by Alan Dean on 29 April, 2015
I was on a hustings panel last Friday for district council candidates. It took place in the Friends’ Meeting House in Saffron Walden and was hosted by Walden in Transition. The six panelists represented the Conservatives, the Greens, Labour, the Liberal Democrats (me), Residents for Uttlesford and UKIP.
It was well run. Apart from a few Conservatives in the audience who were there to cause mischief and had to be shut up by the chairman, the event went will with some good questions and – naturally – some varied answers. Each panel member was given three minutes to put his or her case. This is what I said:
Abolish tribalism : a district council hustings statement
One behaviour that I want to abolish in Uttlesford Council, it is TRIBALISM.
Tribalism leads to rule by people who become so inward looking; who listen to no one but their own tribe; and as a result make foolish blunders.
No party, even if it has a majority, should fail to listen to people from other parties and none. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I want to see a new council elected on May 7th in which members of all parties work together for the good of the district.
So, you will want to know, what else would we Lib Dems want to change?
The Big Issue! The Local Plan; a new one is needed as soon as possible to prevent yet another season of developer free-for-all.
There is a housing crisis in this country; there is a housing crisis of unavailability and unaffordability in Essex and Uttlesford which no district council can duck.
The administration for the past eight years created an undeliverable plan based primarily on its flagship “Hellsenham” proposal for a new settlement between Elsenham and Henham.
A new council must not waste a further £2,000,000 on another undeliverable plan.
You know, we simply have to look at the evidence without any party-political agenda in our heads and come up with a solution. It will require hard decisions. It may require some people to swallow their past words.
The Lib Dems want Uttlesford to plan our towns and villages as sustainable communities – not soulless housing estates – for people of all ages and of all incomes. We don’t want to see ghettos of any kind.
We want the council take a much more forward looking [and active] role in identifying our infrastructure weaknesses – roads, schools, health facilities etc. – and for it to have the staff resources to do that work. At present it doesn’t.
Then we want to ensure that developers are made to pay for their fair share of this infrastructure and not to be let off the hook by pleading poverty. The council should put some of its surplus funds into what we call a Capital Infrastructure Fund to lead the way. Too often we end up with problems after the developer has disappeared over the horizon.
Uttlesford used to be a green council. The Lib Dems would promote some of our lanes as quiet and protected lanes for local enjoyment of the countryside; and biodiversity. We would certainly do more to install renewable energy on council properties.
Finally, I want to say that the Lib Dems would overhaul the council’s decision making to restore trust from the public. Out with private meetings that bounce through silly decisions – such as “Hellsenham”. Out with working groups that aren’t allowed to work and simply rubber stamp decisions asked for by a small elite of councillors.
It may all take a bit longer – talking with people who are not of one’s own tribe! But that’s far better than wasting eight years and £2 million to get nowhere!
The Liberal Democrat team is looking forward to a better council emerging in less than two weeks and to working with all newly elected councillors towards these objectives.
Alan Dean, Lib Dem Group Leader, Uttlesford District Council