Lichfield and Burntwood Labour councillors launch ‘silent protest’ over lack of Conservative engagement

Labour councillors say they launched a ‘silent protest’ at Lichfield District Council in a bid to highlight the lack of engagement from other members.

The full council meeting last night (April 11) lasted just 20 minutes after a lack of questions to the controlling Conservative group.

But Labour said they were determined to make a point.

Cllr Sue Woodward

Cllr Sue Woodward

Cllr Sue Woodward, leader of the Labour opposition group, said: “It was a risky strategy to show how little Conservative Members do to represent the genuine concerns and interests of their residents.

“If any Conservative member had spoken, we would have joined the debates. But they didn’t.

“This action was our protest against the lack of commitment, interest and representation for residents on the part of the vast majority of the Tory councillors.

“Attendance at meetings is only one measure but, even of those who turn up, few rarely add any value. Even if they have read their council papers, it’s rare for any of them to have done any background reading or research into the issues being discussed. They simply sit back and take a free ride.

“There are very honourable exceptions, of course, but I believe that they are as frustrated as we are by their colleagues’ inaction.”

The lack of debate came despite recent issues included in reports such as the new garden waste charge, plans to build on green belt in Burntwood, the outsourcing of leisure centre management and affordable housing.

Labour’s deputy leader, Cllr Eric Drinkwater, said the silent protest meant just two councillors spoke apart from those delivering reports.

Cllr Eric Drinkwater

Cllr Eric Drinkwater

Deputy Opposition Leader, Cllr Eric Drinkwater added:

“It’s the Labour members who work hard to represent our residents and, to be frank, we are fed up of doing the work and not being listened to,” he said.

“It was clear from all the puzzled faces that they expect us to continue to do all the work and then ignore us. They can start thinking again.

“The sole Lib Dem councillor was also absent again and did mot attend the previous budget meeting recorded in the minutes as ‘probably the most important meeting of the year’.”

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19 Comments

  1. Samuel

    12th April, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Just out of interest, is there an opposite to this?
    Would you be allow to start talking and keep talking?
    Similar to a US Filibuster ?

  2. Rob

    12th April, 2017 at 10:16 am

    How childish can you get?

  3. The Teach

    12th April, 2017 at 11:22 am

    This certainly seems to have jangled a few Tory nerves this morning.

  4. Ken

    12th April, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    What next? Protesting about poor attendance levels by all staying at home?

    It’s the politics of the playground. Beyond pathetic.

  5. Daniel

    12th April, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Hey! Not a bad way of earning an extra £3000~ a year. Pop to one or two meetings a week, sit silently whilst playing angry birds.

  6. The Scribbler

    12th April, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    As a protest it probably helped the Labour group feel like they had made a point, it might have irritated the Conservatives a little, but overall it has absolutely no impact.
    As a resident and voter this seems to be nothing more than the playground politics we see in the House of Commons day in and day out.
    Pointless politics that does nothing to make the district a better place to live.
    Grow up. All of you.

  7. Philip John

    12th April, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Well this is silly. The playground politics has continued on Twitter today too.

    We have Conservatives who don’t scrutinise their fellow party members, Labour who think it’s a good idea to deliberately not scrutinise as some ill-conceived protest, and a Lib Dem who doesn’t even show up (maybe he was protesting silently at home in front of Home and Away?).

    Same old playground politics from the same old parties.

    The next scrutiny meeting will be on Tuesday 18th April 2017 at 6pm at the council offices on Frog Lane. Who’s up for joining me and letting councillors know what we expect of them?

  8. Steve Norman

    12th April, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    This is what would happen at most meetings at LDC without your Labour councillors. Most of the commentators only seem to be annoyed at Labour councillors not speaking at this one meeting rather than the Conservative members not speaking at these meetings the rest of the year – not even to challenge the Deputy Leader over the threat to the Green Belt in the Burntwood and Hammerwich parishes.

  9. Luke

    12th April, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    @Steve Norman
    We’re not just targeting Labour, we’re just sick of the uselessness of it all.

    We want progress in our area. We don’t want the bickering, or political stunts you’re trying to pull.

    The people here commenting are the most informed regarding local politics. Ideally, those who comment most should be councillors, as we all have an opinion worth saying. It is surprising not all councillors talk to us here.

    Those in power are happy to read what we say, knowing that they will still win their next election on the backs of the ill-informed. We don’t want to see “silent protests”, we want to see real opposition, real evidence that you are fighting for us. Don’t just sit there. Call them out. Facebook, twitter, insa everything you can if you want to win.

    It is easy to attack party politics, as you’re all worried about breaking party rules. We, the people, do not care for labour/conservative rules. We do not care about towing the party line. We want someone who understands our views, can offer us something useful and then go and make it happen.

