Welwyn Hatfield Council ‘a complete dictatorship’

PUBLISHED: 17:27 10 October 2011

John Dean

John Dean

Archant

WELWYN Hatfield Council leader John Dean has been accused of running “a complete dictatorship” after stripping two councillors of their seats on committees because they voted against his party’s views.

As the Welwyn Hatfield Times reported last week Conservative councillors Les Page and Dom Cox voted with the opposition in throwing out plans to bring in three-hour parking limits at King George V Playing Fields, at a meeting of the cabinet housing and planning panel.

Shocked by the pair’s “perverse” decision John Dean removed Peartree councillor Dom Cox from all three committees he sat on, with Welham Green’s Les Page removed from three of the five he served.

Speaking to the WHT about his decision councillor Dean said their actions were “ridiculous” and he had never had to take such action before.

He said: “The whole issue of how to deal with parking in the KGV Playing Fields Car Park and Beehive area has engendered considerable debate with the community.

“Having listened to all the views put forward, a decision was made by cabinet to proceed with waiting restrictions in the KGV car park.

“It was the clear view of both the panel and cabinet such restrictions represented the best compromise in what is a difficult situation.”

But the two Tory councillors voted with Lib Dem Malcolm Cowan and Labour’s Kieran Thorpe and Margaret Birleson to throw out the plans.

Councillor Dean said: “The purpose of the meeting was not to re-open the debate.

“This had all gone through group and cabinet, there hadn’t been any opposition.

“One of them [Page or Cox] went into that meeting determined to vote it down, the other was swayed.

“It’s very important to us that decisions are carried through, to have our own members oppose us on important decisions is why I’ve taken this action.”

He added: “I must make it clear Conservative councillors are free to debate issues at the various committees and panels they sit on, but it’s also important we give clear and strong civic leadership, and once a decision has been made by cabinet it’s important it is not subsequently undermined by councillors who fail to address the appropriate issues.

But the leader’s action has been criticised by opposition councillors.

Labour group leader Kieran Thorpe said: “Its a sad reflection on the state of local democracy when an elected councillor is punished in this way for making a decision they feel is right.

“It’s a disgusting way to treat people and shows how hard it is to reason with the Conservative Party in Welwyn Hatfield when they are bullied into accepting the views of their leaders, over and above those of residents.”

Lib Dem councillor Malcolm Cowan agreed. He said: “What’s the point of having members if they can’t have an opinion?

“It’s a complete dictatorship.”

Councillor Les Page remains on the Standards and Licensing committees.

The Welwyn Hatfield Times was unable to contact Les Page directly and Dom Cox did not wish to comment.


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