Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The art of opposition -an update

My colleagues Mark Flewitt and James Courtenay appear to have attracted the ire of some opposition councillors by suggesting that by voting against the budget they were also voting against the bits of the budget they liked. We have heard some tosh on the primary role of opposition being to oppose and not suggest alternatives. Ignoring the fact that in an authority with such a small majority it seems strange that they should not try to take advantage of this situation to press for changes they support. It also fails to differentiate between the budget and other policy decisions. There are many decisions which we have decided to implement where there is a decision as to whether or not to take action and it is reasonable for opposition groups to oppose and/or attempt to hold the administration to account even if they do not provide viable alternatives. However with the budget we are all under a legal obligation to set a balanced budget so decisions have to be made. If opposition groups don't like what we are proposing they can raise alternative suggestions either through the scrutiny process or formally by way of amendments to the budget. If they are voted down then they have tried to influence the decision and can stand by their alternative plan. However where they have failed to make any alternative proposals and then vote against the budget they are also voting against all elements of that budget. It is the only sensible interpretation of the situation as if they wanted to be more selective they have had the chance to do so by way of amendment. Accordingly it is quite fair to say that all those opposition members who voted against our proposals were voting against increased expenditure on school improvement, regeneration etc. as well as our proposals for LED street lighting, intervention along Victoria Avenue and the rest. They simply can't have it both ways.

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