Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

All change. Again

Another fun session at the Counts Louse as Eurasia made peace with Eastasia and declared war on Oceania.... or was it the other way round?

Anyway, the LibDems are back in control, at least until the June elections, after months of refusing to take power even when it was there on a plate. This time it seems it was the Tories who jumped them into it, by forcing the resignation of Helen Holland as council leader.

The key was a budget amendment, proposed by the LibDems, withdrawing funding for the preparation of a joint PFI bid to build an incinerator (along with South Glos and North Somerset - BaNES had wisely kept out of it from the start). This time the Tories backed them, and pushed the amendment through. That was an unexpected policy U-turn by the Tories, who had previously sanctimoniously backed the PFI bid as the right way to protect local council taxpayers.

So Labour said there was no way they'd administer the revised budget and promptly abandoned ship - and the LibDems found themselves seizing the reigns - with Barbara Janke at the helm. Or should that be the leader's chariot? Don't you just love mixed metaphors?

An incinerator was always going to be bad news for Bristol, not to mention the wider world, and I've been one of many constantly lobbying for cleaner more sustainable technologies. As time went on, there were less and less options, so this is a pretty desperate last throw of the dice. Every course is risky - whether it's the investment in major plant, the uneasy relationship with 'partner' councils, or the unpredictable world of waste tonnages and landfill costs. Fortunately, there are plenty of technologies out there that are much better than burning; some are well proven, others are emerging and should be well established by the time Bristol has more waste than it knows what to do with.

Back to the new-look council. Education, this time.

Over the last couple of days, the LibDems - well, the MP, Stephen Williams - has latched on to local concerns and been banging on about the failure to provide enough primary school places in inner Bristol, Ashley and Bishopston in particular, so young children will be forced to start their school lives a long way from home. Cue hollow laughter from here in Stockwood, where they're closing a highly valued school because of an alleged surplus of places leading to 'inefficiency'.

My guess is that Ashley will quickly be promised its new primary after all. Ashley is a LibDem/Green marginal ward, after all. Though it might upset the cricket fans, who had earmarked the same land to park their cars on match days. You can't win in politics.


Chris Hutt said...

I'm glad there's two of us who think the Lib-Dems were bounced into office by some cynical Tory manoeuvring. I'm surprised they accepted the fait accompli so readily after previously rejecting the option of taking power. Maybe they realised that they'd boxed themselves into a corner with no way out.

James Barlow said...

If things had gone differently would your view be that "cynical Tory manoeuvring" had kept the Labour Administration in power?

Pete Goodwin said...

Hmm... wouldn't manoeuvring (cynical or not) require a degree of movement? If they'd backed Labour's pursuit of the PFI route, there would have been no change, no movement, no manoeuvring.

As it was, they altered their position unexpectedly away from the cover, shared with Labour, of being the protectors of the council tax payer. Whether the purpose was to get rid of an incinerator, to get rid of Labour, or to put the LibDems in a spot I don't know.

I rather hope they managed all three!

Chris Hutt said...

Perhaps "cynical" was too pejorative James, but there can be little doubt that the Tories voted for the amendment to put the Lib-Dems into power to queer their chances in the June elections.

Looking at recent electoral history it's obvious that the fortunes of the Bristol Concservatives took a dive around 1995 when the Lib-Dems started taking lots of formerly Conservative seats.

Many of those seats are up for election this year and the Tories naturally want to win them back. Being able to tell voters that the despised Council is run by the Lib-Dems won't do them any harm at all.

Cynical or Realpolitik?