Harlow Tories angry as bid to move to elections every four years withdrawn

News / Sat 4th Nov 2023 at 06:58am

THERE were angry scenes in the council chamber as a bid by the Tories to move to local elections every four years failed.

The proposal needed a two thirds majority but with the twelve Labour councillors set to vote against, the proposal was dead in the water and twenty five minutes into the debate, the Tories pulled it.

In the interval after wards, three Conservative councillors, led by veteran deputy leader David Carter, crossed the floor to speak to the Labour leader, Chris Vince.

Whatever was said, Cllr Vince left the meeting visibly shaken.

YH understands that an investigation will take place into what exactly occurred.

After the meeting, he said:

“Less 1% of the electorate of Harlow District took part in this consultation and I can tell you from knocking on doors and speaking to considerably more than 1% of the electorate, no one has brought this up on the doorstep. 

What they care about is the service the council provides and if you think the relatively small amount of money this proposal could save will make up for the £62.3m the government has cut from this council you’re kidding yourself.  

We’re told that the low turn out in elections is because of too many elections. 

I think we need to be a bit more reflective than that. 

We know why people don’t vote, because people have bought into the narrative that ‘we’re all the same’.  

“And as a politician who didn’t party during the pandemic, would have fixed schools before they were unusable and supported keeping ticket offices open before it was popular, I do find that extremely frustrating.  

The way around that is by being constantly answerable to the electorate, continuing to engage with the electorate and trying to deal with their issues as best we can. 

Sadly, the childish and combative behaviour of the administration group last night only demeans our council and the people we represent.   

“I maintain that running away from the electorate is not the answer”. 

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49 Comments for Harlow Tories angry as bid to move to elections every four years withdrawn:

2023-11-04 08:27:25

Party political nonsense by Labour here. They are already voted for a 4 year term. The current process just wastes money and sees low turnouts by splitting the votes it into thirds and doing it every year rather than voting for all if them at once. The idea that our process (as one used in the minority) must be the right one may be navel gazing nonsense, but is also an excuse for Labour to try to block positive progress. Shame on them

2023-11-04 08:32:47

Chris Vince needs to be running Harlow he lives in harlow sees and hears the people of harlow he’s out there in the local pub he’s at the local football he’s doing community events he’s there to be spoken too by any member of the public he is real,he genuinely wants the best for harlow residents he’s the only one that tells it how it is,these lot in control do you ever see them ? I only see them when there’s a photo opportunity,oh we saved a cat out of this tree

2023-11-04 08:35:28

Turn out is low as our politicians are appalling and work against the average people. Lockdowns, net zero, high taxes,low and poor delivery of services. Yet oddly connected people get richer and richer. Labour cons and lib dems they are all pointless and put party and backers before people

2023-11-04 08:35:53

Meanwhile Harlow taxpayers foot the bill for elections every year, again it's a clear case of local councillors playing political football rather than doing what's best for those that actually elect them.

Dan Swords
2023-11-04 10:20:22

If Cllr Vince’s comments held one ounce of water, why did he propose to cancel the local elections this year?! As reported here: https://www.yourharlow.com/2022/09/20/harlow-labour-call-for-next-years-local-elections-to-be-cancelled/ I quote his reasons for proposing to cancel these elections: “ For this reason the Labour Group believe that it would be prudent to cancel the 2023 local elections thereby saving tens of thousands of pounds of tax payers money on an election which will have no long term benefit. “ Politicians of all parties must now come together, rather than fight elections, to do what they can to provide support and practical solutions to these issues. In that spirit we seek cross party support for this proposal” Yet this week it was proposed on those grounds and he voted against it!

Cllr Jodi Dunne
2023-11-04 11:53:07

Due to the sudden conversion of the Tories to caring what the public thinks, I expect the Harlow Tory group to immediately call for a general election as nobody voted for their last two prime ministers. Indeed, none of the Tory group on Harlow Council even got the chance to vote for or against Rushi Sunak!

2023-11-04 11:54:05

What is the point of any council elections, when you still have the same imcompetence in council departments whoever wins.

Tony Durcan
2023-11-04 12:12:15

As usually the leader of the council has missed the point. The concerns raised was about the conduct of 2 of his councillors regarding the abusive and threatening behaviour that was displayed in front of you. The chair of the council has to intervene and tell them to calm down. It was only due to the professional behaviour of Chris Vince that we managed to complete the meeting. Sadly this is a reflection of the attitude of certain Tory councillors and the leadership of the Tory group. I hope those councillors will reflect and accept their failures under the Nolan principles. Not surprised that most people have little confidence or trust in politicians. If they did we may see more engagement.

