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Some thoughts on the Kent County Council elections

May 7, 2017 11:18 PM
By Trudy Dean

Trudy Dean"Even though the opposition numbers may be limited, I can assure you the leader of the Liberal Democrats Trudy Dean is a very experienced and very sharp politician.

"We hope they provide the right checks and balance and scrutiny of the big decisions we make and support this county council which has a very proud history to continue to go in the right direction.

"We have collective responsibility on the big decisions." Paul Carter, Leader of the ConservativeGroup at Kent County Council

ON THE KCC ELECTION RESULT

Kent Liberal Democrats performed better than in the rest of the Country, and retained our seven seats on the County Council. We are disappointed that more of the falling Labour and UKIP votes didn't come our way, and sad to have lost a young and talented Councillor in Brian Clark.

We are delighted that Antony Hook, fighting a very pro-European campaign, romped home in Faversham taking the seat from the Conservatives.

This means that, as before, we are now once again the second biggest party on Kent County Council, and will lead the opposition. This shows that, while Labour have gone in and out of popularity, and UKIP have come and gone, the Lib Dems remain the enduring party of opposition to the Conservatives in Kent.

ON HOLDING THE CONSERVATIVES TO ACCOUNT

KCC has a Cabinet system which means all decisions are taken by only ten members of the 81 strong councillors. Decisions can often be taken in private, or in emergency situations. All committees are chaired by Conservatives who ultimately control the agenda.

This makes it crucial that the ten cabinet members are questioned strongly on the decisions they make on caring for the elderly, schools, roads and traffic which are KCC's responsibility. With only 14 members of the opposition, that will be a difficult job, particularly when all Labour members are new councillors. But no one is right all the time. KCC got it wrong when they proposed turning off street lights from midnight. We got that changed through using the Scrutiny process.

Paul Carter, Leader of the Conservative Group, has said that he believes it is important that we have effective examination of Cabinet members. I agree. In my view, he must demonstrate he means that by making sure that KCC's single Cabinet Scrutiny Committee is chaired by an opposition member. That is best practice nationally, and was recommended by the Independent Panel to KCC who told Mr Carter in public that effective scrutiny cannot be achieved if the process is controlled by the Conservatives.

I shall be writing to Mr Carter to ask him to make this change. With a membership of 67 members of the 81 strong Council, there is no way the Conservatives can be outvoted. I can see no good reason why he should resist making the change to ensure that questioning is as challenging as it needs to be to ensure KCC's services are as good as they can be.

ON THE GENERAL ELECTION

We must use the next few weeks to firstly explain to people what HARD BREXIT, SOFT BREXIT, and the SINGLE MARKET mean, probably for the first time. Most people haven't a clue and the referendum debate was a confusing, shambolic disgrace.

Secondly, it doesn't matter whether you voted to leave or remain, NO-ONE knows right now what deal we are going to get with Europe. It's like early retirement; it's a lovely idea, but it depends on the deal you get out of your employer because it's going to have to last the rest of your life.

So it makes perfect sense that the final deal should be agreed by a vote of the British people. The Liberal Democrat party is the only party which is arguing for that.

Trudy Dean

To hear Trudy's interview on Radio Kent on Saturday morning click here and scroll forward to 2 hours, 15 minutes