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Conservative councillors likely to be barred from airing views as Lichfield District Council prepares to confirm collapse of Friarsgate development

Conservative councillors will not be able to offer their own views on the future of the Friarsgate redevelopment at a meeting next week – even though it is being held in private.

An artist's impression of the new Friarsgate development

An artist’s impression of the Friarsgate development

The scheme is seemingly on the brink of collapse after private funding failed to materialise and an 11th hour plan to rescue it with a £49million investment from the public purse was rejected by Lichfield District Council’s Cabinet after it emerged Tory councillors were unlikely to back it at a full vote.

A meeting of the council on June 26 is now likely to see the axe finally fall on Friarsgate.

Mike Wilcox

Cllr Mike Wilcox

But a number of Conservative sources have revealed to LichfieldLive that the party whip will mean no councillors from the blue side of the chamber will speak on the issue at the meeting or vote independently, meaning Cllr Mike Wilcox, leader of the council, is likely to read the last rites for the redevelopment scheme alone.

However, Labour and Lib Dem councillors will still have the opportunity to question the local authority’s leadership on recent events and a confidential report during the session.

Cllr Wilcox has not replied to a request for comment from LichfieldLive, but Labour opposition group leader, Cllr Sue Woodward, said silencing councillors was not the right way forward for the local authority’s leadership having kept the public in the dark about the debate so far.

“I really hope it isn’t the case,” she said. “We’re not North Korea, for goodness sake, though it’s beginning to feel like it.

“In the absence of open, public debate, it’s important that councillors take the opportunity to question the reasons behind the recommendations that we are going to be voting on and make sure we are actively representing our electors. That’s what representative democracy is all about.”

Cllr Sue Woodward

Cllr Sue Woodward

Cllr Woodward said that the lack of exterior examination on the impending collapse of the Friarsgate scheme was “an abuse of democracy”.

“I had wanted to call in part of the report – which we still can’t talk about – for further scrutiny but was told that the council meeting on Tuesday would allow just that,” she said. “The Labour group will certainly be using the council meeting to ask searching questions, as we always do.

“If it is going to be just a nodding through exercise with Tory councillors being gagged, even in private now, this is just another failure of leadership.

“What a complete farce – what an abuse of democracy.”

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  1. Nellygb

    23rd June, 2018 at 11:26 am

    You really couldn’t make this shite up could you. LDC has single handedly returned local democracy to the 19th century because of the lack of effective opposition and open scrutiny. And they wonder why turn out is so pathetically low, well here’s your answer, what’s the fookin point.

  2. Concerned Citizen

    23rd June, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    The solution, Nelly, is to encourage your friends, neighbours and colleagues to vote this lot out of office next year. Sue Woodward does a great job in Opposition but she is heavily outnumbered.

  3. Darryl

    23rd June, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Murky. Murky as hell.

  4. Rob

    23rd June, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    “make sure we are actively representing our electors. That’s what representative democracy is all about”
    Could you explain this concept to the likes of Anna Soubry please?

  5. Darryl

    23rd June, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    Christ Almighty Rob, you’re banging on about the referendum when we’re discussing a local issue.

    Councillors are not MPs and MPs are not delegates.

    Ridiculous whataboutery.

  6. Rob

    23rd June, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    No Darryl.
    I was recommending the councillor’s endorsement of the democratic process and elected representatives.
    It transcends local, regional, national or international limits.
    At least, if you believe in democracy it does.

  7. Cllr Sue Woodward

    24th June, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    Good grief. Rob endorsing my comments? Just shows the mess that the local Tories are in. Poor decision-making processes, poor engagement with electors, poor management of whole project…..hence my repeated call, as Labour’s Opposition Leader, for Council Leader’s resignation.

  8. Rob

    24th June, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    Simply being objective and calling it as I see it.
    I think seeking resignations smacks of point-scoring myself and won’t make any real difference.
    The electorate will deliver their verdict at the appropriate time.

  9. Concerned Citizen

    24th June, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    I support Sue Woodward, Leader Wilcox should resign. He has overseen this project over several years and has not delivered. He has wasted time and money. Vote the incompetent Tories out at the next election. Can we raise a petition to ask for an earlier election?

  10. Steve

    24th June, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    @CC. Most of the local electorate have no idea what has gone on.

    Any election would just return the same lot all over again.

    You would not choose a plumber based on his political party. Yet, locally, most people will vote for anyone who has Conservative next to their name.

    Personally, I have no political leanings, I vote for who I feel is best for the area.

  11. AgitatorofPeople

    24th June, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    Steve, you are painting a target on your back, the Blue Rinsers will charge you with heresy, a public burning at the stake in the Lichfield market place awaits you!!

  12. Mouthy

    25th June, 2018 at 6:11 am

    Will the local businesses that were forced to close as a result of Friarsgate be offered compensation? I can’t believe that finding was not firmly in place…..

  13. Philip Allso

    25th June, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    Have I got this right? The Conservatives (ie most of the council) will not be allowed to express a personal view and the meeting will be in private? Is this local government or the Star Chamber? We elect councillors to express opinions. You don’t have three line whips at this level of government, and you dont keep having private meetings. Has power gone to the head of our leader. Will I get a knock at the door in the early hours. What happens to these councillors when they get elected? They seem to get a personality change. Get a grip! Sort out this dog’s dinner. Work as a team or resign and give others that can clean up your mess a chance. Party politics should be less of an issue at local level. What is good for all citizens should be the only consideration.

  14. nellygb

    25th June, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    @cc re early election I doubt that can happen but the opposition could work together to request a motion of no confidence in Cllr Wilcox. I also doubt that would amount to much more than sabre rattling given the overwhelming majority the conservatives enjoy in the council chambers.
    I’m first to admit I’m not the sharpest tool in the box but I personally would be bombarding the council using the 2000 FOIA, get to the bottom of how much this has cost to date, what future costs are involved (because their track record on transparency on this suggests they are going to try and bury this as deep as possible) and go for a misappropriation of funds/financial mismanagement (devoid of public accountability) vote. That would get the attention of the wider voting community which may (?) result in people voting with one eye on what has gone on.

    If anyone or more likely any group of like minded individuals (because I really don’t think one person is going to make a blind bit of difference to these power crazed lot) are thinking of doing this, the following might be of assistance

    If you need to make a complaint about a local authority or council you should in the first instance direct your complaint to the local authority or council involved. If your complaint refers to something your council has done that you feel is unfair (that is, you have suffered as a result of inefficient management of maladministration), please contact the Local Government Ombudsman. If your complaint relates to corruption, fraud or misuse of public money at a local authority or council please contact the appointed auditor for that body. Or write to Amyas Morse, Comptroller and Auditor General, National Audit Office, 157-197 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9SP;
    general enquiries line 020 7798 7264
    Whistle blowers Hotline 020 7798 7999

    Probably not a good one but all the same just a thought!!

  15. Darryl

    25th June, 2018 at 8:11 pm


    You were talking about Anna voting for the lords amendment and supposedly “usurping Brexit” which is an utter nonsense. She voted issue A.50 in line with her constituency wishes.

    It’s amazing how many leave MPs are suddenly declaring their contituent’s vote in the referendum a mandate for Brexit at any costs. It’s almost like Edmund Burke was wasting his time.

    With regards to the topic, I agree with Philip Also’s comment, 100%.

  16. Rob

    25th June, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    That’ll be why Soubry’s Constituency party Chairman has written to all the membership to seek their opinion of her behaviour then.