It’s election time on Thursday 3 May, when Londoners will be choosing who runs their local councils. In the second of a special series of articles from party representatives, Greenwich Conservatives leader MATT HARTLEY sets out why you should back his party.
The Labour Party has run Greenwich Council since 1971 – and as much as I wish I could tell you otherwise, this is highly unlikely to change in this year’s local elections. What could change, however, is that for the first time, Labour could win all 51 seats on the council.
At these elections we are asking residents to consider what that might mean for our borough – in practice. An all-Labour council would mean there would be no opposition councillors left to scrutinise and oppose Labour’s decisions on behalf of residents. The Labour Party machine could just do whatever it likes. We cannot let that happen.
Why we need an opposition
Over the last four years, local Conservative councillors – who provide the only opposition voice to Labour in the Town Hall – have worked hard to stand up for our borough, to get things done and to make your voice heard when decisions are made.
When Labour increased council tax bills by the maximum possible amount, year after year, it was opposition Conservative councillors who exposed the millions of pounds of waste and Labour councillors could and should deal with first.
When small businesses were struggling with reduced footfall due to the impact of the works on Eltham High Street, it was opposition Conservative councillors who forced the council to offer them business rate relief.
When Labour have continued to support developments that threaten our air quality – like the cruise liner terminal with no on-shore power and Ikea on the Peninsula – it has been opposition Conservative councillors who have opposed these plans at the Town Hall.
We need a strong opposition to hold the Labour-run council to account for its actions and inaction – and to scrutinise decision-making (alongside local media like 853 and the Mercury and News Shopper).
Securing change for residents
As opposition councillors, however, we have never believed that our job is simply to oppose ‘the other lot’. That’s why even though we are in opposition, over the last four years Conservative councillors have worked hard to secure real, positive change for residents – both inside and outside of the council chamber.
We have backed local shops and small businesses – securing help with High Street business rates, working with traders to keep rent rises down on Old Dover Road and helping to secure funding for the community-led Renew New Eltham project.
We have improved our local environment – working with Trees for Cities to plant trees on the Avery Hill Estate, securing external funding for local projects, and organising community litter picks to make our borough cleaner and greener.
We have helped to keep our communities safe – stopping the council’s plans to leave local parks unlocked overnight, campaigning against the Mayor of London’s police closures, and supporting the work of our Safer Neighbourhood Ward Panels.
We have supported the most vulnerable in our borough – proposing and securing a new Living Wage Incentive Scheme to tackle low pay and an exemption from council tax for local young people leaving the care system up to the age of 25.
Importantly, as a constructive opposition, we have put party politics aside when it matters most. Whether on community cohesion, rogue landlords or protecting local heritage like Woolwich Barracks and the Avery Hill Winter Garden – we always put our area before party politics, and we are always willing to work across party lines in the council chamber to get things done.
Our plans for the next four years
We are asking for your support to continue this local work over the next four years. Our 2018 manifesto sets out how we would give you a strong, independent voice as opposition councillors at the Town Hall.
If elected, we will work hard to hold the Labour-run Council to account by opposing wasteful spending including taxpayer-funded Greenwich Info magazine, and pressing for planning board and other key meetings to be streamed online.
We will scrutinise Labour’s decisions on schools, press the Council to end its costly failure on apprenticeships, and use the expertise in our team to help ensure our local NHS commissioners make the right decisions for local people.
On transport, we will continue to campaign for new bus routes, to press the government to place Southeastern under Transport for London control and to campaign against the loss of direct Victoria services on the Bexleyheath line.
We will press for targeted use of business rate reductions to support local shopping parades and oppose any plans for parking changes that would damage local businesses.
We will work with residents to set up more Neighbourhood Watch groups, support the work of our Safer Neighbourhood Ward Panels and continue to oppose the Labour Mayor of London’s poor decisions on policing.
On the environment, we will continue to oppose developments that threaten air quality like current plans for the cruise liner terminal – and press for real action on flytipping, including scrapping the £10 charge for bulky waste collection.
We will press the council for more affordable housing to rent and buy, and to implement a full, rather than partial, survey of council housing stock.
Crucially, we will continue to propose and secure policies to improve support for vulnerable residents – including improvements to the council tax support scheme and a concerted effort to tackle loneliness in our communities.
You can read the full set of our 34 specific pledges in our manifesto here. If elected as opposition councillors, you can hold us to account against these commitments, and help us to ensure there is more than one voice in the council chamber.
The choice on May 3rd
On May 3rd, you can vote for three more cogs in the Labour Party machine, representing the council in our communities, not the other way around – or three opposition Conservative councillors who will champion you and your community when decisions are made.
I hope you will consider voting for your local Conservative candidates on May 3rd, so we can continue to give residents the strong, independent voice they need.
Matt Hartley is standing in Coldharbour and New Eltham ward for the Conservative Party. To find out more, visit www.greenwichconservatives.com.
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