Liberal Democrats to continue constructive opposition in year ahead
Liberal Democrats confirm view that largest group should run the Council, willingness to take on responsibility of committee chairs and to work with all parties
Cllr Barker describes the increasing frenzy of Conservative overtures to join administration
Following a frenzy of overtures to join with the Conservatives, Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Ann-Marie Barker confirmed her group's position at a Council meeting on Monday 24 May.
"Our approach to the running of the Council is unchanged. We said in 2019 that the largest group on the Council should take control. We have not changed that position."
Cllr Barker pointed out to the meeting, that with Cllr Lyons as Mayor the Liberal Democrats have a group of 11 voting councillors. The Conservative position is unchanged from the past 2 years with 13 voting councillors (they previously had 14 but held the Mayoralty).
"The residents of Woking have voted for greater Lib Dem representation at every election since 2018 but only a third of the Council are elected each election year. Election by thirds is good for regular democratic participation but changes in leadership tend to happen over a number of years" said Cllr Barker..
Cllr Barker described to the meeting many, increasingly frenzied overtures from the Conservatives since 2019. Every approach either lacked personal discussion, was made at the eleventh hour, in a council meeting, via the local press or Facebook adverts.
"It's not indicative of a collaborative or constructive relationship that would best serve residents" pointed out Cllr Barker. "Approaching us in this way suggests that the purpose is less about a meaningful partnership and more about the publicity such an offer generates"
Commenting on the request for Liberal Democrats to take on Directorships of Council companies Cllr Barker said:
"These are companies where we had to fight for years to get the minutes of Board meetings routinely shared with Councillors. Companies with accounts that are 6 months overdue. We won't be taking on these roles",
"The Liberal Democrats are a constructive opposition" said Cllr Barker. She pointed out to Monday's meeting that there had been agreement with the Conservatives, and other parties, on declaration of a Climate Emergency, much joint working on green initiatives, providing for the homeless and those in need of temporary accommodation, delegating planning decisions to rationalise the process, policy for ASB, a Brookwood cemetery master plan and bringing housing management back in house.
"As a constructive opposition we have highlighted and stopped inappropriate spending proposals. "Our opposition prevented a £100,000 grant to RHS Wisley, a national charity based in Guildford and a £10 million loan over 50 years to a private school".
Looking to the year ahead Cllr Barker said "Liberal Democrats are happy to continue to take on responsibility, chairing committees, working groups and oversight panels. We will work to deliver all that we can of our manifesto ambitions. We want a full financial review, to fully understand where we are on all Council and Council company finances. All of the Council is committed to the principle of providing homes for residents, particularly affordable homes. I hope we can all work on that over the next year and that the message has got through to the Conservatives that skyscraper city Woking is not popular. We will work for an economy that is fit for a post-Covid world, input into a town centre Masterplan, push on the health and wellbeing agenda and green initiatives, including infrastructure needs for electric and hybrid vehicles. We are willing to work with all parties, as we have done in the past, to deliver for our residents".