The leader of the opposition group at Burntwood Town Council says he hopes for a return to “grown-up politics” in the town.
Labour’s Cllr Eric Drinkwater made his comments after Cllr Richard Mosson confirmed his decision to step down from the leadership of the controlling group.
The Conservative leader insisted his decision is part of a plan to rotate the leadership of the council, with Cllr Helen Fisher expected to take over the top job.
But following a year at the charge which has seen him clash with his opposition counterparts on issues including a rise of more than a third in the council tax precept, the decision to purchase a new chain for the chairman’s consort and the aborted decision to rename of the Old Mining College Centre, Cllr Mosson said Labour would have made many similar decisions had they retained power last May.
“They will spout the usual nonsense that they would have saved money elsewhere and restructured the workings of the council differently,” he said. “But the truth is that they would have been in exactly the same position and probably worse given the example of thousands of pounds being wasted each year on updating social media, for example.
“Labour will probably unearth the story of the consort’s chain again claiming this was a waste of money. It was a bit less than £400 and will be an asset to the council, therefore I would argue differently, especially as it fell inside the budget of the chairman which of course was set by themselves, so essentially this has not cost the taxpayer a penny.”
But Cllr Eric Drinkwater, leader of the opposition Labour group said Cllr Mosson’s parting shot showed why councillors on both sides of the divide will be pleased to see change on the horizon.
“From numerous conversations I and my Labour colleagues have had with Conservatives from around the whole area, they were shaking their heads in despair at some of Cllr Mosson’s crazier actions and comments,” he said. “I personally welcome the fact that he has gone and hope we can get back to grown-up politics under the new leader.
“It has been the most acrimonious and divisive year I have ever known in my 30-plus years as a town councillor. The members have always worked together in the past for the best interests of the town, but this leader has been a disaster – from his complete lack of control and understanding of the budget to his obsession with what Labour has done in the past or might do in the future.”
Cllr Drinkwater accused his Conservative rival of failing to get a firm grasp of the council’s budget during his time in the leader’s seat.
“The staff review – which was initiated by Labour – was to take into consideration the proposals for the Old Mining College Centre. After last May’s elections when he became Leader, he asked to meet me and my deputy to discuss what had been our plans. In spite of the advice and guidance he requested on ways forward in the best interests of the town, in his usual way, he rejected them completely.
“We now have a situation where there aren’t enough staff to do what’s needed, fewer hours of cover than before, yet the costs are much greater than they were. Would he ever listen? No.
“His comment about the consort’s chainshows his complete lack of understanding of how council budgets work. He didn’t have to spend that money and saying now that ‘essentially this has not cost the taxpayer a penny’ is not true and an insult to Burntwood residents’ intelligence.
“Apart from Play in the Parks, which I agree was a new initiative and a great success, his only claim to fame for his year in office was a new shed. Where is the shed now, I wonder? It had to be moved, at even more cost to the council, because it was blocking a fire exit!
“I’m more than pleased that both the shed and Cllr Mosson have gone.”