Monday, 04 July 2022

Opponents accused of ‘childish nonsense’

Opponents accused of ‘childish nonsense’

THE new leader of Wokingham Borough Council has accused the Conservative opposition of “childish nonsense” over claims his administration is trying to avoid scrutiny.

The Tories accused the Liberal Democrat-run administration of reneging on promises to be transparent after it replaced the Conservative directors on five council-owned companies with members of its own party.

Opposition leader Pauline Jorgensen said: “To remove every single Conservative smacks of an administration avoiding any kind of scrutiny. With one action they have removed a group of experienced directors at a time of increased risk and uncertainty, not because of performance but on purely political grounds.”

Councillor Jorgensen said this was “in stark contrast” to the practice under the old Conservative administration, when a Lib-Dem and an Independent had been appointed to the boards of the companies, which build new homes, provide social housing and deliver some adult social care services.

Since the Tories were forced into opposition in May’s local elections, the council has been run by the Lib-Dems in partnership with the Labour and Independent groups.

Council leader Clive Jones said: “This is childish and juvenile nonsense but, sadly, it’s what we expected.”

He said that since the companies were set up eight or nine years ago, only Tory councillors had been appointed directors with two exceptions on a single company, Loddon Homes.

Set up to build houses and manage the council’s housing stock, it had two Conservative directors, one of whom retained his seat on the board for several months after quitting the Tories to become an independent.

The seat then went to then Lib-Dem leader Lindsay Ferris who served on the board for several months before being asked to resign by the Conservatives following an unrelated political spat, he said.

Councillor Jones added: “They have been in control of these companies since they were set up and have not opened them up to any form of scrutiny from the other parties apart from few a few short months.

“And when they were unhappy they sacked them.

“We never said we would keep them on the boards. When a company changes hands the directors stand down and are replaced by new directors — that’s what has happened here.

“There will be no detrimental impact. This is just trying to make mischief.”

The Conservatives had already accused the new administration of trying to remove any form of challenge and oversight by opposition councillors.

But Cllr Jones said the Tories had been offered the chair of the health overview and scrutiny committee and vice-chair of the overview and scrutiny management committee but had refused both.

He said: “It’s all about them not being able to come to terms with not being in power, which is why they have taken to these childish and juvenile tactics.”

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