When the Tories won control of Telford & Wrekin Council for the first time last year, many promises were made of a more transparent administration with more involvement of the electorate in council decisions.
It was a rocky start for the Tories who had to pick up the pieces after a scorched earth budget from the outgoing Liebour administration which spent a third of the council’s cash reserves in a damage limitation exercise in the run-up to the election. It didn’t limit the damage – one Liebour councillor told me they knew they were going to lose but they didn’t think it would be that bad – and council taxpayers in Telford are still footing the bill for their reckless spending. But being dropped in the shit by Liebour doesn’t stop them implementing a transparent administration or community involvement and that has been strangely lacking.
Residents were promised a say in full council meetings but it still hasn’t happened. Residents were promised a say in the siting of mobile phone masts but it still hasn’t happened. Residents were promised an honest and transparent council but very little has changed and some truly shocking decisions have been taken.
Telford & Wrekin was in the news a few months back over their policy of stopping and questioning adults in the town’s famous Town Park who weren’t there with children in case they were kiddy fiddlers. This attracted worldwide attention and even prompted the Home Office to issue a statement distancing themselves from the actions of the council. The council officer responsible for sending the letter that kicked the whole thing off escaped unpunished but the Councillor with responsibility for leisure, Councillor Denis Allen, was made a scapegoat and sacked from the cabinet.
The upshot of all this is that Councillor Allen and Councillor George Ashcroft have both resigned the Tory whip (the Leader of the Tory group, Andrew Eade, still denies there is one) and are currently sitting as independents. The Tory administration is now a minority administration, short of 4 seats. Ironically, Denis and George will now be in a stronger position to influence the council than they were when they were part of the cabinet because they now hold the balance of power.
The sad thing is, Denis Allen is probably the best councillors Telford has had and he’s someone I have a lot of respect for. We’ve had our differences in the past but he’s a good man and an honest politician (yes, they do exist). He didn’t deserve the treatment he got and if Andrew Eade has anything about him he’d have apologised and reinstated Denis to the cabinet. Instead he told the local paper that he expected Denis and George to resign their seats and fight a by-election. Funnily enough, he didn’t have the same opinion when Councillor Steve Bentley defected from Liebour to the Tories just before the last elecion.