Thursday, February 21, 2008

A marriage of convenience...




Wednesday was Southampton City Council's full budget meeting. Despite the ruling Tory publishing their budget three months early and running a huge consultation process which resulted in many changes and we felt a collegiate approach to decision making without having to compromise our principles, the Lib-Dems were having none of it. Interestingly I don't think it was the Tories promise of lower council tax that did us in or even the cuts and efficiency savings to pay for them. In the final analysis it was two innovative policies that they were (seemingly) opposed to in principle; the first was the Conservatives proposal to offer pensioners a 10% discount off their council tax and the second was to offer a 100% discount to Special Constables as an aid to recruitment.
In retrospect, to me the main surprise is that the Conservatives were allowed to form an administration at all. most of the Lib-Dem players in the council are very left-wing and naturally feel very much closer to Labour than the Conservatives. The other reality is the political composition of the council. Although Labour and the Conservatives both have the same number of seats, the Lib-Dems would have calculated back in May that by abstaining that they would put Labour in as in the event of a tie, the Labour Mayor has the casting vote. It was probably in this knowledge that the Leader of the lib-Dem group made his infamous speech claiming not to support any one party and to deal with each issue on an issue by issue basis. However, he underestimated the strength of dissent within his group, a minority (until now) of whom are vehemently opposed to Labour in the city. Cllr Goss felt so strongly that she left her group, sitting as an independent and voting to keep Labour out in May. However, now there is a formal pact (with the Lib-Dems enjoying the fruits of office in the form of four cabinet members).
It will be fascinating to see how they carve up the spoils of office and indeed if they allow the Conservatives as the principle opposition party to play its proper part in scrutiny...

4 Comments:

Anonymous David Furnell said...

Matt
I think the reason for the Labour/Lib Dem tie up is that the Tories overplayed their hand. Nationally David Cameron is attempting to reposition your party to appeal to the centre. Whilst in power in Soton however you tried to implement cuts in services and giving a tax handout to your base supporters.
If you had taken a more gradual approach you would have been able to do a deal with the Lib Dems.
By the way I do not see the Lib Dems as left wing but that probably comes down to our different perceptions

Dave Furnell

11:39 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

overplayed their hand. this would be the policies that they campaigned on in may 2007. so it was no suprise when they won 9 of the 17 seats up over the 50% then of the city

3:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Furnell

Why would the Tories want to work with the Lib Dems? Come to think of it why would the electorate in Southampton want them to work with the LIb Dems? If the electorate wanted the Lib Dems to have a say in the workings of the council they would not have kicked you from office in May 2007.

The Tory policies the put forward in thier budget proposals were the ones the electorate voted for last year.

May 2008 will see the Lib Dems lose more seats locally and im glad they will.

And I dont even like the Tories!!! FOr the record im not a Labour supporter neither.

12:43 am  
Anonymous David Furnell said...

The last anonymous seems to think I am a Lib Dem supporter. For the record I was Labour candidate against Gavin Dick in Sholing in 2007.
The Lib Dems were happy to allow the Tories to run the council for 10 months and abstain on votes of confidence. They only decided to support a joint administration when the Tory budget was announced.
The Tory budget included large scale cuts in vital services and handouts to tory grassroots supporters.
If you want to get pedantic the Tories won 37% of the vote last year Labour and Lib Dem won nearly 60% so the current administration does have a mandate.
I do agree that the Lib Dems will lose more seats in May.

David Furnell

6:19 pm  

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