Saturday, 7 July 2012

Kirklees Libraries - Labour not brought to book!

Where do I begin with last Wednesday's Full Council meeting? Well we learnt that it appears the Conservatives support for Labour at the Annual Council meeting wasn't a one off and that they are intent on propping up Mehboob Khan's administration.The debate on the Lib Dem amendment on the Council budget rollover report demonstrated this new alliance between the supposed adversaries.

The Council had significant underspends of several million on its budgets for 2011/12 on both the Capital and Revenue side. This gave an opportunity to use some of these funds to support threatened services and develop new projects. The  amendment, which was supported by the 8 Green Party and Valley Independent Group Councillors, proposed secure funding of the Library service for the next four years at its current level. This would have protected the staffing of the 7 village libraries currently under threat including Shepley Library which is in the Kirkburton Ward.This gave the combined 'opposition' Councillors an opportunity to outvote the Labour minority administration and save the library service from likely cuts in provision. When it came to the vote the Conservatives voted with Labour against the amendment. So what arguments were used against the amendment by Labour and Conservatives? One argument was that there would be no certainty for the Library service after 4 years. This argument was interesting on a number of levels. For one thing it was an implicit acceptance by Labour that if their Party came to power following the next General Election that there would be no assumed change in government support to Councils and that Labour would continue to follow Coalition spending priorities. Also the Conservatives like all Parties know that we don't plan budgets more than 4 years ahead anyway so it would be consistent with how we currently approach Kirklees budgets. Council Leader Mehboob Khan's oft quoted position is that the libraries are not under threat anyway. Unfortunatelty this is the usual, (and by I guess automatic) attempt to mislead by our glorious Leader. Why the review of 7 libraries if there is no threat? Why did Council officers advise the sum of 1.3 million to the Lib Dems to maintain the service at its current levels if there are no assumed cuts to the services?

So why are the Conservatives propping Labour up? Well they were given several committee Chairs (and the allowances which go with these) at the Annual Council meeting in return for supporting Mehboob remaining Leader. My comment at Council was along the lines of  "The Conservatives have few virtues but one is that when they are bought they stay bought". I think it probably has as much to do with the fact that certain (but not all) Conservative Councillors who would rather walk over hot coals than be on the same side as the Greens. I find it strange and bizarre that such a destructive and partisan approach prevents our communities getting the best outcomes and in this case a secure Library service.

If it's raining and there's nothing on the telly you can watch the rerun of the Council Webcast here:

We definitely missed Huddersfield Examiner coverage and comment on the meeting and particulalry Mr Barry Gibson's take on events. I guess everyone needs some time off!

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