Cllr Chris Steward is the Leader of the Conservative Group on York City Council
I am delighted to report that Cllr Helen Douglas, a councillor for Clifton Ward in York, has defected from Labour to the Conservatives.
In York politics this means Labour lose their majority on the council, pending an all important by-election in the Westfield ward. But her damning verdict on the Labour party nationally and their lack of engagement locally is of wider interest. It will bring uncomfortable truths home to Ed Milliband.
“I feel Labour has no vision nor direction nationally and am totally disillusioned with the lack of leadership from Ed Millband and there being a lack of strong and visionary policies. The Labour Party seems to rush from one bandwagon to another and their utterances on cost of living look empty words. It is simplistic and wrong for Labour to blame the government for all changes in people’s personal/financial circumstances. There are so many social influences which lead people into poverty or otherwise. People have to sometimes tighten their belts and that is what the country is having to do right now.
“It is clear that it is the people in the Conservative Party, whether MPs or councillors that have the vision and the genuine solutions the country needs to achieve sustainable growth.’
“I don’t believe the Local Plan Labour is producing is right for York. I support the need for more housing and more affordable housing. However it is vital we protect York, allowing some growth but proportional to what is sustainable. We need more brownfield development and less urban sprawl as the plan currently proposes. It is vital residents of the centre are within easy reach of the countryside and that rural communities retain their identity rather than being engulfed.”
She was also damning on Labour’s failure to help those most in need and instead preferring to talk about it, saying “my focus and time as a ward councillor has been about how I can help people and I am concerned that too much the Labour cabinet seeks to do is about talking. I was happy with the set-up of the Fairness Commission but it’s disappointing that the committee lacks and balance from across the political spectrum and also that at the recent conference there was over £10,000 spent without any real achievements to improve residents’ lives”.
Helen also criticised the debts of York’s Labour council, suggesting the same mistakes at local level that the party made nationally saying ‘although I support borrowing to invest, I am concerned about the level of debt the Labour council is taking on and especially things which should really be funded by the revenue rather than capital budget’.
In one of the best examples of how Labour councillors serve their party hierarchy rather than residents Helen said all petitions now have to be approved in advance by Council Leader James Alexander before they are even started, in case residents’ wishes are not what he wants, he doesn’t even want their views aired nevermind be listened to!
I warmly welcome Helen to the Conservative Group. Her record speaks for itself as someone who has always worked hard for York residents. Although until now I have been on the opposite political side to Helen, she is a councillor that has commanded my respect and I look forward to working with her now on the direction of the Conservative Group and hopefully after May 2015 the future direction of York Council.