Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Cllr Rod Scott and the Merton Park Independents

I could not let tonight’s meeting go by (it was an Overview and Scrutiny Commission meeting) without reporting on the rant by Cllr Rod Scott (and he is one as well!) at a briefing before tonight’s Overview and Commission meeting. This was set up as informal meeting to take members through what was the first meeting of the Commission. Rod Scott who chairs the General Purposes Committee and is a substitute member on the Commission launched into a tirade against Cllr Peter Southgate who chairs the Commission and Merton Park independents on the Council. This related to the AGM and his comment was as follows “supporting Labour amendments at the AGM and whether this will continue to be the case in the Commission and whether some kind of pact exists as they failed to support the reasoned Tory council proposals at the AGM” (or the Tories ad hoc plans to abolish two forums which involve the public without any consultation). He seemed to be under the apprehension that we had a deal to vote together at the Commission (completely false). The performance of Rod Scott was embarrassing though from a Labour perspective very entertaining.

Clearly their failure to gain overall control has hurt Rod very badly, I know he spent the whole of election day in Longthornton ward (a wasted effort) where if they had gained only one seat it would have given them overall control, they only needed to overturn a 42 majority from 2002 they failed dismally in that endeavour with Labour's majority increasing to over 250 and a swing in our favour. Clearly it must hurt especially as Merton was the only target Borough the Tories failed to get overall control in London.

In terms of the Merton Park Independents, I have to say that they have always been impartial and have made up their minds on an issue-by-issue basis. They took a decision at the AGM to support a Tory minority administration but give the mayoralty to Labour (and with it the casting vote if they vote with us on any motion at Council). At all times Peter Southgate their leader and Merton Park Independents have played a balanced role, I may not necessarily agree with every decision they make but I respect their democratic mandate. In the last Council on many occasions they voted against the then Labour Council but they genuinely decided on each issue and came to a decision. At the AGM the situation was described accurately by Peter Southgate "as Labour lost but the Tories did not win".

Merton Park used to be a Tory ward until they lost a by election in 1989 to the Independents over a proposed relief road and with it their overall majority on the Council which they have failed to win back since. They went on to lose their two other seats at the 1990 Local Election. During the election the tories put round false information that we were planning to make a deal with the Merton Park Independents and that we had given Peter Southgate the Deputy Mayor to secure his support. Despite targeting the ward at every election since 1990, the Tories have always failed to re-gain the ward and it is a very sore point with many of them because if they had won here it would have given them carte blanche to do what they like, along with the overall majority they so desire.

In Merton, the Merton Park Independents do hold the balance of power and they could remove the Tory administration at the next Council meeting if they so wished (and Rod Scott as Chair of General Purposes would be one of them). This is very unlikely to happen (much as I would like it to) but you think if they had any political nous they would be cordial towards them. Sadly some Merton Tories think they have a God given right to rule with few checks and balances. While the election result was not to my liking, we have to make the best of the situation and result has left the balance of power with the Merton Park Independents, lets accept the situation and move on.


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