My name’s Andrew, and I’ve worked with the Lib dems….

There, I have said it.

Against all the warnings of other Council Group Leaders and CCHQ, whose advice interestingly was “Never do it!” I did.

And lived to regret it.

Well kind of….

You see in Harlow before 2002 the town was ALWAYS run by the labour party. It was laughingly referred to by those who lived and worked around it, as the “Socialist Republic of Harlow”. So in 2002, when for the first time ever, the electorate delivered a council with the make up 12 Con, 12 LD, 9 Lab, not only did we cheer hard, but we had to think very hard about what that electorate were telling us.

We knew the years of disastrous profligate labour administrations had to end but I didn’t have the votes to do anything about it in real terms.We were driven by high ideals of changing our town for the better, of a once in a generation chance to stop the financial rot and actually achieve something for our voters. It drove us to “want” to work with the Liberals, just to ensure that our town had steady governance and we could actually put things right.

The Libs just wanted power. To be honest, I realise now that is all they ever want. I and my colleagues failed in our logic when we ascribed to them the same high ideals of “sorting the town out” that we had

The first six to nine months went well. There were successes for the “joint administration”, bringing in a council tax cut and starting to get committees working. But within 15 months the whole thing was on the rocks.

Why?

Because for the Lib Dems the grass was always greener, Labour were the more natural bed fellows of our left left leaning colleagues and the new Labour leader in the town was keen to offer lots behind close doors to the Liberals, who decided to turn on us with Labour in an orchestrated move to bring down the administration and frustratingly (we were a larger group by then due to a defection) put the smaller Lib Dems into a minority administration, just to “do over the Torys”.

Did it work for us? Well we knew that we had done “the decent thing”, we got the district council working, and gave residents a relief from the constant spend spend spend of Labour. But we got very burnt in the process. I doubt my group of councillors will trust another party in Harlow for many years to come.

Did it work for the Lib Dems? They got short term power off the back of it and even a couple of years coalition with the Labour party, but eventually the Lib Dem bubble has burst and Harlow has returned to a mainly two party system.

I see many parallels to the national situation to that which we faced in Harlow in 2002.

David Cameron has no choice morally, but to seek with the Lib Dems, unpalatable as it may be to many of us. It is the only sure fire way to get the Government working again. The Lib Dems are only interested in power and what they can get for themselves, and frustratingly we are going to have to give them that power;

My advice to David Cameron is do the deal for the sake of the country but know in the back of your mind that the Liberals will both plan to and try to do the dirty on us, so be prepared for it!

Local politics sometimes provides a few amusements, but none so much as the activities of the Lib Dems in Harlow.

I and my fellow councillors had an email this evening from a Lib Dem councillor calling for all councillors to avoid gutter politics, respect others and promoting decency in public life.

And that would be great if the Lib Dems actually believed that. We know that what their Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors schemes is something completely different.

As was recently reported in the Guardian, and raised in the House of Commons the Lib Dems advise their councillors to “Be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly.”

The Libs also advise “Don’t be afraid to exaggerate.” but worse than that it advises Lib Dem Councillors to deceive the public by saying different things to different people “you can secure support from voters who normally vote Tory by being effectively anti-Labour and similarly in a Tory area secure Labour votes by being anti-Tory.”

I suppose a message to all of us in Harlow, as they fight a council By-election in Staple Tye and then the County Council Elections, is that we should be prepared for lots of nasty negative campaigning since they believe that “Positive campaigning will NOT be enough to win control of the council.”

The ultimate insult to voters in Harlow though, is that the Liberals advise their councillors that “You are NOT running the council. It’s NOT your problem.”

Surely all councillors are elected to work for the best of their abilities for their public, not to “be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly”!

Lib Dem Councillor Emmanuel (Manny) Doku was apparently so incensed by my previous blogs on his scheme to claim taxi journeys instead of paying £1 a day to park, just like council staff, that he has emailed me.

