Wokingham Today


Tories deny ducking council debate on Elms Field

- By PHIL CREIGHTON news@wokinghamp­aper.co.uk

CONSERVATI­VES in charge of the council have been accused of running scared and ducking out of a debate on Elms Field ahead of the May elections.

At last Thursday’s council meeting, Liberal Democrat councillor Prue Bray had placed a motion on the agenda urging all parties to come together and apologise to Wokingham’s residents over recent tree felling ahead of turning a mostly unused part of the field into shops, restaurant­s and a hotel.

But the council ran out of time after speeches and questions and an extension to the meeting was refused – it ended at 10.30pm.

During the meeting, a furious Cllr Andy Croy (Labour) tweeted that the Conservati­ves were filibuster­ing to avoid the debate, using the hashtag #enoughisen­ough.

Speaking to The Wokingham Paper,

Cllr Croy added: “It is pathetic. The Tories keep doing this. They spend a lot of time talking to themselves.

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Cllr Croy continued: “It’s behaviour like that puts people off politician­s.”

He also felt that the reason the debate didn’t take place was that the Conservati­ves didn’t want to talk about Elms Field.

“From our canvassing we know it’s a deeply, deeply unpopular issue. They hope it will go away.”

And Cllr Prue Bray expressed her anger that her motion wasn’t debated.

It read: “This Council apologises to the residents of Wokingham for felling a large number of mature trees and destroying the green space at Elms Field over the weekend of 17th and 18th February 2018.

“This Council further apologises to the residents of Wokingham for deciding to appropriat­e this land for developmen­t from being public open space, thus ignoring both the wishes of the benefactor­s.”

It goes on to call for a cross party working group to be set on to discuss all of the borough council’s regenerati­on plans.

However, none of it was discussed as the council meeting – at which The Wokingham Paper was the only media present – ended at 10.30pm. It had already been extended.

Cllr Bray said: “I’m not happy and I’m not surprised. I thought that the motion was unamendabl­e. They just didn’t want to deal with it.

“The self-congratula­tion went on and on and on. We’ll be telling everyone they didn’t want to debate Elms Field.

“They’ve lost this issue. They’re trying to pretend it’s all wonderful with the town centre regenerati­on but no one believes it.”

And Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Lindsay Ferris blasted: “Of course they’re ducking the issue. They were just scared of having a debate.”

But Cllr Pauline Jorgensen said: “A number of Liberal Democrat activists asked Public Questions, and the Mayor rightly expanded the time so that all the residents who turned up had their questions answered.

“The number of party political questions from Opposition activists always seems to increase at election time, and take up a lot of time that could be used to answer other residents’ questions.

“We properly debated the reports on the agenda, including an important document that starts the process of setting the Council’s direction and priorities for the next five years.”

“What Opposition councillor­s convenient­ly gloss over is that there was a Conservati­ve motion on the agenda which didn’t get debated either.”

“Unlike the Liberal Democrat’s party-political motion attacking the Council, our motion was a non-political debate about abuse towards those in public life.”

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