James Leppard
2023-11-04 12:47:31

Cllr Durcan, as I pointed out during the debate, citing you and your last point. How can you expect greater public engagement when you are your Labour colleagues blatantly treat public opinion (as expressed in the consultation) with utter disdain and contempt. Cllr Jodi Dunne shows his complete ignorance of our constitutional system (just as many of Harlow Labour councillors fail to understand how the voting operates for council elections). In the UK, we do not vote for the PM or party leaders. We vote for MPs to represent our constituencies. The leader of the party with the most seats is invited by HM to form a government. A change of leader does not affect the mandate. We had the same when Labour’s Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair in 2007 when Blair resigned. It has happened on numerous occasions in the past . Just the usual nonsense we have come expect from Harlow Labour to distract from their blatant disregard for a public consultation, the results of which did not coincide with their petty local interests.

2023-11-04 12:59:59

"In the interval after wards, three Conservative councillors, led by veteran deputy leader David Carter, crossed the floor to speak to the Labour leader, Chris Vince. Whatever was said, Cllr Vince left the meeting visibly shaken. " This must be what Rishi Sunak was referring to when he pledged to lead a government with “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”. Did these three Conservative councillors threaten Chris Vince, but in a way that reflected “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”. If so, I'm sure that each and every one of them will cooperate with the investigation and not "accidentally" lose any WhatsApp messages. Because that never happens.

Cllr Jodi Dunne
2023-11-04 13:20:05

Twice. You've changed prime ministers twice without asking the country. And we voted for our national leader. Did you, Cllr Leppard?

James Leppard
2023-11-04 13:39:00

Jodi Dunne, you miss the point completely. Go an read some Constitutional Law. A lot of your party are now calling for Starmer to resign! Working out a treat!

Cllr Jodi Dunne
2023-11-04 13:41:50

20+ points ahead. I'd say it's working out alright.

James Leppard
2023-11-04 14:12:10

Which makes your vote on Thursday even stupid, even by your standards! It was not a party issue as was made clear by the various examples presented of other authorities.

Cllr Jodi Dunne.
2023-11-04 14:26:02

That appears to be a rather defeatist attitude, "please vote for things that will beat us and put us out of our misery!!"

2023-11-04 14:26:36

James - Sunak did not even have the bottle to go to membership as he knew he was not wanted. Truss was the best and she was the subject to nothing more than a coup. The bond rates etc are much worse today than under her. Her low tax approach was the right way (she should have slashed state spending too).

James Leppard
2023-11-04 14:41:24

No Jodi. It is about administrative efficiency, giving whichever party is in power a realistic term to try to implement the mandate they were elected upon. Why do the vast majority of English authorities operate on 4 year cycles? The current system is both costly and inefficient. As I said, it is not a party political issue. Even several of your more enlightened members informed us that they supported the change but were coerced and threatened by Vince to tow his line. Why? He must be scared of something, for sure.

2023-11-04 15:07:43

I agree with Ron. And from reading this thread of comments, well it seems we are in a school playground playing tit for tat. I vote using the postal option instead of long ques during the working day. Maybe having an online portal for voting along side postal votes is a more valid way of saving funds. Also one lot of voting a year instead of 3. Instead of constant bit***ng between political parties you should be focusing on how to making the voting system cheaper, and then like a true democracy put a vote to the people to decide. Like i said moving things online and postal votes i reckon could increase votes made. Due to the fact they are not restricted to a certain time frame. Tories want everyone working 45+ hours a week, so how can they find time to vote in the current system. Shame on you councillors for your childish bickering

Cllr Jodi Dunne.
2023-11-04 15:09:36

As you seem to be such a fan of administrative efficiency, was it therefore administratively inefficient to allow your members to vote for your latest national leader? Does that not even irk you just a little I wonder.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-11-04 15:12:35

At the heart of this matter is the fact that Councillors across the country have and are taking action which sees them and Council officers disengaging with the public they are supposed to represent. Harlow Council closed it's Neighbourhood Offices back in the early 2000's, it closed Tenant Advisory Groups, it banned leaseholders who rented out their homes from attending Leaseholder meetings, it has recently closed it's cash office, it is almost impossible to meet a council officer in person, Councillor Surgeries seem in the main to have stopped and finally, the fact is that most Councillors are only seen in their Wards when an election is coming up. Holding elections less often does not increase voter turnout, at most it only saves about 60p per year per electorate and more by-elections are likely to be needed if elections are only held every four years. The other issue I would raise (to James) is, has any survey been carried out in areas where elections are held less often to find out what residents feel about that system, I doubt it. The pitiful number of people who responded to the consultation only goes to show how badly the Council does when it come to consultation with residents. As for what happened involving Cllr Vince, the Conservative Councillors should be ashamed of themselves.

