Peterborough Labour Let Tories Off the Hook

abacus07:07 Tuesday 17th June 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: Our main story this morning, one of Cambridgeshire’s biggest political characters, Marco Cereste, has survived a challenge to his leadership and will remain Leader of Peterborough City Council until at least next year. It’s after the Council’s Annual General Meeting last night. A motion to oust him as Leader was voted down by 32 votes to 14. 10 councillors chose to abstain. The result means he remains as Leader, but without overall control. It was also agreed the Council will explore the possibility of switching to a committee system, and that a cross-party working group will discuss next years Budget, and that councillor David Over will be Mayor for next year. Ben Stephenson was at the Town Hall last night.
BEN STEPHENSON: Peterborough’s Town Hall won’t have seen many escapes as great as this one. A few weeks ago Marco Cereste had lost overall control of the Council, and his critics were predicting the end for the Tory general. But last night he made a miraculous escape that even Steve McQueen would have been proud of. The first motion put forward by the Peterborough Independent Forum spoke of a need to remove Marco as Leader. Three Tory rebels agreed, but Labour and the LibDems were not for turning. They said a minority party coalition wouldn’t work, meaning victory for councillor Cereste, and another term as Leader, albeit without the overall control he’s enjoyed in years gone by. The Council also agreed to explore the pros and cons of switching to a committee system a la Cambridgeshire County Council, a move that the LibDems will count as a post-election victory. But what now for Marco and his Tory colleagues? He may have survived another scare, but the anti-Cereste brigade are still insisting that last month’s election result was a clear signal of discontent from the Peterborough public. The question now is whether that message has been received at Tory HQ, or whether the need to balance the books next year will once again put pressure on Marco and his Cabinet.
PAUL STAINTON: Ben Stephenson at the Town Hall in Peterborough last night. So after weeks of uncertainty, Marco Cereste remains as Leader of Peterborough City Council, and he did it with support from his apparent opposition, the LibDems and Labour. Well before we hear from the Labour Group, let’s speak to councillor Mike Fletcher from the Peterborough Independent Forum. He put forward a motion that the Forum’s Leader David Harrington should replace Marco. As it turned out, that was never heard. Mike good morning.
MIKE FLETCHER: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Now, your reaction?