I won’t go into the whole email but will just focus on one sentence:

I do hope that your decision to attack me personally is not racially motivated.”

I was very annoyed when I read this.

Firstly I totally resent the inference that Cllr Doku would consider me even capable of a racially motivated attack.

Second as you will be able to see here and here there is absolutely no mention of race in my previous posts on the issue. My issue with Cllr Doku is solely his scheme to cost the taxpayer more! I now have to wonder what has caused Cllr Doku to say such a thing? Was he attempting to gag my criticism of his expenses claim by playing a “race card”?

Thirdly I have made no “personal” attack on Cllr Doku. I have simply reported the details of his scheme and expressed my disgust at such a scheme to cost the tax payer money.

In 11 years in politics I have never been so upset.

I had only just published my previous post when another Harlow Conservative Councillor drew my attention to a previous email that Manny Doku wrote just a few days ago on the same subject.

I currently have a permit to park at the civic centre car park because I needed one. Without that ‘perk’, I may have to walk (and may be late for meetings as I do have other calls on my time), or take a taxi on every occasion and claim same from the council (which will add up to more than the cost of permit, perhaps).
Again we are not staff and, like some company directors ( and I am one), do have to have some form of ‘special treatment’ because of sacrifices they tend to make in some cases.
Thanks.
Manny.

It seems Cllr Doku likes his “perks” and considers being a Councillor makes him worthy of “special treatment”!

Perhaps Cllr Doku should be reminded, that it is a privilege to serve his community and that he already recieves an allowance for doing so. And after all as he points out, he is a “company director” as well, which I am sure remunerates him well too…..

Edited 00:12
For those that worry, like Cllr Doku, that he might be late if he walked to meetings, you may want to check a map. Cllr Doku’s published address is CM18 6DN and the Civic Centre is CM20 1WG.


View Harlow Town Centre in a larger map

I was shocked and disgusted today by the scheming of a Harlow Lib Dem Councillor to rack up a mass of expenses.

In Harlow, during the budgeting process, which I have documented in this blog for you before, we decided that we should introduce a charge to park in the Council section of the Watergardens Carpark, which was previously free to Council Staff. We were not excessive; £1 a day. More than anything, since it was a tough budget year, this was about sharing the pain of the budget with the tax payers. We also decided that Councillors will have to pay too. After all thats only fair.

Now the opposition voted against our budget, and as I have detailed the Lib Dems never even put a budget on the table themselves. However today when the car parking charges started there were a flurry of emails complaining about the scheme.

What has really taken the biscuit though is that one Lib Dem Councillor – Emmanuel (Manny) Doku today sent the below email to all the Councillors and a lot of council staff:

Dear Colleagues,

Again, I must appeal to your common financial sense to rethink the proposal to charge councillors to park at the Water Gardens. The logic of my suggestion is plainly this (and I repeat what said earlier): I took a taxi to the Civic centre this morning which cost me £4.00 – one way. I shall be claiming this expenditure soon and from the Council. Had I taken another taxi home, the total would have been £8.00, which will be claimed from the Council. Since I am not happy about the charging of £1.00, and as a form of protest, I shall continue to take taxi to meetings at the Civic Centre and claim same. What this means is that instead of paying £1.00 to park, the Council will be paying out many times more that the £1.00. It does not take a rocket scientist to realise that it makes good financial sense to continue with free parking for Councillors.
I rest my case.
Manny.

So lets just get this right – because Cllr Doku objects to paying £1 to park in the car park, he is going to try and land the council with an £8 a day expenses Bill!!! What makes it worse is that Council Expenses rules say that Taxi fares are reimbursable in cases of urgency or where no public transport is reasonably available, which is clearly not the case for Cllr Doku and his little scheme.

I can’t believe that to protest aginast paying a £1 a day fee that our staff now pay, Cllr Doku would rather use £8 a day more of taxpayers money via his expenses!

And lets remember that the Lib Dem Group on Harlow Council also voted against Freezing Councillors’ allowances on budget night!