2023-11-04 15:30:13

All Harlow residents should be shown the comments section on here, it clearly shows the lack of professionalism and gutter politics from both sides, the He said She said attitude is not what Harlow residents need or deserve, Move on guys and do what's best all round for Harlow residents

2023-11-04 15:34:30

Pedro they cannot because that is how political parties are, they bicker with each other, trying to score one up on the other. Mean while the country, county and town declines as we are lead by clowns

2023-11-04 17:02:14

Adam, the comments above from both sides clearly shows the poor quality of councillors we currently have and I guess this is translated upwards to the National parties.

2023-11-04 19:14:32

James Leppard, you arrogant patronising tone reflects the inappropriate bullying culture of you party, as further witnessed during the ongoing COVID enquiry this week! Residents should have the opportunity to offload incompetent and ineffective local representatives and not be stuck with them for 4 years. That said, the frequency at with conservative councillors seem to resign ( though alas not step down) , means residents are subject to change on a annual basis anyway! To the point regarding leadership change and mandate, the technical point is in fact IRRELEVANT, I don’t care about your whining about constitution sir, if the leader goes, particularly if their OWN party has ousted then the mandate is lost. ( note Tony Blair stepped down and had indicated he would !! ). That your precious constitution allowed this country’s leader to be elected solely by Conservative Party members ONLY, is a disgrace… witness the shambles that resulted from Truss’s tenure. To the point above, voters need to be able to rid ourselves of bad governance more easily, time for change! As to the behaviour of Tory councillors after this meeting, I sincerely hope that if any wrongdoing is identified this is followed by an immediate unreserved apology and preferably resignation! Bullying is not acceptable! About time your party started acting with some level of decorum and honour sir!

Kim Oconnor
2023-11-04 19:25:14

Dear oh dear. 😂 😂

James Leppard
2023-11-04 20:01:30

Tiredoffailedpoliticalnorms. I have no idea what you are referring to by an 'arrogant, patronising tone'. I tend to stick to facts. Grateful if you would elucidate to substantiate your assertion. I think you and some others are jumping to judgement and ignoring the very basic concept of 'Audi alteram partem': wait until you have heard from both sides. Thank you.

Bruce Downey
2023-11-04 20:15:01

Saturday Night Fever..🕺

2023-11-04 20:17:40

On the contrary, we’ve been listening to your “side” quite enough thank you very much. And Oh my oh my, quoting latin, simply emphasises the arrogance and adds a condescending tone to the mix, id probat argumentum meum my friend id probat argumentum meum!!

James Leppard
2023-11-04 20:28:14

When you refer to arrogance and condescension, you must be confusing me for Chris Vince. It was his clear arrogance and condescension treating the outcome of the public consultation with complete disdain and contempt.

2023-11-04 20:37:16

No sir I’m not confusing anything. And for reference, please note I said “if any wrongdoing” is found IF! I hope you read you briefs more carefully! Enough of this joyful banter.. though I can’t help noticing…ultimam verbum amas, James? Ultimam verbum amas!!

2023-11-04 20:47:08

I was present at this meeting sitting in the public area, and I can honestly say I was disgusted with the Conservatives and how they acted and behaved, n9t only with their attitude but also Conservative members on their phone constantly scrolling another trying to sleep. I used to vote Conservative but no more. Maybe more people need to go to the meetings and see for themselves what goes on.

2023-11-04 21:30:25

Notvotingtoryagain - I think many of us traditional conservative voters are feeling this way. Saying we will get labour will not change it the Cons are all utterly appalling no longer will I vote for them. We need a none of the above box

Nicholas Taylor
2023-11-05 08:31:33

You are absolutely right Notvotingtoryagain, it really is a shame that more people do not attend Council meetings to see what goes on. For some four years members of the Harlow Alliance Party have been scrutinising Councillors by asking them questions at either Cabinet or Full Council meetings. Until we started to attend, very few if any members of the public attended but I am pleased to say that more and more people have come along when a subject which interests them comes up for debate. What you saw last week is what you get when Parties wedded to Westminster are in control of the Council Chamber, all the old political differences come to the fore and common sense goes out the window., to the detriment of those of us living in Harlow. Nicholas Taylor, Leader of Harlow Alliance.

2023-11-05 10:15:57

Any consultation from the Council that doesn't get a response from at least 10% of the community or at least 1000 residents isn't worth the paper it's written on. Residents are treated badly and for fools. It's clear the aim of the Councillors with consultations is to tick a box, NOT raise the awareness of the public to what grand and frankly often daft politically driven plans they have pre decided would be good for their cronies in case the plan is contested. Even when the local MP tells them to "Go back to the drawing board" and 6000 residents sign a petition, produce a detailed report on alternatives and the negative impacts on the town as wth the hggt pfp and Eastern Crossing these guys, once they have the power, totally ignore rational & better ways forward. If there was loutish behaviour in the meeting then it's an indication of a lack of an ability to think logically: something we don't want to see from politicians.

