WHAT are we to make of the new council setup in Solihull?
After 10 years of a Conservative-run council we now have an alliance between the Liberal Democrats and Labour. Will it work, and what will it mean for us, the council taxpayers?
For many it will seem strange that while the Lib Dems and Conservatives are in coalition in central government, they can suddenly forge a partnership with Labour in Solihull. Aren’t they being a bit promiscuous, leaping into bed with one party here and another there?
Well, the fact is that after the local elections, just the same as nationally, nobody voted for any party in sufficient numbers to give them overall control. Alliances between the different parties happen in other authorities, like Birmingham where the Conservatives and Lib Dems run the largest council in Europe, and Wales (Labour and Plaid Cymru).
In fact, virtually every country in Europe (except Greece) is run like this: with alliances which work for the good because each partner has to make the case for change instead of having carte blanche to ride roughshod over the arguments of other parties.
Nationally, the Lib Dems chose to work with the Conservatives, who were keen to do business and keen to bring change. In Solihull, after 10 years of Conservative rule, we chose Labour because they too wanted to effect change for the better. That’s why councillors put themselves through the many hours of unpaid work they do: not just to oppose but to make things happen for the better for the communities they serve.
So what will this mean for Solihull? The first aim is better, cheaper services. We all know cuts are coming, but instead of shaving off a bit here and a bit there, officers will conduct a root and branch review. You’ll be asked ‘what services do you want?’ and then council officers will look completely afresh at how best those services can be delivered.
In fact, consultation will form a big part of the way things are run from now on. It means that the people in charge will not be the ruling party, or the officers, but you and me. Special forums will be set up where you can personally raise issues directly with the people you elected. And you’ll be able to take your councillors to task publicly if they don’t deliver. Won’t that be fun!