Last night I joined with my fellow Greenwich councillors in voting for the Council to declare a Climate Emergency. And in a rare occurance at the Town Hall, the Conservative Group actually won a vote, passing our our amendment which will significantly strengthen the Council’s actions – and gives us further opportunities to help shape them, through a new Greenwich Carbon Neutral Plan.
For background, the motion on last night’s agenda declaring a Climate Emergency was brought forward by the Cabinet Member for Air Quality, Cllr Denise Scott-McDonald – and follows more than 90 such motions passed by other local authorities in recent months. To Denise’s credit, she brought forward a substantive motion that went beyond just words to actions (as I said last night, declaring a Climate Emergency sounds pretty good, but there’s always a risk with this kind of thing of simply virtue signalling – a trap she very much avoided).
In a letter in today’s Daily Telegraph, I’ve joined with 50 other Conservatives who campaigned for Leave to urge MPs in the European Research Group to vote for the PM’s revised Brexit deal, if and when it is brought back to the House of Commons.
Tonight Greenwich Councillors will vote on the Council’s Budget for 2019/20 – and together with my Opposition Conservative colleagues I’ve spent the past few weeks in the Town Hall developing our alternative proposals.
You can read our alternative plan, which we are putting to a vote at tonight’s Full Council meeting, here.
Back office efficiency savings – belatedly
We welcome some aspects of Labour’s Budget proposal – in particular, Labour councillors’ belated acceptance that back office efficiency savings are possible. For years and years we have been making the case that, at a time of financial constraint on all councils, Greenwich needs to do more to make efficiencies away from the front line, in back office functions. We are pleased that the Labour leadership has finally accepted the need to do this – although the delay has been extremely costly to the taxpayer.
It looks like Greenwich Labour are breaking their promise to improve the level of support given to low income residents with Council Tax bills from this April.
A year ago Greenwich Conservatives put forward a fully costed proposal to lift up to 15,000 low-income residents out of Council Tax altogether, by increasing the support given to qualifying working-age residents in the Council Tax Support scheme to up to 100% of their bills, up from the current 85%.
Labour councillors voted this proposal down – as with most of our good ideas – and tride to claim they were intending to implement the change anyway, promising that it would come into effect in April 2019. I blogged on the dubious basis for this claim at the time here.
Either way, the promise was made. During that budget-setting meeting, then Council Leader Denise Hyland told me:
“The Fairness Commission has made a recommendation for that, and that is for an introduction in April 2019. So it’s already under way with the working party for social mobility – it’s already a recommendation that has been accepted.”
Like other councillors in Greenwich, I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year knocking on doors. In fact, I’ve spent most of the seven years I’ve been involved in Greenwich politics doing this, pretty continuously and across the borough, in the course of six election campaigns in that time.
The results of last Thursday’s local election are in, and despite Labour’s plan to win all 51 seats on Greenwich Council this year, we held all nine Conservative seats at the Town Hall – actually winning one more seat than at the last full set of local elections four years ago.
Today Greenwich Conservatives have launched A strong, independent voice for you –our manifesto for the 2018 Greenwich Council elections. Most local election manifestos set out what a political party would do if it took over the running of the council after the election. This one doesn’t do that.
Tonight is the first Full Council meeting at the Town Hall since July – and it seems that Labour and Conservative councillors alike have missed the cut and thrust of the Council Chamber over the summer, with no less than six motions for debate on the agenda.
Followers of Greenwich politics (and there are a few) will know the score when it comes to these motions – some can be useful in airing an issue, some just occasionally manage to get something done, and some are utterly pointless.
There’s a mixture of all three varieties on display tonight!
I would like to say a huge thank you to the 18,832 people who voted for me to serve as Eltham’s Member of Parliament on Thursday – as well as the hundreds of volunteers who worked so tirelessly to help my campaign in this unique General Election.
Together we achieved 40.8% of the vote, the highest vote share for the Conservatives in Eltham in 25 years – but sadly, it was not enough. The full result can be found here.
I would like to congratulate Clive Efford on winning the election, and I wish him all the best as he embarks on his new term as Eltham’s MP.
Over these past seven weeks I have enjoyed meeting thousands of people across the constituency, talking about some of the challenges we face – such as improving our transport links, supporting the High Street and our smaller shopping parades, and crucially, making Brexit the success that we all need it to be. My team and I knocked on more than 17,000 doors in this election, and I am immensely grateful for all the support I received. Regardless of the result, I have had the best few weeks of my life.
As I said in my speech at the Count in the early hours of Friday morning, Conservatives here in Greenwich have been working for 20 years towards returning a Conservative MP again in our borough. It seems we may have to work for a few more years yet – but we will do it.
In the meantime, I am looking forward to continuing to get things done for people in Eltham, and across the borough, as Leader of our brilliant Conservative Group at the Town Hall. As always, we have a lot of work to do!