The Derwent by-election activity is gathering pace and it will be an intense and close campaign ; the Conservatives won in May 2016 by just 3 votes. The Labour Party are taking the opportunity in the pre-formal election period to use their offices to send out election messages paid for by the tax payer. A recent letter issued on January 20th by Cllr Afzal was about the reversal to the proposed cuts to the “School Crossing Patrols” ; it ended by seeking support for the “campaign”
The Council’s Budget for 2016/17 proposed withdrawing all funding for the School Patrols, generating a saving of £147,000 pa
This caused an outcry!
The opposition parties campaigned, and lobbied,…. and Amanda Solloway ( MP Derby North) launched a petition which collected over 1000 signatures. On 9 November 2016 the policy was changed and was subject to much publicity – it was unusual that this Council committed a U-turn. It managed to do this by creatively reviewing concessionary fares .
At the Council meeting on 23 November 2016, a motion was proposed by the Labour party
Council welcomes the decision taken by Cabinet on 9 November to safeguard the future of the School Crossing Patrol Service and recognises the importance of ensuring that children from across the city are kept safe on their way to school. Council notes that the provision of school crossing patrols is not a statutory responsibility. As a result, in many areas across the country school crossing patrols are being cut back or stopped entirely as an unfortunate consequence of Government cuts.
Council resolves to instruct the Leader of the Council to write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to request that the requirement to provide school crossing patrols is statutorily defined and to allocate dedicated funding for the provision of the service.
A laudable motion.
In Afzal’s letter he states that:
“….we are committed to providing school crossing patrols and ensuring that children across the City are safe on their way to school. We believe this is a fundamental responsibility and one which should be provided by law”
The Conservative group in Council proposed an amendment to this motion to enshrine this aspiration further, and secure it into future budgets.
Council resolves to ask the Leader of the Council to prioritise and commit to the future provision of all necessary school crossing patrols in the city and to allocate dedicated funding within the council’s future budgets for the provision of the service.
The Labour group voted against this…
One may wonder why, when there is a clear principle that this should definitely be delivered each year, that a clear commitment to fund this was rejected by the Labour Group. Was it just empty words and promises? Are the recipients of the letters aware that Cllr Afzal actually voted against committing to fund this for more than one year?
The letters which were issued by Cllr Afzal were targetted at those people who signed Amanda Solloway’s petition, as the letter starts by thanking the recipient for engaging with the Conservative MPs exercise; it is reported that letters have only been sent to people living in the Derwent ward. It is not normal practice, nor necessary, for the Council to spend precious funds advising residents of policy changes when free options exist with the Council’s own website, or local media.
In summary, it is not an appropriate use of public funds to be issuing letters which are, clearly, for electioneering purposes only. It does seem like a political “own goal” when the subject of the letter is one where the Labour Group has exhibited blatant double standards and has not been prepared to “put its money where its mouth is”.
A question for Derwent voters to ask, perhaps?
Categories: Derby City Council