    Just to state: Lichfield Councillors get £££ for this. Staffordshire Coucillors get more £££ for this. With elections coming around, it’s interesting to see those who are sitting on both councils.

  10. The Scribbler

    12th April, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Steve: We’re angry with all of them and the system that allows such mediocrity to continue.

  11. Philip John

    12th April, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    Trying to make people aware that Conservative councillors aren’t pulling their weight is commendable. Clearly, though, the method in which Labour councillors attempted to do so has backfired. The aim was fine, the method was a very poor choice and now everyone seems even less impressed with ALL councillors than they were before.

  12. Rob

    12th April, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    @ Luke: “With elections coming around, it’s interesting to see those who are sitting on both councils.”
    And those from the same families too, eh Steve?

  13. Toast

    12th April, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Respect for all councillors is at an all-time low as it is, a stunt like this definitely doesn’t help one bit.

    The problem is though, come election time, nothing will change. The grey haired people will still vote in numbers for the Tories who are slashing their social care funding while simultaneously blaming the unemployed and immigrants.

  14. The Teach

    12th April, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    The protest has not backfired. It has highlighted the idea that Councillors are accountable to the electorate. Far too many attend the meetings and watch the world go by without making any useful input. For once, Labour members were silent and the meeting was a failure. I am sure that the Labour members will be back to their vociferous best very soon!

  15. Luke

    12th April, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    @Rob

    Friends, family, spouses. It’s chock-a-block in the Lichfield area. Husbands and Wives (I know atleast 3). Mothers & Daughters (&Grandmoothers). All parties do it.

    I hate it, I truly do. Half of me knows the system is “I scratch your back, you scratch mine”, and the other half knows that many younger (Under 40) people have little interest in joining a party/ running a campaign.

    I believe if you sit on all, parish, district & county, seats then your priorities become muddle and you do not represent all those people in those seats.

  16. Sue Woodward

    12th April, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Labour councillors at LDC always do their homework – preparing for meetings, reading around subjects and doing background research. If we didn’t use council meetings to challenge, discuss, debate and propose alternatives, most meetings would finish after 20 minutes. I would suggest that those commentating who have not seen their councillors in action come along to a few meetings and observe. Few are actually contribute in meetings: Labour councillors do because we care about the communities we represent and about the District. That’s another reason, for example, why we hold advice surgeries, deliver regular newsletters and take up a lot of individual cases on behalf of local residents – so that we can listen to what people tell us and feed that back to Council. That’s real Opposition, Luke – not for the sake of a bit of flag-waving but to do our best by our residents. Those Conservative councillors who are worth their salt understand that, and value it.

  17. Alex J

    12th April, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    It just highlights what poor opposition they really are, they do all the hard work they say, then they ignore us they say? What is their hard work I ask? Other than dreaming up silly political stunts such as this.

  18. Steve

    12th April, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    If all sides kept quiet. We would probably be better off.

    @PhilipJohn You will get my vote. Hope you are the first of many, to kick out the party political stupidity and start to do what is right.

  19. Steven Nornan

    12th April, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    I am assuming the upset is from those embarrassed to find out about the lack of action by their councillors in the Conservative Group. The Lib Dem has to be there to speak, and the UKIP member has resigned.

    You do get Independents sometimes but they tend be even less effective as there are no fellow members putting pessure on them to do more and in my experience claim credit for things others have done.

    Only now do Highfield and Hammerwich district councillors speak out against their own government’s policy on the Green Belt. Only now, and after two opportunities (where Labour members did speak out) do some want to speak on their own Conservative Cabinet’s proposal to charge for emptying brown bins. Yes an impending election does focus the mind and perhaps the many comments from voters who don’t like the bin tax or the tip tax at the same time as both councils raise their Council Tax bills to the maximum allowed.

    As regards the Opposition well even in the minority we managed to force the reduction in funding to the Garrick (which is supposed to be a popular Confence Centre as well as a theatre by now) from nearly £3/4 million a year to a more realistic (but still high) £300,000 a year. And by the way Cabinet member Colin Greatorex objected to the reduction at the last election.

    We also forced the Cabinet to consult residents over balancing the budget. For example 70% of respondents said they were against charging for brown bin collections but why bother asking residents you might think when they are ignored.

    Meanwhile at the County the Labour opposition has managed to get the Conservative Group to reconsider ending the maintenance of lifts, staiflifts and other equipment essential for the dignity of elderly and vulnerable people in Burntwood and elsewhere.

    I am grateful for the opportunity to give a glimpse into the effective work Labour in opposition has been able to do but before critics comment further can I suggest they look at the district council minutes or watch the County Council meetings on the SCC website first. We don’t want false news, sorry, facts, on this valued website please.

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