Leeds City Council is currently run by a coalition of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, who together have produced a nightmarish vision of what a national coalition between the two could look like.
Liberal Democrats nationally talk about “fairness” but when it came to the wage claims of striking bin men they had a tin-ear. Along with the Conservatives, they sought to “break” the rubbish collectors and forced them into industrial action which they followed with a rather nasty letter to the local paper attacking the work ethic and character of the bin men.
Recently, they have been forced to concede ground on a proposed waste transfer facility situated near Kirkstall Valley Primary Primary School. School children and local campaigners banded together to resist the council’s proposals, which eventually were shelved on the convenient grounds that redeveloping the Kirkstall site was “not good value for money”.
Environmental policy could yet cause tensions within the coalition; local Conservatives recently voted against a commitment to reduce carbon emissions across the area by 40% by 2020 which once again illustrates lack of concern for the environment has deep roots within Cameron’s Conservative Party. One wonders what the Liberal Democrats will do if Conservatives in Westminster try to reverse their prized local proposals.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are facing the possibility of a tough by-election in Hyde Park & Woodhouse caused by the sad loss of Councillor Kabeer Hussain who passed away during the Christmas break. In Gerry Harper they are facing a candidate who has previously been a councillor for the ward and they are plagued by dissent and defection. My own defection to Labour was preceded by that of one of the Lib Dem Councillors, Linda-Rhodes Clayton, to stand under the independent banner.
Local residents are incensed not just be the effects of the bin strike but also a myriad of local issues where the local Liberal Democrats are displaying that same tin-ear; on a proposed barbeque site on Woodhouse Moor the consultation was botched and with regard to the fate of Royal Park School the Liberal Democrats have belatedly decided to support a community-led bid to redevelop the site after previously evicting activists looking to improve the condition of the building and describing them as ‘squatters’.
The Liberal Democrat majority in the ward is slender, with only a handful of votes separating them from Labour. So, this by-election represents a real opportunity for Labour to advance in Leeds and a real chance to send a clear message to the coalition council. To get involved please contact the campaign via Gerry’s blog. The election is on February 18th.