Column: Talking Politics with Coun Steven Leigh - We need mutual respect and communication in local politics

Democratic process, consultation, and constitutional norms are the guardrails of local politics.Democratic process, consultation, and constitutional norms are the guardrails of local politics.
Democratic process, consultation, and constitutional norms are the guardrails of local politics.
​Readers may be aware that there has been a recent change of Labour council leader. We in the Conservative group had hoped this would usher in a new era of cooperation, mutual respect, and improved communications between the political parties. Unfortunately, recent events suggest otherwise.

Firstly, the unacceptable performance of the council’s planning department triggered a response from the government, addressed to Calderdale’s chief executive warning that unless corrective actions were taken ‘before June’, the council would be subject to special measures, entailing stripping the council of its decision-making planning functions.

The Labour cabinet had the audacity to withhold from opposition parties the existence of the government letter and its contents for over four weeks since it was received.

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Coun George Robinson wrote to the new Labour leader on May 19 stressing the urgent need for an action plan.

In the event, it transpired that without consultation or debate the council leaders had unilaterally produced an action plan and submitted it directly to senior representatives for the secretary of state, Michael Gove.

Calderdale is one of only nine councils to face the threat of special measures and to be compelled to produce such a plan.

The Labour action plan claims major improvements have been made, but these are in stark contrast to the perceptions of our councillors and many residents.

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We believe that all party leaders should have been immediately advised on receipt of the government letter.

This action serves to demonstrates the Labour leaders’ flagrant disregard for democratic process, consultation, and constitutional norms.

The council also delayed by four months their notification of an appeal against the judicial review decision to refuse an environmental permit for an incinerator near Sowerby Bridge.

This provided the opportunity for the Labour cabinet to further refine their case against the decision to refuse permission.

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In consequence, local objectors and Ryburn councillors were denied the same opportunity to build their legal arguments and to repudiate Labour’s case for granting the permit.

The Labour council has once again evidenced a lack of respect for local democracy and the essential transparency of communications, without which the democratic process will continue to be severely comprised.