West Berkshire Conservatives’ strategy for 2019-2023 is “not fit for purpose”, according to the Green Party. All three Green councillors voted against adopting the document at the first full meeting of the council last night (Tuesday 21 May).
David Marsh, Green Party member for Newbury Wash Common, told the meeting: “Green Party councillors cannot vote for the Council Strategy 2019-2023 for the following reasons.
“Principally, it fails to address what we believe is the single biggest issue facing us: climate crisis, and how West Berkshire as a district should be responding to it as a matter of urgency.
“Secondly, it fails to address many related environmental and social issues – such as air quality, recycling, affordable and social housing. Rather than a strategic document, it resembles a glossy brochure one might be presented with at a business conference.
“Thirdly, it makes too many assumptions that sound fine until you actually think about what, if anything, they mean. For example, we are told that the council has a “sustainable transport” policy. Were this the case, it would not still be proposing to build Sandleford, a textbook example of how to plan a development that will be almost wholly dependent on private cars.
“Fourthly, points raised by members of the public in the ‘consultation’ exercise have all been dismissed. One reason why there are many fewer Conservative councillors in this chamber than there were a few weeks ago is that they were perceived not to be listening to people. We have got to learn, as an authority, to listen, to take note and to act accordingly.
“Finally, it seems completely wrong to us for this strategy to have been drawn up during the previous council to cover this council’s term of office. This is a very different council, I’m pleased to say, and it has – I hope – very different priorities from its predecessor.
“For these reasons, the Green Party urges members to vote against this document. We would then hope to see all parties working together with officers, and actually listening to the public, to come up with a strategy for 2019-2023 that is fit for purpose.”
Liberal Democrat councillors also criticised the strategy, prompting a bad-tempered debate in which Tory councillor Hilary Cole used the phrase “deadbeat opposition”, which she was forced to withdraw.
Green and Lib Dem members voted against the document but all Conservatives voted in favour, and it was carried by 21 votes to 15.
• Green Party councillors will be holding the Conservative ruling group to account after being elected to several important council committees at the meeting. Steve Masters (Newbury Speen) will sit on the Overview and Scrutiny Commission, Carolyne Culver (Ridgeway) on the Western Area Planning Committee and District Planning Committee, and David Marsh on the Governance and Ethics Committee.