At a stormy meeting of Wokingham Borough Council at the Shute End council offices last night, Tory councillors mounted a series of attacks on the leader of the opposition, Councillor Prue Bray (Leader of the Lib Dem group and councillor for Winnersh ward) for suggesting that Conservative councillor, Anthony Pollock, should resign from the Tory Executive for his incompetence on the council’s investment of £5 million in Icelandic banks.
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Bray said, “I was surprised that the Conservatives spent so much time attacking me and expressed no regret or responsibility at all for putting this large sum of taxpayers’ money at risk.
“The report on the Icelandic Banks investments shows clearly that Anthony Pollock presided over a culture in which rate of return was more important than security, he appeared to know nothing about the wider financial picture in the country, and he didn’t even ask any questions about what was going on. The report which says all this was produced and approved unanimously by the Conservative dominated Overview & Scrutiny process.
“Anthony Pollock should accept responsibility for his poor performance and resign from the Tory Executive. I am disappointed that the Conservatives attacked me instead of acknowledging that they got it wrong. Conservative councillors are clearly more interested in looking after the interests of one of their own than in looking after council taxpayers’ money.”
Wokingham Tories are determined to keep the Liberal Democrat opposition in the dark about Wokingham Borough Council’s budget and finances.
Councillor Prue Bray (Leader of the Lib Dem Councillor Group and Councillor for Winnersh ward) said, “Last year I was able to get information about budget discussions through the Freedom of Information Act, even though it took 11 months to get the answers, but now the Tories have changed the meetings to keep the information completely secret. Among the things we discovered last year were that the Tories had considered a number of loopy ideas to save money, such as:
Sell the Cantley House Hotel site and turn it into a housing estate
Increase car parking charges above inflation (in some cases, up to a staggering 40%)
Sell off libraries
Sell off the Borough’s Youth Centres
“But now the Tories have made sure we cannot get hold of budget information any more by holding their meetings in secret. This is a bit rich coming from the Tory Councillors who said last May that they were bringing in ‘the start of a more open policy of working’. This is a ridiculous state of affairs.
“In most councils, the details of the budget are discussed openly in committee meetings. In Wokingham, the Tories won’t even tell anyone what the proposed council tax increase is until the middle of the meeting at which the budget is being set. Don’t the Tories realise that the more they try to hide what they’re up to the less trustworthy they look?”
Liberal Democrats say the Conservatives should come clean about their support for Woodley Town Centre Management Initiative (WTCMI).
Phil Challis (Lib Dem councillor for Loddon ward) said, “In a recent Tory leaflet, the Woodley Tories say that the Woodley Town Centre Manager is an important role. Residents might be forgiven for thinking that the Tories intend to back this up with the necessary money. But the Tories have decided to axe the funding to the WTCMI next year, putting the Town Centre Manager’s job in danger.
“It is sheer hypocrisy to say they support Woodley town and then to axe the money for the WTCMI – they can’t have it both ways. Wokingham Borough Tories have hidden the plan to stop supporting the WTCMI in the small print of their budget, but they mustn’t be allowed to get away with it. In the current economic climate, the Tories should be committing to fund the WTCMI and end any uncertainty.”
Stephen Conway (Deputy Leader of the Lib Dem Councillor Group and councillor for Twyford ward) said, “Axing the funding to the Twyford Village Partnership means our annual Christmas Fayre is at risk from next year. This will be a bitter blow to traders in Twyford at a time when they are struggling to survive this recession.”