Letters to the Editor
The three Bracknell Forest councillors who have been punished for defying the ruling Conservative party whip over the recent housing plans vote (Bracknell News, 29 December) are to be congratulated and thanked for standing by their principles.
It’s sad that not all their council colleagues show the same sense of responsibility and honour in public office. We have seen Cllr Dale Birch lie in print in your newspaper when he denied that the whip had been used over this highly controversial vote.
We have seen council leader Cllr Paul Bettison say nothing at the time to contradict this lie – until the truth came to light over the suspension of Cllrs Bailey, Pile and Sargeant from the local Tory group and possible loss of their committee responsibilities.
We have seen the majority of councillors – unlike Cllr Shelagh Pile – prepared to flout a legal agreement the council made some years ago to preserve Blue Mountain as leisure or public open space.
We have seen that the five councillors who represent Binfield and Warfield – where thousands of new houses are proposed against fierce local opposition – were given a special dispensation to defy the whip so they wouldn’t have to vote against the interests of the residents who voted them onto the council – what a cynical move by the ruling Tory group to try and protect these seats at the next elections. It was a gesture that didn’t make any difference to the result.
This sad saga says a great deal about what sort of local council we have elected to act in our interests, and how a vigorous opposition is needed to restore balance to a virtual monopoly.
I wonder how many local residents understand just how few of their elected councillors actually get to vote on important local issues, thanks to the Executive style of operation the council has adopted.
Out of 42 councillors we are democratically allowed to elect to represent us, only eight who make up the Executive vote on most key issues. The rest rubber stamp these decisions at full council meetings – unless a controversial decision is put to the whole council to decide, as with the housing plans. We have just seen what happens then – the so-called full vote is whipped so that the councillors’ hands are tied anyway.
Is this really how a democracy should be run? Hopefully, the three suspended councillors might continue their courageous stand by acting as a nucleus for developing a strong breakaway group on the council to act as healthy balance. I would be very interested to hear what other residents think of this idea.Anne Lee 2 St Georges Cottages Alben Road Binfield RG42 4HU