MIKE FLETCHER: Well, very very disappointed. And I believe that Monday 16th June will long be remembered as Black Monday in Peterborough.
PAUL STAINTON: Why?
MIKE FLETCHER: This was the day that LibDems, the Labour Group and the Werrington First outfit united to support the Conservatives.
PAUL STAINTON: Why is that a black thing? They’re the only ones with a credible plan to solve the budget deficit, aren’t they?
MIKE FLETCHER: Well I don’t think they are. The plans that David Harrington had were never aired, never given a chance to air them. So we’ll never know, will we?
PAUL STAINTON: Was David Harrington the right man to put forward? Because perhaps he didn’t have the charisma; he didn’t have the wherewithal to win over Labour and Liberals.
MIKE FLETCHER: Well, the thing is, in my opinion, councillor Harrington would have proved to be a popular and competent leader of this council. He has represented the Northborough ward with honesty and compassion.
PAUL STAINTON: So why didn’t Labour and the LibDems vote for him? Why did they vote with Marco instead?
MIKE FLETCHER: Now, you’ve got to ask them that. I don’t know. Strange things have happened, deals done in corners, so we’re told, which I don’t know if they’re true or they’re not. But we must accept the fact that ..
PAUL STAINTON: Deals done in corners?
MIKE FLETCHER: Well councillor Khan has got a chairmanship, hasn’t he, bringing in about eight grand a year for six meetings. So that sort of thing can concentrate the mind.
PAUL STAINTON: Well councillor Khan is with us. Nazim Khan, Leader of the Labour group in Peterborough. Nazim, good morning.
NAZIM KHAN: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Have you done a deal in the corner?
NAZIM KHAN: No I haven’t. The Labour Party’s position has been always consistent policy. It is that they are not in overall control, and they shouldn’t have overall control on the scrutiny committees.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you not getting a committeeship then?
NAZIM KHAN: I am. Yes.
PAUL STAINTON: Was that why you voted the way you did?
NAZIM KHAN: No. I did vote for Conservatives, which was didn’t want to vote for a chaos. That would have ended up in a chaos.
PAUL STAINTON: Why would it? You could have got together, all of you, and brought the Conservative administration down. You’ve been some of the biggest complainants. This was your chance. You had your biggest rival wobbling on the ropes. You could have delivered the knock-out punch.
NAZIM KHAN: Well we couldn’t We didn’t have the numbers.
PAUL STAINTON: Well you did, if you all voted together.
NAZIM KHAN: No. They were 29. We were 29. So we couldn’t have voted them down. If everybody from the opposition voted for the motion it would have, you know, just been 29 each.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s 29-28 I think you’ll find.
MIKE FLETCHER: 29-28.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s 29-28.
MIKE FLETCHER: And there were several Conservatives not there. If the opposition had united, we had a majority. Simple as that.
PAUL STAINTON: I think you’ve got your figures wrong Nazim.
NAZIM KHAN: No Paul. If all the Conservatives voted, and the Mayor had a casting vote, that would have been 29. But even by miracle, if we had taken the Conservative out, we couldn’t work together. That was the issue. We had a meeting with David Harrington, Nick Sandford and councillor Fox and we just couldn’t agree that we could work together.
PAUL STAINTON: Hmm. Some will say that it’s just easier to be in opposition and throw mud.
NAZIM KHAN: No no no.
PAUL STAINTON: You’ve taken the easy route.
NAZIM KHAN: No. If you had the numbers, you could work. How could you work with 17 individuals? It would have been impossible.
PAUL STAINTON: Mike?
MIKE FLETCHER: Yes, we were hoping .. the plan was for an all-party administration. I’m sure Nazim knows that, was told by David Harrington that. It would have taken in all parties, and at long last all councillors would have been representing the people who elect them instead of just sitting on their hands and letting the Conservatives, a few of the Conservatives, rule the roost.
PAUL STAINTON: What do you say to people that voted Labour Nazim in the local elections? Have you let them down?
NAZIM KHAN: No we haven’t. The people of Peterborough did not vote us to administration. We only gained one seat.
PAUL STAINTON: So basically people are happy with the status quo so you thought you’d go that way.
NAZIM KHAN: Of course not happy status quo. We got a real way forward of making some good changes in the constitution. We got real chance of trying to make a good thing. Maybe we come to conclusion that there’s a committee structure is better than the cabinet system.
PAUL STAINTON: The thing is you’re not all in agreement, are you? The Labour group’s split in two, isn’t it? John Knowles has resigned. Ed Murphy voted against Marco being Leader. There’s all sorts of splits and ructions in the Labour party in Peterborough, isn’t there, over this?
NAZIM KHAN: No. There’s two people wanted to go different way. So be it.
PAUL STAINTON: Is Labour together? Have they got an opposition that is credible to put together an alternative plan for Peterborough?
NAZIM KHAN: I’m absolutely certain that Labour’s together.
PAUL STAINTON: You’re not in disarray here?
NAZIM KHAN: No. You know, we are a united group. Look at the way that we stood out last night.
PAUL STAINTON: Well you sat on your hands last night.
NAZIM KHAN: No.
PAUL STAINTON: You didn’t stand out, did you?
NAZIM KHAN: We just couldn’t agree with the Independent Forum that we could form a colation.
PAUL STAINTON: There’ll be Labour people though, listening to this this morning. They’ll be aghast. They’ll be astounded that you’ve sat on your hands.
NAZIM KHAN: Well why should they be? Because you know we sort of ..
PAUL STAINTON: Because you’re there as an opposition Nazim.
NAZIM KHAN: Well we still are. We are credible opposition.
PAUL STAINTON: But you didn’t oppose.
NAZIM KHAN: Of course we .. we couldn’t .. we couldn’t {UNCLEAR} one Tory to another.
PAUL STAINTON: Going forward, where do you think it leaves Peterborough City Council with Marco Cereste still in charge?
NAZIM KHAN: I think our hope is they will lose more seats and we gain more seats and we will hopefully take control. That is what our mission is.
PAUL STAINTON: If you take control, have you got a plan, or is that part of the problem, you haven’t got a plan so you don’t really want to be in control?
NAZIM KHAN: No no we have a plan.
PAUL STAINTON: what is it?
NAZIM KHAN: We want to oust this Conservative government. Look at a couple of years ago, they had 42 seats. This is the first time that the Conservatives actually not in overall control.
PAUL STAINTON: OK. If you were in overall control, and you had won this vote, how would you go about tackling this ¬£19 million deficit next year then? What is your plan? You say you’ve got one.
NAZIM KHAN: Well the plan is sort of imposed on us. It’s not our doing. So we’ll have to look at how we can best deal with it. It’s the national government who are ..
PAUL STAINTON: They’re just wishy-washy words Nazim. What’s your plan? You said you’ve got a plan. What’s your plan?
NAZIM KHAN: They are dictating, you know, what we have a good settlement. So, you know, we’ll have to look at what can we do.
PAUL STAINTON: Well the settlement wouldn’t change. What would your plan be? You said you had a plan. What was it?
NAZIM KHAN: Well we don’t know what the settlement will be. At the moment it’s a prediction.
PAUL STAINTON: But you’ve got to work on that. What would your plan be? You said you’d got a plan. What’s the plan?
NAZIM KHAN: The plan is that we will try to make sure that we don’t have the front-line services go down the tube. So we’re trying to protect the front-line services.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. I don’t hear much of a plan. I just hear a wish, a wish and a hope.
NAZIM KHAN: Yes. That’s how we’re going to tackle it.
PAUL STAINTON: OK Nazim. Nazim Khan, wishing and hoping that things will get better in Peterborough. That’s Labour’s plan. What do you think? He didn’t vote against. Labour didn’t vote against Marco Cereste last night. Was that the right way to go, to keep the present administration?

