Speech in Response to Cllr Greenhalgh’s Spatial Framework motion

The second time I rose to speak at tonight’s Council meeting, it was in support of a motion brought by the Leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr David Greenhalgh, regarding the highly controversial Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. This is a highly controversial subject, with large residents’ groups popping up to fight against it. Cllr Morris, Labour Group Leader and Leader of the Council, has a veto he can use to block the Spatial Framework but he has so far not used it.

My original speech was quite conciliatory and was a request for the Labour Group to work with the Conservatives and the minority parties on the Council to fight the Spatial Framework in Bolton’s best interests. I had to re-write it to a large extent today because of a Labour leaflet I was passed today. The leaflet attempts to blame the Conservatives for the housing problem in Bolton and tries to frame Labour as the protector of the people of Bolton; even though Cllr Morris could have vetoed the Spatial Framework and chose not to.

The full text of the speech as I presented it is below.

We all know the Spatial Framework has been one of the most controversial ideas this council has faced for some time – although I feel an argument could be made that it shares this distinction with another matter we’ve already discussed tonight. The feeling amongst the people of Bolton is that we are all being asked to shoulder a burden that other Councils are refusing to properly share.

Moreover, a number of Councillors have been using the Spatial Framework to attempt to score petty points against others; claiming they are the defenders of the public interest against the inaction of others – Bolton West’s MP, Chris Green, has born the brunt of that particular bit of nastiness, despite his long-running campaigns against the Spatial Framework.

Now we have this leaflet from Labour, delivered in Westhoughton, which tries to blame us for Labour’s decade of misrule. This leaflet claims the housing crisis was, and I quote, “caused by the Tories and Lib Dems”. This is utterly ridiculous! A quick glance at FullFact, the Independent fact-checking charity, finds that social housing building fell under the Labour government compared to its Conservative predecessor.

That’s 13 years of Labour failing to deliver the housing we need – and yet now Labour want to try to blame us for not magically reversing their lack of foresight during a five year Coalition? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

It’s not the Conservatives who are to blame for the housing problem Bolton faces. It’s not the Conservatives who are to blame for the farce of the Spatial Framework. As we all know, the Spatial Framework is under the control of AGMA, and AGMA is unfortunately under the control of the Labour-run Councils.

I therefore find it quite saddening that while Labour harps on about defending “the people’s” interests, it has so far done nothing to stop this blatant undermining of the people’s best interests. The Spatial Framework requires all Council Leaders to agree to it, does it not? Why then, since it is so definitely not in Bolton’s best interests, has Bolton Council’s Leader not yet vetoed it?

If this motion does not pass, and I sincerely hope that is does pass, will the Leader give us his assurance that he will use his veto and block this disgraceful assault on our borough? I’ve asked for it, my Ward colleagues have asked for it, Chris Green asked for it, the people asked for it.

Will the Leader back up his words in the Bolton News on the 1st of September and the bold statement in this Labour leaflet about “protecting our green spaces”? Will the Leader promise this Council he will veto spatial framework and protect Bolton?

Cllr Nick Peel, who always rises to attempt to belittle me whenever I speak in Council (his favourite turn of phrase is suggesting that I don’t do my research, which is of course ludicrous), then rose to echo Cllr Morris’ earlier claim that he did not understand what I was saying. I think all this shows is that Labour simply don’t listen when opposition Councillors are speaking; as the speech was perfectly straightforward.

Cllr Peel also claimed that the leaflet Labour put out didn’t make the statements I said it made; which is not true either. The headline refers to a “Tory greenbelt land grab”, so any claim that they are not trying to blame the problem on us is simply indefensible right from the start.