'Praise Labour' motion slapped down

PUBLISHED: 10:01 23 January 2008 | UPDATED: 22:22 26 October 2009

IT all started with a motion that was never seriously going to get passed. Asking a Tory-dominated council to heap praise on the Labour Government was about as likely to succeed as health chiefs waking up tomorrow and deciding they made a mistake about th

IT all started with a motion that was never seriously going to get passed.

Asking a Tory-dominated council to heap praise on the Labour Government was about as likely to succeed as health chiefs waking up tomorrow and deciding they made a mistake about the Hatfield super-hospital.

Despite the odds stacked against her, Margaret Birleson, the Labour group leader on Welwyn Hatfield Council, valiantly asked her rivals for such backing.

"I put this motion in front of you tonight in the real hope it can be agreed cross-party, without anybody taking offence or having anything substantially against it," she started.

Laughter

Unsurprisingly, the laughs that reverberated around the council chamber at last Monday's full meeting could be heard for miles.

Undeterred, Cllr Birleson said an increase in funding amounted to £382,000 extra for the borough this year - giving the "tools and ammunition" to cut council tax while increasing service provision.

Council leader John Dean brought some "sanity to the motion" and said his opposite number was being "over the top".

He acknowledged the extra funding, but said the Government was taking back millions more in housing rates and council house receipts.

If the motion had been brought last month, he added, "I'd have said the Government resembled Ebenezer Scrooge far more than they resembled Father Christmas".

Lib Dem group leader Tony Skottowe said Cllr Birleson's use of the word grateful "did stick in my throat".

And to applause and shouts of "hear hear", he said the idea of thanking a Government that reneged on its promise about the Hatfield super-hospital and wanted to concrete over half of Hertfordshire was "simply preposterous".

"I do appreciate Gordon Brown needs support. However, he isn't getting any from us," Cllr Skottowe added.

There was a counter-offensive from Labour councillor Maureen Cook, who laid into what she termed "typical Tories".

"They won't say thank you for anything," she said. "It's just how they are, they have to snipe and moan."

After numerous amendments and votes, a motion was finally passed by the 28 Tory councillors present.

It acknowledged the Government's grant and praised council officer Bob Jewell, former borough councillor Richard Smith and MP Grant Shapps for their work in ensuring student dwellings were now taken into account in grant calculations.

Cross-party support was lacking, though - as the 10 Labour and Lib Dem councillors in the chamber abstained.

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