'Of immense concern for the future of the conurbation': Local Greens on BCP Council leadership ballot

30 September 2020

Local Green Party politicians say that the upcoming secret ballot on 1st October for a new leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council is a source of immense concern for the future of the conurbation.

Green Councillors Simon Bull and Chris Rigby, as well as Alasdair Keddie, former Parliamentary and BCP Council candidate, raise their fears for a BCP Council under Conservative leadership. 

Social housing, youth provision, public toilets, and Christchurch and Poole’s heritage distinct from Bournemouth are just a handful of the things they worry will be detrimentally impacted by a Conservative leader and cabinet. 

Cllr Simon BullCouncillor Bull also raised the threat a Conservative administration could pose to the council’s ‘Climate and Ecological Emergency’ declaration and the resulting action plan that has been put together under the Unity Alliance.

“If the Conservative opposition couldn’t even get behind a simple change to the conurbation through the Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders, which saw roads pedestrianised and opened up for cyclists, scooter users and motorised vehicle users, how can we possibly trust them to deliver on the wide-ranging changes needed here to meet our climate commitments?”

The Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders had been central to the Conservative group's justifications for voting for the no-confidence motion against former council leader Vikki Slade. 

“What makes it worse, is that this initiative was from the Conservative government, and the Unity Alliance followed the government guidance on both their implementation and when to hold the consultations, to the letter. The BCP Conservative councillors can’t even get behind a small climate transport scheme. I don’t have high hopes for many of the other projects identified in the Climate and Ecological action plan that will be necessary to avert the worst impacts of the twin crisis.”

The Conservative members of the council’s Overview & Scrutiny Panel were also recently criticised in the national press for trying to push through their proposals to fine rough sleepers across the BCP area. This would have unfairly criminalised the homeless across BCP for sleeping in doorways and carparks, loitering, begging and leaving belongings unattended. Their proposals could have resulted in £100 fines for people sleeping rough, which if left unpaid, could further result in criminal prosecutions and up to £1,000 in penalties. 

Cllr Chris RigbyThe proposals were rejected by BCP Council’s Unity Alliance cabinet. Councillor Rigby, who opposed the proposals as a member of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel, said the prospect of a new Conservative leadership in BCP worries him. 

“Had this decision been made by a Conservative cabinet, it’s extremely likely that this proposal would have succeeded. If Conservative committee members are prepared to target some of the most vulnerable members of our conurbation, in the middle of a pandemic, I fear for what else they might do if they come to lead the Council after 1st October.” 

He highlights some of the other cruel measures that previous Conservative administrations have implemented when they were in charge of Bournemouth Borough Council and Poole Borough Council:

  • The original ‘begging ban’ clauses in the Poole Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) that BCP’s Unity Alliance have now overturned, were introduced under the Conservative-led Poole Borough Council in 2018.
  • "Anti-homeless bars" on benches in BournemouthIn 2015, the then Bournemouth Borough Council, also led by a Conservative administration, were criticised for blaring bagpipe music at Bournemouth railway station in a bid to deter rough sleepers.
  • There was also public outrage in 2018 when the same Conservative-led council installed bars on the public benches to prevent rough sleepers from using them. 

The Conservative group, led by Councillor Drew Mellor, have also suggested increasing and speeding up job cuts, alongside proposals to sell off Bournemouth Town Hall.

Alasdair KeddieThe Green Party's Alasdair Keddie, three-time Parliamentary candidate for Bournemouth East who was also a 2019 local election runner-up to the Conservatives in his home ward of Queen’s Park, also highlights that the Conservatives failed to win a majority of votes in the council elections. 

"The Conservatives have no public mandate to run BCP Council. They won less than one-third of the vote across the conurbation, while Unity Alliance parties represent the votes of far more constituents.

"Some of the councillors who voted alongside the Conservatives in the recent vote of no-confidence against Vikki Slade, now have a critical decision to make. On 1st October, councillors must cast their ballot with their consciences, and they can do so by making sure that their vote represents the wishes of their constituents."

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