As we have been a minority group on Wyre Forest District Council for many years, there has long been a debate amongst Labour colleagues about the extent to which we should operate as a critical voice of opposition, while also seeking to make a positive contribution to the provision of public services. Both of these aspects of our role will feature in our contribution to the next meeting of Full Council, on 24th February.
Acting positively, through an amendment to the Conservative administration’s budget proposals, we will seek to have the groundwork done for a significant improvement in Wyre Forest’s household recycling rate. Currently, Wyre Forest recycles just 32%, only the 309th best performer of the 352 authorities in the country responsible for this service. Having asked if funding is necessary to plan improvements and received an affirmative answer, we have managed to find a way of paying for this expenditure without costing Council Taxpayers a penny. Our target for the implementation of an improved service is April 2017.
Acting critically, we cannot support a key tenet on which the Conservative budget is based, namely that the Working Poor are “scroungers”. Although no increase is proposed in Wyre Forest’s Council Tax precept, £60,000 in extra income is to be generated from the poorest people in the district. This will be achieved by reducing the level of exemption from Council Tax. The documentation justifying this policy actually uses the term “welfare to work”, i.e. suggesting that, if the Working Poor have their “handouts” reduced, they will be incentivised to work harder and earn more. We have already stated that such a belief is unacceptable to us.
Finally, being critical for a positive end, we will seek Council’s support in highlighting the failure of the current Housing and Planning Bill to include a clause requiring private landlords to offer for rent only those properties that are fit for human habitation. A Labour amendment to this effect was actually defeated by Conservative MPs! In the unlikely event of our motion being carried, the council would request that the Local Government Association lobby the government to think again.
Jamie Shaw : Secretary, Labour Group, WFDC