Somerset’s Liberal Democrats and Labour Party have hit out at a decision by Conservative county councillors to ask the Government to defer next year’s County Council elections.
At a meeting of the whole County Council, the move received no support from the Liberal Democrat group of councillors, whose Leader, Jane Lock, accused the Tories of “running scared, not only from their record of incompetence, but also from their Leader Boris Johnson’s ‘Reign of Error’.”
After the vote, she added: “It was bad enough that the Conservative Group was considering trying to avoid next year’s election, but then they cut short the debate before many Councillors had been given the opportunity to speak, which really is a disgrace. Why are they so scared to face the voters?”
Leader of the Council David Fothergill will be writing to the Secretary of State requesting the 2021 elections be postponed.
Jane Lock adds: “Given that Councillor Fothergill has already expressed his desire that a new unitary council begin working in 2023, effectively the request is for the elections to be cancelled altogether, meaning that the Conservatives, who won the 2017 election, would remain in charge of Somerset County Council for 6 years instead of 4.”
Tessa Munt, Lib Dem County Councillor for Wells, added: “It’s outrageous that Somerset’s Conservatives have acted in such a high-handed fashion. It’s really important that local people in Somerset choose their representatives on the County Council.”
“I was listed to ask a question about this, but the Tories seemed so scared of how the debate was going that they panicked, cut the question session short and stopped Councillors from making any contribution to the discussion.”
Adam Dance, Lib Dem County Councillor for South Petherton & Islemoor, added: “The Conservatives took SCC to the brink of bankruptcy, but they’re desperate to cling on to power for another two years while they try to force a single unitary on Somerset.”
A Somerset Labour Party spokesman says: “The decision by Somerset County Council to ask the Government to cancel or postpone the May 2021 elections for new county councillors is an appalling affront to our democracy. These elections have understandably already been postponed from May this year due to Coronavirus . This latest attempt to Further postpone elections demonstrates those in County Hall prioritise Exercising their own power above democracy and the public interest.”
“All our county councillors have previously been elected, but this bid to prolong their term of office suggests the Conservatives are not only fearful of forthcoming elections but also hold the electorate’s right to vote in contempt.”
“The timing of this request – just a week after Remembrance Day – disrespects the memory of those who fought in two world wars so that we can choose our political representatives in free elections. The councillors who organised this vote have shown they are unfit for public office and should consider their positions.”
“No party has the right to rule, but the Conservatives seem to think that – despite their serial mismanagement in central and local government – they do. Our democracy demands that next May’s County Council elections must proceed as planned.”