I'll start with 6.20pm with resident starting to turn up in the heavy rain with banners and protesting outside. Speaking with Cllrs going into the Town Hall they asked them to vote no to the Core Strategy. It was soon evident that there were a lot more protesters than seats in the public gallery. With another big issue being held on the same night, Save the Pines Group, the seats were being taken up. I asked the Council because there were more people that wanted to go in the Public Gallery than seats available could some residents wait in the lobby of the Town Hall, because of the rain, and when the pines item had been heard and then those people that attended for that item would then leaving the public gallery, I had checked this was happening, and then allow the people in the lobby to then take up those empty seats in the gallery? At first we were told they had to wait outside in the rain but thankfully after taking the matter higher they were allowed to wait in the lobby. All this demonstrates that the Council should video the meeting and put it on their website so that when issues come up and people want to attend the public gallery but can't because there is only a small number of seats available then they can at least view it at home on the internet. But Labour doesn't want the wider community of Wigan knowing what goes on and how they act in the chamber.
I think it is important to note that Labour have restricted Full Council meetings to just 3 hours. The reason why I mention this will become clear later in this article.
Council use 1/3rd of their time to discuss death
The Mayor at the beginning of the meeting mentioned that Cllr Rona Winkworth had died and also that a former Cllr had sadly passed away. Then Council went on to let other Cllrs discuss this matter which took over 50 mins. That is nearly a third of the time to discuss the matter. Then when 3 hours has passed the meeting gets closed, even though there was a number of items to be discussed, including motions. Residents that attended were disgusted that Council can use so such of the time to discuss this matter only then not to extend the meeting to discuss normal business. I think whilst it may be right to pass on our condolences it is important that we do not use a third of the business time to discuss this. I have now suggested that we allow 5/10 mins of normal business time for any item like this and should it go on any longer those minutes are then added on to the end of the meeting. I think a sensible idea and we will see if Labour will agree with this.
The first big item on the agenda was whether it is right that the Council should close the Pines. This is a home for the vulnerable in our community. The Council want to close this and move the residents out into other accommodation. The issue is the vast majority of residents don't want to leave or be split up as they have spent many years together. Yes the building needs modernising but this is peanuts in the grand scheme. The Council is spending £6m on tarting up the Town Hall but can't upgrade this facility. Shame on them! But another important item to recognise that because in this facility people are called residents they don't have to pay but when they get moved out then they will become tenants in the new accommodation where they will have to claim the £80 p/w housing benefit to pass on to the Council. To me this shows this decision is about money.
Then Labour voted through to change a constitutional item on call in's. This is process is where Cllrs can call in a decision by the Cabinet and scrutinise decisions that they have taken. Obviously Labour don't like their decisions being scrutinise and they don't want the public to know all their decisions.
The big item of the night was the Core Strategy. This is where the Council are going to allow 000's of new houses to be built on Green open spaces in Standish. The Council says that they have no other choice but it is the Government's planning inspector that has imposed this on them. This is simply not true. Yes, it can create difficulties but if the Council did not adopt the Core Strategy then the rules for planning applications would be under the National policy Framework. Labour says if this was the case then Builders can be build anywhere. This is a lie! Under the national policy framework you still can refuse a planning application because of traffic infrastructure cannot cope. We all know this to be true of Standish and therefore there would be a genuine legal reason to refuse applications.
One Labour Cllr who was lobbied by residents and myself last night said Standish was one great big field anyway. Just goes to show the contempt that Labour show towards Standish. Also shows that that Cllr has been to Standish for 30 years too.
It is the Standish Labour Cllr that has publically said that she has worked with developers to get more houses in Standish. Now she is up for re-election next May, she is trying to back track. She didn't even stay in the Council meeting for the debate and speak against the Core Strategy.
It is clear that Labour and the Council want to try and blame someone else for the mess but yet they don't have the guts or the convictions to stand up for the residents that they should serve!
Atherton Consultation for Parish Council
One last item to mention is that residents of Atherton have signed a petition and got the right number of signatures to get a referendum. Now Labour are asking the whole borough whether Atherton can have a referendum for a Parish Council or not. Labour said if the residents decide to have a Parish Council then the residents of the borough would have to pay to set it up. The cost of this consultation is more than having a referendum, so why on earth would anyone not let them have the referendum.? It is quicker and cheaper just to let them have a referendum.
The real answer is Labour doesn't want Atherton to have a Parish Council as they feel that they would not get control of it. The labour leader said last night that all this was to massage a Cllr ego (Reference to Atherton Independent Cllr Bradbury who is championing this cause). He even said that if it went through then resident of Atherton would pay more, which is true. However, why does Labour not let Shevington have a referendum to abolish their Parish Council, that is what residents want? Answer because Labour controls this, just, and they don't want that to get rid of themselves. However Shevington Independents have 3 out of the 9 Parish Cllrs and they support a call for a referendum and next Parish Elections they will stand again and try to get those 2 extra seats to get rid of this quango.