Lib Dem councillors were taken aback at the Council Meeting on 22nd November by the dismissive attitude shown to residents concerns by the Conservatives.
In response to a Lib Dem question about the true level of public support for building on Elms Field, Cllr Alistair Corrie, the Executive Member for Regeneration simply spouted a lengthy tirade of nonsensical statistics, based on the idea that anyone who hadn’t objected in writing must support the scheme. This long list of statistics did have one common thread – it showed quite clearly that a very small percentage of residents have actually come out in favour of this scheme to build on Elms Field.
Leader of the Lib Dems, Cllr Prue Bray said “The reason for asking the question was that the Conservatives claim that anyone who hasn’t objected – the so called “silent majority” – agrees with their plans for Elms field. That is clearly ridiculous – it’s like claiming the 86% of people who didn’t vote in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections were really all supporting the Conservative candidate.
Most of the population almost certainly have no idea what the plans for Elms Field actually are. Hundreds of people have objected at earlier stages but the Conservatives have turned a deaf ear to all their previous responses. I suspect they have therefore concluded that there is no point in objecting because the Tories are determined to press ahead whatever anyone may say.”
In response to the announcement from Wokingham Borough Council that they are scrapping their plans to move Emmbrook School to the south of the borough, Prue Bray the Leader of the Lib Dem group on Wokingham Borough Council said:
“Less than a month ago the Conservatives mothballed Wokingham Enterprises Ltd (WEL), the company they set up to handle the regeneration of Wokingham town centre. Then less than two weeks ago they decided not to proceed with handing the library service over to a commercial company. And now they have executed their third u-turn in less than a month, announcing that they are no longer planning to move Emmbrook School away from Emmbrook. The Liberal Democrats opposed the secrecy of WEL, fought for a year to halt the outsourcing of the libraries, and were campaigning to keep Emmbrook School in Emmbrook as long ago as 2005. On all three issues we were right and the Conservatives were wrong. What a lot of time, effort and money the Conservatives have wasted with their incompetence!”
Wokingham Liberal Democrats are celebrating victory in their campaign to save the library service from being handed over to a commercial company to run.
In May 2011 the Conservatives started on the road to becoming what the council’s own press release at the time said would be “one of the first councils in the country to outsource its library service to a private sector provider.” The service was due to be outsourced early in 2012.
The Liberal Democrats mounted a huge campaign against the proposals. They argued that libraries are a valuable community resource that must be run for the benefit of communities and not for profit. The Lib Dem petition against the outsourcing was signed by thousands of residents, and provoked a debate in the council chamber. The Conservatives delayed their decision, and now, nearly 18 months later, the Conservatives have decided not to proceed with the outsourcing.
Lib Dem group leader Cllr Prue Bray said “The Lib Dems always thought outsourcing the libraries to a commercial provider was a crazy idea. How could anyone make a profit out of libraries? The Conservatives attacked us for opposing their plans. Now – a lot of time and money later – we have been proved right. The Leader of the Council called our campaign ‘laughable’. I bet he’s not laughing now.”