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Labour group withdraws from planning committee in protest
10:30am Friday 20th July 2012 in Local
LABOUR members on Bromsgrove District Council’s planning committee have withdrawn in a protest over alleged lobbying.
Three Labour councillors - Chris McDonald, Eddie Murray and Colin Wilson - sit on the committee of 13 members.
But at the last committee meeting, held in June, the councillors were absent and are refusing to take part in future meetings.
Leader of the Labour group, Councillor Peter McDonald, said their withdrawal is over a protest on committee standards and alleged lobbying.
The issue came to a head over an allegation lobbying took place during a site visit for the application at the former Longbridge East Works.
The Labour leader says he sought reassurances, before the May visit, that representatives from developers St Modwen would not be talking to councillors – but a presentation took place, allowed by officers.
The council say the presentation was a contextual one on the development of the whole Longbridge site, not on the specific planning application.
Coun Peter McDonald said: “There is a democratic deficiency on this committee.
“Practices are poor, standards are low.
“It is absolutely deplorable and has been going on for years. We do not want any part in it.”
He added that the Labour group would not reconsider their decision until the incident was properly investigated, site visits were stopped, and the constitution was changed so that council civic heads and deputy civic heads could no longer serve on the committee.
Coun Peter McDonald explained the constitution change was needed because civic heads can be put in a difficult position in meeting and speaking to developers, during civic functions.
Councillor Kit Taylor, portfolio holder for planning, said: “We’ll always discuss any aspects of policy to get a balanced view, and we don’t all have to agree, after all this is a democracy.
“But I have to question the judgement of anyone who thinks flouncing out of a committee, making unsubstantiated allegations against officers and members, is going to achieve anything.
“Residents will form their own view of this latest walkout and whether they are being properly represented by certain members of the Labour group.”