Ian Shires

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Willenhall North Ward, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Walsall MBC Learn more

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Conservatives fail to show at all important devolution event

by Ian Shires on 10 February, 2018

The Conservative response to plans to give residents across the borough  more say in local decision-making seems to be to be nothing short of strangling it at birth.

What brings us to this conclusion? Two separate instances in the past couple of weeks have shown that Walsall Conservatives want to keep power at the centre. Keeping residents at arms length when it really matters.

The first was in a training session last week aptly named “People not Power”, councillors were asked to relate what made them want to become a councillor? One senior Conservative councillor said without hesitation, their motivation was to implement the policies within the Conservative Manifesto. No reference to people or communities, it was purely a political decision.

The second instance was at a meeting bringing together all 15 councillors representing residents in Willenhall and Darlaston. The aim of the meeting was to ensure that councillors fully understood their role in this new approach to bring local decision making closer to the people.

Conservative councillors for the Willenhall North and Short Heath failed to show! The Lib Dem Councillors were there as were the Labour Councillors and the Independents. Even the two UKIP Councillors showed up. Only the Conservatives had no one at this important event.

So what message does that send out to residents, and other partners such as the Voluntary Sector, Police, NHS, Housing Associations, Fire Service all keen to make the new partnership arrangements work?

It could well be that Conservatives don’t want to share power? After all senior Conservatives have said that should they win back power in May they will replace what has been created and agreed with partners will be unpicked and replaced with what? That’s anyone’s guess. For the last 18 months while we’ve been working together with our partners putting the new locality model together they didn’t come up with an alternative.

There is an old saying; fail to plan and plan to fail. This is so true and even more relevant right now when there are so many things going on that will impact on each and every one of us. You’ve got to be in it to win it. It is so important that that local residents have their input to make sure we all benefit from the opportunities that are ours for the taking.

The Tories have made it quite obvious, in fact their Leader came out and said it, if they win control of the Council in May they will unpick the devolution of power through the Localities Partnerships taking it back to the centre at Walsall Council House.

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