4 September 2020
The Conservative opposition group on Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council have submitted a second motion for a vote of no confidence in the current Unity Alliance administration led by Councillor Vikki Slade. This follows a previous vote of no confidence motion submitted by Councillor Drew Mellor, leader of the Conservative group, in June this year, which was defeated by the Unity Alliance.
The motion was brought against the council after the sad loss of Unity Alliance Councillor Colin Bungey. The council Chair had the deciding vote when the tally found 37 for the no confidence motion and 37 against, with one abstention. He dedicated his vote to the late Councillor Bungey, winning the motion for the Unity Alliance.
The Conservative group have launched this second vote of no confidence after the unfortunate passing of another Unity Alliance member, Councillor Pete Parrish. The Council are currently unable to hold by-elections for Councillor Colin Bungey’s Christchurch Commons ward and Councillor Pete Parrish’s Canford Heath ward due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Green Party Councillor Simon Bull said of the news, “It is disappointing but unsurprising that the Conservatives have tabled another vote of no confidence, taking advantage of the deaths of two Unity Alliance Councillors, the current pandemic situation and the implementation of a national Conservative government programme of experimental traffic regulations.”
Green Party Councillor Chris Rigby added, “I’m extremely disappointed that only three months after their last vote of no confidence, the Conservatives again try to capitalise on the unfortunate death of another Unity Alliance colleague. They are trying to make political gains when we should all be focusing on the recovery of BCP during these unprecedented times.”
In just over a year and while simultaneously managing the new pressures from the coronavirus pandemic, the Unity Alliance have implemented an impressive suite of actions in response to the climate crisis. Since declaring the Climate and Ecological Emergency, championed by Green Party Councillors Simon Bull and Chris Rigby, the council has been commended by both the Local Government Association and the Association for Public Service Excellence for their efforts in response to the declaration.
Among the list of successful actions, the Unity Alliance have purchased green electricity from renewable sources for the council’s buildings and street-lights, saving over 7,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, delivered Climate Change presentations to staff and councillors through Al Gore’s ‘Climate Reality Project,’ installed electric vehicle charging points at council depots and funded a Beryl Bike Scheme for key-workers during the pandemic which resulted in 1,000 essential journeys by Beryl Bike.
The Unity Alliance were also successful in its bid for the government Emergency Active Travel grant in which they secured £1.4 million to enable the council to trial pedestrian and cycling routes throughout the conurbation. These trials were implemented using Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs) as per the government scheme.
The government-led scheme is much of the source of the local Conservative group’s criticism, now being levied at the Unity Alliance, accusing the administration for the lack of proper public consultation over the trial ETROs. In order to receive the government funding, the Unity Alliance had to work to a tight seven-day turnaround for developing and submitting proposals, as well as a 12-week limit for the proposals to be installed in the identified locations. The temporary scheme would be subject to public consultation before any decisions were made on whether the new cycling and pedestrianised roads were to be made a permanent feature.
Councillor Bull continued, “As members of the Unity Alliance, we can be proud of the achievements made over the last eighteen months. It is concerning though, that even with an almost unanimous vote to declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency, a programme to trial ways to improve multimodal road use has been used by members of the party that instigated it, as a political tool to make a power grab.”
The Unity Alliance also have plans to introduce a trial for electric refuse vehicles and road sweepers, as well as consider the introduction of new ways of working for council staff that would reduce commutes and work-related journeys, drawing from a survey on staffs’ experiences of working from home during the pandemic. These measures, as well as many others on the council’s 153-point plan for addressing the Climate and Ecological Emergency, could be thrown into jeopardy should the motion succeed.
The vote of no confidence motion will take place at the next full council meeting on the 15th of September at 7pm. Residents can write to their ward councillors in advance of the meeting to urge their support for the Unity Alliance.
Councillor Rigby continued, “It’s a shame that one of the few positive initiatives that the Conservative government have introduced during the pandemic is being opposed by members of their own party at a Local Authority level. It’s also ironic that the scheme is being seized upon as justification for this second vote of no confidence in the Unity Alliance.”
“During the pandemic lockdown, residents across the conurbation enjoyed increased safe access to roads for cycling, walking and travelling via mobility aids due to the reduction in vehicular traffic. The ETROs offer BCP the chance to explore options for making new routes for residents to cycle and walk, with safe physical distance, better air quality and accessibility in mind. The Conservative group’s objections to this scheme doesn’t bode well for their plans to tackle the Climate and Ecological Emergency.”