Yesterday evening saw the resumption of the adjourned Cherwell AGM after members failed to reach agreement on a leader and a controlling group last week.
After a second vote where only votes in favour could be counted, Barry Wood was elected to lead a minority Conservative administration after Labour pulled out of an alliance deal that was close to being finalised with the Lib Dems, Greens and Independents. Greens did not vote in favour of either the Conservatives or an unworkable Labour minority administration.
The deal had been all but agreed and a press statement signed off by all parties when, in a surprise announcement last Tuesday, Labour said that their National executive had vetoed the arrangement and wouldn’t allow the alliance to be ratified with a Green member on the executive. As the Greens formed slightly more than 10% of the proposed alliance it was reasonable for them to expect one executive position on a 10 person committee. It was proposed that they would take the Environment portfolio.
As a result, no agreement could be reached over who would lead the council and the meeting was adjourned to give negotiations one more try. Labour subsequently refused to return to the negotiating table and instead added to their list of demands which further undermined the deal.
Speaking after the meeting Green Group Leader and Deputy Leader of the Progressive Oxfordshire Group Ian Middleton said :
“Greens are bitterly disappointed that we have not been able to fulfil our promise to the electorate and take joint control of the council from the Conservatives. We apologise to residents for that but Labour made it impossible to agree an equitable deal that they would have been a significant part of with 50% of the Executive seats. We only asked for one seat on a 10 seat executive which was proportionate in view of us making up slightly more that 10% of the total alliance.
Having originally agreed to this arrangement, Labour suddenly pulled the plug citing diktats from their National Executive which local members have capitulated to. Considering this will also cut Labour out of an alliance as well as joint leadership of the council, this seems incredibly short-sighted.
It seems Labour would rather allow a minority of 20 Conservatives to stay in control of the council than accept one Green on the executive. They also demanded that Labour should be leader, which none of the Progressive Oxfordshire Group were comfortable with considering Cllr Woodcock’s disingenuous statements in the media surrounding the collapse of talks.
We were faced with impossible demands from Labour whose faceless National Executive committee are dictating to local Cherwell residents over who should be in control of their council. Greens strongly support localism, but it seems Labour would rather allow their central office to force a Conservative administration on to our communities.
Greens have worked hard over the last 5 years, along with the Liberal Democrats and Independents to reduce the Conservative majority to the point where we would have been able to take joint control with Labour. In that time we have taken 13 Conservative seats whilst Labour have only taken 3. With 3 members, the Greens make up the deciding majority and should rightfully have a seat at the table.
It’s quite clear that Labour have betrayed the people of Cherwell by focusing on their own political interests rather than those of the electorate. From now on, every terrible decision and policy that the Conservatives push through can be laid at the feet of Labour. Every appalling injustice imposed on our community as a result of Conservative control can be traced back to this moment.
Greens will now be part of a strong opposition on CDC rather than in an unstable alliance with Labour. We will continue work along with our Liberal Democrat and Independent colleagues in the spirit of co-operation that Labour have rejected and hold the Conservatives to account as part of a strengthened official opposition.
We are confident that together we can win enough additional seats next year to take control without Labour’s help and will do so at the first opportunity. The door is still open for Labour to come to their senses and agree a fair deal with us to take control of the council at any point during the year. In the meantime the Conservatives plans, including further green belt erosion as part of their local plan and a lack of genuine affordable housing will be resisted to the best of our ability. We hope Labour will at least join us in supporting that endeavour”