Liberal Democrats hit out as Tory-run South Gloucestershire Council votes to use council taxpayers’ money for party-political publicity
South Gloucestershire Lib Dems have reacted angrily to a decision by the Council’s ruling Conservative group to provide publicity for Conservative MPs using council taxpayer funded staff.
The Conservatives, who recently had their majority on the Council cut by the Lib Dems at May’s local elections, pushed through the change as part of the council’s new media protocol. It says that the council’s press officers will now not only have to publicise the council’s activities but also the work of the area’s Conservative MPs, when they are invited to events by Conservative councillors.
Lib Dem Group Leader, Cllr Claire Young said: “This is a clear abuse of power and council resources by a Conservative administration which has no respect for what is right or proper. When residents pay their council tax bill, they don’t expect it to go on subsidizing party-political publicity for the Conservative Party.”
Cllr Mike Drew, Lib Dem spokesperson for Resources said: “Why should this council provide media support for Conservative MPs, when these are the people who are going to Westminster each week and voting to cut council services, and funding for our struggling local schools? They don’t support local government so why should local government support them?”
Cllr Tony Davis said: “The council’s press office is supposed to be called Corporate Communications, not Conservative Communications. This is further politicising what should be a council service for residents, not just a service for the political party running the council. It stinks.”
The Liberal Democrats have unveiled their shadow cabinet on South Gloucestershire Council following their Annual General Meeting last night.
Newly re-elected group leader, Claire Young (Frampton Cotterell) said: “I’m delighted in our new frontbench that we have a great balance of experienced returning councillors and new councillors bringing fresh ideas. I know that this will be a really dynamic team who will do a great job of holding the Conservative-run Council to account.”
Along with Cllr Young, also returning to the shadow cabinet are Maggie Tyrrell (Thornbury) as Deputy Leader and Shadow Executive Member for Adults and Public Health, along with Mike Drew (Yate North) who stays on as Shadow Executive Member for Corporate Resources.
Adrian Rush (Chipping Sodbury & Cotswold Edge), who returned to the Council after defeating former Conservative Cabinet Member Rob Creer earlier this month, will lead for the Lib Dems on Planning, Transport and Strategic Environment. While Louise Harris (Dodington), who joined the Council last year after her by-election win will take on the Community Services and Tourism brief, which covers services as diverse as libraries, leisure centres and recycling collections.
Two first time councillors, elected in May, will also take on shadow cabinet roles. UWE student James Arrowsmith (Stoke Park & Cheswick), who at 23 is the youngest member of the Council, will take on the Children & Young People’s portfolio. While lecturer and former teacher, Jayne Stansfield (Thornbury), becomes the new Lib Dem lead member for Schools, Skills and Employment – and will lead the fight against Conservative SEND cuts and chronic underinvestment in local schools.
The full set of Lib Dem lead members, is as follows:
Leader and Shadow Executive Member for the Local Economy and Devolution: Claire Young
Deputy Leader and Shadow Executive Member for Adults & Public Health: Maggie Tyrrell
Shadow Executive Member for Corporate Resources: Mike Drew
Shadow Executive Member for Children and Young People: James Arrowsmith
Shadow Executive Member Schools, Skills and Employment: Jayne Stansfield
Shadow Executive Member for Community Services & Tourism: Louise Harris
Shadow Executive Member for Planning, Transport and Strategic Environment: Adrian Rush
Co-chair of Scrutiny: Maggie Tyrrell
Lead member on Health Overview & Scrutiny: John O’Neill
Lead member on Spatial Planning and Strategic Sites Delivery: Mike Drew
Lead member on Development Management: James Arrowsmith
Lead member on Regulatory: Tony Davis
Lead member on Public Rights of Way & Commons Registration: Pat Trull
Lead member on Audit & Accounts: John O’Neill
South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats have been celebrating after boosting their share of council seats to 28% (up 5% on 2015) and defeating two Conservative frontbenchers. The Conservatives narrowly clung on to control of the Council with a reduced majority but notable election casualties included Conservative Cabinet member for Resources, Rob Creer, and Conservative Chair of Health Scrutiny, Marian Gilpin. Both lost their seats to new Lib Dem councillors.
Leader of the Lib Dem Council Group and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Thornbury & Yate, Claire Young said: “I am delighted by these results. We were the only party to increase both our number of councillors and share of the vote. I am particularly pleased to be joined by seven new Liberal Democrat councillors. The Lib Dems now hold 17 out of 61 seats in total, including 16 out of the 20 seats in Thornbury & Yate constituency – putting us in a strong position to take back the seat from the Conservatives at the next General Election.”
The number of votes cast for each party in Thornbury & Yate constituency was:
Liberal Democrats: 14,174 (55%)
Conservatives: 9,699 (37%)
Labour: 1,396 (5%)
Independents: 340 (1%)
UKIP: 330 (1%)
Claire Young added: “This result is a clear warning to the Conservatives that local residents are sick and tired of being taken for granted while the Tories fight among themselves and neglect public services. If they don’t get a grip and start putting residents and services first, then I believe that the Conservatives will lose the constituency and the Council next time round.”
There was good news for the Lib Dems outside of their traditional strongholds too, with James Arrowsmith winning Stoke Park & Cheswick ward in Filton and Bradley Stoke constituency. At 23, James will become the youngest member of the Council. James said: “It is truly an honour to be elected to represent all the people of Cheswick Village and Stoke Park. I have already held my first residents’ advice surgery and I will continue to stand up for local people over the coming four years.”