A Borough in Uproar


My letter in the 23rd November 2011 Wokingham Times

Regular readers of this blog may recall that last week I related the utter chaos of the Wokingham Borough Council debate on the library privatisation plans. More than just the foolishness of the plans to privatise (or, in Tory parlance “outsource”) the services, I was outraged at the disorganisation and incompetence which the council executive displayed.

Wednesday is, of course, the day when the Wokingham Times is published, and true to form they have included my letter-

sent on Friday morning, the day after the debate. For those who can’t read the photograph, I’ll relate the text here:

As a book-lover, and indeed an author, I have been very concerned about the implications of the planned privatisation of the library service (indeed, it was the cornerstone of my campaign in the recent Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe by-election).

It was because of this that I decided to attend the council meeting on Thursday night, where it was to be debated.

But sadly, I found it an intense disappointment.

The Conservatives had clearly already made their decision, and were uninterested in what the public thought.

Their arguments centred around an artificial distinction between “outsourcing” and “privatisation”, and that somehow since they were only selling off the service and not the buildings, it was alright.

But more so than the content of the debate, its organisation was the greatest embarrassment. When it fell to Cllr UllaKarin Clark to put forward a proposal for the council to vote on, she did not have one which met the requirements.

There was then a farcical scramble as the executive attempted to write one, there on the floor of the chamber!

Eventually a Liberal Democrat proposal to review the decision was voted down, and a meaningless proposal to review once the tendering process is complete was taken up.

But my abiding memory will be the utter disorganisation of the Conservatives.

To come to the debate without having prepared shows not only a sickening disinterest in the views of the public, but a worrying level of incompetence.

Matthew S. Dent

Twyford & District Branch Labour Party

However, this was not all. My letter was joined by another three: one by Woodley Labour’s Greg Bello, also criticising the utter shambles of the debate; one by a Ms Ann Smith, expressing shock at the way the Tories conducted themselves at the meeting; and one by a Mr Alan Wylie, criticising the privatisation plan itself.

This was contrasted with a petty, partisan letter from Cllr Keith Baker on the other side of the page, sniping at Labour’s comparative lack of resources in the local area. It comes across as very immature, especially placed against such a damning verdict on the same page by local residents.

It’s clear that not only are the people of Wokingham dissatisfied with the way their library service is being handled, but also with the way their council conducts itself. If every resident could have seen the shambolic scenes on Thursday night, then the Conservatives would find their safe majorities severely shaken, I believe. Let’s hope that the people of Wokingham will soon come to realise just how incompetent the Conservative group on the council are.

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