Wednesday, 18 February 2009
Long overdue work in progress to restore Stockwood's Cottle Road playground to something you'd be happy to take the kids to. But it's at a political price.
This time last year, Bristol's minority Labour administration was desperate to get its budget through - and needed the support of either the larger LibDem group, or the smaller Conservatives to do it. Given the tribal hostilities of the Council chamber, neither was likely to be a natural ally, even if these days you couldn't slide a credit card between their political philosophies.
It was the Conservatives who were bought. Their price? Spending £215K on four of Bristol's playgrounds for younger children. Where? All of them in Tory-held wards, with a little more spent on Kings Head Park, in Tory leader Richard Eddy's ward of Bishopsworth, than on lesser prizes like Stockwood. Well, that's one of the perks of leadership. So the deal was done - the Labour group voted in the Tory amendment, and the Tories kept the bargain by voting through the rest of the Labour-prepared budget.
Since then, David Cameron has instructed his party not to cosy up to Labour opposition so easily - it looks bad in the heartlands. And down at the Council House, normal hostilities have been quickly resumed.
Last week we saw the Tories mount a badly planned and utterly hopeless bid to unseat the Labour administration by moving a vote of 'no confidence' in the council leader Helen Holland. It failed miserably, because the Tories didn't think to enlist LibDem support first.
Of course the LibDem group, who attract the same hostility from Tories and Labour as there is between Labour and Tory, chose to abstain. Well, they would, wouldn't they? They may be the largest of the three parties, but they'd already turned down one chance to take on the leadership, so they weren't going to do it now, were they?
It all makes a pretty depressing scene. Next Wednesday, they all square up again, over the details of the 2009/10 city budget. Labour will propose its budget; various amendments will be put by the other party groups and by Charlie Bolton, Southville's Green councillor; the big three will all vote en bloc, not on the issues but on perceived party interest.
I can't wait.