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Cambridge Liberal Democrats

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Julian Huppert MP

Tories gag opposition to hide their mistakes

November 24, 2009 10:41 AM
David Jenkins

David Jenkins

The panic-stricken Tory Cambridgeshire County Council is gagging opposition councillors to prevent them from telling taxpayers about their mistakes.

Leader, Jill Tuck, has used her powers to prevent leading councillors attending key meetings with the Tory administration and officers.

This means that the Liberal Democrats could miss out on vital spending and operational matters across the country until the Tories decide to go public.

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrat Leader and County Councillor David Jenkins said: "This amounts to gagging. The Tory administration is embarrassed by the fact that the Liberal Democrats have highlighted its failings and told taxpayers about their mistakes.

"This cannot be allowed to happen. They will be able to work behind the scenes without any scrutiny. This flies in the face of open, local government."

In a hastily worded email, Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrat Leader David Jenkins was told that all future spokes meetings - Group Leaders, Community and Adult Services, Children and Young People's Services, Environment Services and Corporate Directorates - would be cancelled and that the constitution would reflect this.

"It was claimed that this decision resulted from consultation with group leaders; it's nothing of the sort," said Cllr Jenkins. "I was not consulted. I was told and, subsequently, it was clear that there was no scope for any negotiation."

The decision came after Liberal Democrats revealed that:

• the county council had got its sums wrong leaving Cambridge facing a serious shortage of primary school places in the next two years;

• the £116 million guided bus had been delayed after a structural problem was discovered on a vital part of the network just weeks before it was due to open;

• a 1,000 name petition was ignored leaving two of Cambridge's major cycleways off the winter gritting rota;

• county council finances are heading for an overspend of around £5 million including a black hole in Adult Health and Social Care.

"This decision appears to be a panicked, knee-jerk reaction to the beating the Tories have been taking in recent weeks over the Guided Bus, primary school places, and the overspend in Adult Health and Social Care," added Cllr Jenkins..

"Taxpayers have a right to know what the Tory administration is doing, how it is planning to spend their money and the mistakes it is making."