative view on their aims and chances of success. This may not seem strange to residents but it is to myself and other Labour councillors as we hear Tory Councillors in meetings saying that Area Forums did need replacing and also how keen some Tories are not only to make them work but also it is obvious that certain Tory backbenchers are very happy about the new set up as it will give them far more opportunity to discuss issues they are concerned with than when they were actually running the council.

Cllr Terry used the Ipswich Flyer’ to attack Area Committees (and to print a thinly veiled attack on myself) but in our first Area Committee she seemed keen to make them work and had a number of ideas on how they should go forward.

So where do the Tories stand on Area Committees?

The question that most highlighted the lack of any Tory policy on the matter was when Cllr Tanya Maclure asked Labour about the allowance that chairs of the committees would be paid, it became quite apparent very quickly that the Tories did not only know that their deputy leader had agreed to take the allowance but also was the first to get back to the officers to agree to the payment!

We then had the debate about the recommended 5.6% rent rise for Ipswich tenants, the chair of the Ipswich Lib Dems has been critical of the rise on Ipswich Spy but then went and voted for the rise! The Tories then attempted to portray themselves as ‘Friends of Ipswich tenants’ forgetting to mention the rent rise is not only below what the Tory/Lib Dem Government recommended but also below the rise that the Tory/Lib Dem administration in Ipswich imposed on tenants last year (again voted for by Lib Dem Ken Bates)

I can see it is hard for the Tories and Lib Dems in Ipswich to be an effective opposition at the same time their Government is cutting anything it can and must be even harder for the Tories when their colleagues at the Suffolk County Council still seem to see Ipswich as the poor relation in the County.

The lack of any thought to the questions put forward by Tory front bench was even more noticeable when Cllr Cenci criticised the increase in grant to Ipswich Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) without mentioning that we have decided to help ISCRE with an increase after they had their grant by the Tory Government reduced. ISCRE was even complimented on their good work by Ben Gummer MP but that still did not stop one Tory describing ISCRE as : stacked full of Labour cronies.

Do Ipswich Tories even talk to their own MP?

It seems rather than being an effective opposition, they are just interested in quick sound bites, decide to be negative on anything that we propose and at the same time be first in the queue for any extra allowance.

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