Paul Fagsn
2023-11-05 12:44:50

I’ve only seen Chris Vince visibly shaken once , it was at my quiz at the hare when he got one of the guess the year questions right

2023-11-06 08:16:43

Only just caught up with this. Here we go again, Bagpuss and his merry men at their best. What I would say is, elections every year are a good thing. Its a chance for local people to vote and take out any councillors not doing what they should be doing. For example if there was a councillor who didn't attend meetings for nearly a year, why should they be allowed to stay in for 4 years. Not sure if there are any, maybe Councillor Leppard who appears to be very vocal over this issue can enlighten us?

Kim Oconnor
2023-11-06 09:20:55

Well said Phil.

James Leppard
2023-11-06 10:51:59

Phil, your argument is completely erroneous. Under the present system, voters cannot pick and choose which councillors to vote out. They can only vote them out when they are up for election. This was clearly explained during the debate.

2023-11-06 11:11:55

Councillor Leppard, you chose to ignore the last part of my comment. "For example if there was a councillor who didn't attend meetings for nearly a year, why should they be allowed to stay in for 4 years. Not sure if there are any, maybe Councillor Leppard who appears to be very vocal over this issue can enlighten us"? So are there any councillors you know of who are not attending meetings on a regular basis, or just the bare minimum? If so do you agree with me this is wrong, and they are not representing there own ward as they should? I look forward to your response.

2023-11-06 12:03:56

"Ron" has hit the nail on the head. Just like the Civil Service it matters not who is in power Civil Servants or Council Officers don't change

2023-11-06 15:11:30

Its gone very quiet? Councillor Leppard are you going to answer my question? Maybe another Councillor can help you? "So are there any councillors you know of who are not attending meetings on a regular basis, or just the bare minimum? If so do you agree with me this is wrong, and they are not representing there own ward as they should"?

James Leppard
2023-11-06 16:14:52

Phil, as a former councillor, you should know that any Councillor who does not attend council meetings for 6 months is out and a by-election takes place. That applies to all including a former Labour councillor for Staple Tye ward. Hopefully, you now understand how elections work too. You might like to educate your Labour colleagues. Consider yourself enlightened.

Mark Gough
2023-11-06 17:25:16

Wow Cllr.Leppard - aren't you an absolute charmer! If there is a Councillor with a more arrogant attitude on our Council I've yet to see them. You could probably lose the Tories an election all by yourself. Not Gideon Osborne is disguise are you by any chance. Perhaps a leaflet showing your Electorate all your posts on Your Harlow would put them off voting for you! Mark Gough - Reform UK

2023-11-06 18:08:05

Councillor Leppard, I don’t know who you are mistaking me for, but I am certainly not a former Councillor. Firstly can I say I find your tone and complete arrogance astonishing for someone in your position and await an apology. I don’t know exactly how the system works for a councillor that does not attend meetings and that was why I was asking. I am a member of the public using my right to ask a question, and you choose again to use me as an opportunity to have a dig at the Labour Party!! You are rude and I hope your leader does the right thing and deals with this in the way he should. You have no right to talk to anyone in the way you have done to me. YH comments are here for everyone, and you should never dangerously presume I am someone I am not. Maybe YH could interview you and ask why a local councillor elected by us the local people feels they have the right to use YH pages in such a spiteful, arrogant and aggressive way. I’m totally shocked.

James Leppard
2023-11-06 22:44:47

Phil, if you are not the Phil (ex Labour Councillor who posts under that name) that I thought you were, then please accept my unreserved apology.

James Leppard
2023-11-06 23:26:18

Mark Gough why so much hostility? I have not attacked you or your minority party. I would be more than happy for you to leaflet the entire town with my comments on YH, provided you set them in context. Would save me a lot of time. However, I thought you were planning to stand yourself. Do you have so many surplus volunteers to do my leafleting too? It would be churlish not to express my gratitude for your generous and selfless offer.

2023-11-07 08:14:33

Councillor Leppard, thank you for your apology. However, even if you did think I was someone else, then I still would not expect someone in your position, to act in the way that you did, or you do. You are obviously very passionate about the subject matter, which is to be commended, and I'm sure comes with its frustrations at times. However, there are ways and means of expressing your feelings without appearing to be rude, sarcastic or arrogant. I sincerely hope any further questions that I or others wish to raise in the future, will be addressed in a more constructive and adult way, without the need for such anger an venom. I accept your apology and move on.

James Leppard
2023-11-07 08:40:28

Phil. Thank you. I am also more than willing to meet and apologise in person. My contact details are on the Council website.

Mark Gough
2023-11-08 00:31:46

I think Phil sums up my feelings about your comments Cllr. Leopard. And I give you credit for your offered apology. Mark

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