Welwyn Hatfield ‘does not need resident’s working groups’

A CONCEPT to get more residents involved with local politics has been shelved.

Both the ruling Tory adminstration and Labour opposition on Welwyn Hatfield Council dismissed the Liberal Democrats idea of forming working groups, to hear residents’ views.

Ironically for the Tories, the snub came on the eve of David Cameron releasing the party’s manifesto promising to give people greater control over their own lives.

Speaking at last Monday’s full council meeting, Lib Dem leader Tony Skottowe said working groups should be set up to advance the idea of localism and to get more residents involved – and voting.

While council leader John Dean agreed local authorities should “empower people to take charge of their own lives and communities” and use “real communication – not spin doctoring”, he suggested working groups would add an unwanted level of consultation.

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He added: “We have been doing this [talking to residents] for several years and we will continue to do this.

“And we will be able to do this more pro-actively when the Conservatives take power in May.”

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Fellow Tories Michael Long and Stephen Boulton agreed.

Cllr Long said he felt a working group would just be an extra burden on the taxpayer, with Cllr Boulton adding he felt nobody would want such a group, as often only a couple of residents attended meetings in his ward of Brookmans Park and Little Heath.

The Labour ranks also argued the idea was not valid and that councillors were already out and helping their constituents.

Hatfield Central representative Maureen Cook said: “I have been a local councillor for 18 years and I work with the local community in Hatfield all the time.”

But Cllr Skottowe said he was “disappointed” people had not quite understood the plan.

He said: “There is a growing democratic deficit within local government and a consequent lack of interest on the part of the voters.

“How many of us have heard ‘there’s no point voting, they just do what they want anyway’?”

The Handside ward representative added: “When did you last see a member of the public at a cabinet meeting?

“In our view the system is fundamentally lacking the opportunity for other councillors to have any input into the process, let alone a mere member of the public.”

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