The meeting of the Community Services OSC last night was the most challenging I have attended since becoming a councillor. A great many residents of Wandsworth were quite reasonably upset about continuing to stage an event that will affect their enjoyment of one of our great parks. I think most of the meeting was very constructive and all concerns were stated and discussed. The OSC was asked whether to exercise the break clause in the contract with Formula E and when it came to the vote the committee was split down party lines. This is despite unanimous support for the original contract and I think highlights some major problems with the Labour Group in Wandsworth.
We knew when we agreed to the original contract that there would be opposition from residents but all councillors supported it because of the overall benefits it gives to Wandsworth. At the first sign of a placard being waved in their faces the Labour Group got scared. None of the arguments changed which is why the Conservative Group held firm.
If you think you know what Wandsworth Labour think about something think again. They are likely to change their mind with the wind.
Rather than stick with their original decision and work with the Conservative Group to mitigate and minimise problems with staging of Formula E they saw an opportunity to direct criticism towards Conservatives. They will not accept responsibility for tough decisions and would rather play to the gallery.
They don't appear to have any direction or idea about where they would take Wandsworth. The leadership of the Labour Group seems only to react to events and I can only assume the attendance of their leader at a committee where he isn't a member was to ensure that his colleagues voted according to his whim.
When the contract was first agreed members of the Labour Group were practically salivating at the prospect of additional Council income to spend. Told last night what the loss of this income meant in terms of loss of services for Wandsworth residents and the loss of £200k a year for Battersea Park they were unmoved. They haven't thought of what savings they would make in the light of losing this income. Neither have they come up with any ideas to replace the income stream. The Council have been very creative in managing efficient services and balancing the budget but it is no thanks to the Labour Group.
The break clause was there for a reason and the Council would have exercised it if it had reason to. The clause gave both parties the opportunity to walk away if the arrangement simply didn't work. Formula E have no plans to exercise the clause and despite the protests and reasonable concerns, all of which were anticipated when we agreed the contract, Wandsworth Council has no reason to exercise it either. The Labour Group would place Wandsworth Council in a very bad position if their attitude to contracts held sway and they terminated at the first sign of trouble. The Council must contract with commercial companies and it needs to have grown up approach to managing them. Wandsworth Labour's attitude would deter many companies who require more sturdy partners to work with.
The ideal party of opposition
All of this confirms that Labour cannot be taken seriously as an alternative to the Conservatives in Wandsworth. When they can show some leadership, creativity, conviction and common sense on important issues like Formula E then maybe residents might trust them but until then it is only the Conservatives who are providing this.
There are no doubt many residents who are understandably upset with the decision we made last night and some might wish to punish Conservatives for the action we have taken. However, it is worth reflecting on the points above before considering the alternative.