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2 thoughts on “Peterborough Labour Let Tories Off the Hook”

  1. Please remember the Peterborough Independent Forum (PIF) group contains three Liberal Party councillors (Dogsthorpe Ward) and all three voted for the motion to oust Cllr Cereste as Leader of PCC. In fact Cllr Adrian Miners spoke on the Motion.
    The votes to oust Cllr Cereste were there on the night. Twenty nine joint opposition/anti Tory Cereste Cllrs against 24 Conservatives.
    The Labour Group ran away from their responsibilities, betrayed their voters.
    The Local Lib Dems simply bottled out of their so called ‘responsible opposition’ status and simply copied the position of their Members of Parliament. P’Boro Lib Dem Councillors joining in a coalition with local conservatives.
    Both sets of supporters/voters must be pretty sick of their behaviour…..why vote for these middle parties, next time best to vote conservative direct. Makes you wonder what is the point of the Lib Dems?
    The council agenda recorded one slight important difference in the Committee structure….the main Scrutiny Committee Chair was proposed to be Cllr Khan (Labour Group Leader) , with a Tory as his Vice Chairman.
    Stinks of dels behind closed doors, before the council meeting involving the Tories, Labour and Lib Dem Groups.
    Their behaviour really encourages respect of politicians NOT.
    They should be hanging their heads in shame.
    No fancy excuses will change the position that they were offered the chance to change the political make-up and direction of PCC on the 22nd May, but they chose not to and hand over control to the defeated Conservatives for another year.

  2. Readers may wish to note that this was the last straw as far as I was concerned and as soon as I realised what Labour were doing I left the Labour Group .
    I walked out and was then thrown out of the Labour Party after very many years membership and am now an unaffiliated sole Independent .
    Cllr John Knowles

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