Last night was the first real council meeting since the election and a noisy affair it was. It took us almost an hour to get through the oral questions. The new Mayor seemed to be particularly pleased that there were supplementary and second supplementary questions for all seven questions.
In one exchange on Labour’s housing manoeuvres the Tory group managed to establish that Labour intends to renege on its previous promise to give tenants a full ballot on all the options for the future of their homes. The Tory group put out the following press release last night:
LABOUR BREAKS PROMISE ON HOUSING BALLOT
Labour has broken one of its first promises as a Council administration by refusing to honour a pledge to offer Council tenants and lessees a ballot before making any changes to the way Council housing is managed in the Borough. Council Leader Julian Bell moved the following motion at a Council meeting on 20 October 2009:
Council agrees that before any change is made to who owns or manages council housing in the borough, tenants should be involved in full and proper consultation on the options and should have the right to decide on the best alternative in a ballot.
Less than eight months later, Labour has abandoned that pledge, and has now said it will force tenants and lessees to accept a return to in-house management against their will if necessary.
At tonight’s full Council meeting Conservative Housing spokesman, Cllr Colm Costello asked the Housing portfolio holder when the ballot promised by Labour would take place. He was told that Labour no longer had any intention of holding a ballot, and that the words of Cllr Julian Bell just eight months ago could not be taken seriously. Councillors were told that Labour would now do as it liked as it had won the election. Cllr Costello complained:
It is this sort of U-turn without any pretense of justification that really gives politics a bad name. Cllr Bell could not have been clearer before the election that he wanted Council tenants and lessees to have a ballot on how their housing is managed and run. Yet at the first Council meeting after the election he and the rest of the Labour Group totally overturned their promises of a few months earlier.
The future arrangements housing management is of vital importance to thousands of people in Council homes across this Borough. If they deserved a ballot before the election, they deserve one now. Labour are running scared by the fact that if people are given an actual fair say they may not pick what has already been chosen for them.