An ex Lib Dem activist has accused his former councillor colleagues of being undemocratic and failing to carry out their duties.
Veteran local campaigner Sam Snook, who stood as a Lib Dem candidate in last May’s local elections, addressed Tuesday night’s meeting of Eastleigh Local Area Committee because he said he was concerned that land off Chesnut Avenue including ‘The Shrine’ war memorial were in danger of development – a prospect he claimed that had him ‘nearly in tears’.
He told the Committee he had spoken to residents on the Aviary estate and shared their opinion that Councillors would not have a free vote and would be forced to take a party line on the proposals in the local plan to vote in favour of the controversial mass development
“I don’t think this council is democratic “he told stunned councillors,
“People fought in the war to have a democracy and I’m afraid we do not have one on Eastleigh Borough Council. People aren’t allowed to vote on their conscience. They are told ‘no’. You do that and ‘that’s it’.
ELAC Chair Chris Thomas was quick to stress that the Shrine was in not in danger of development adding:
“Nobody has told us how to vote on the issues around the local plan the local plan was brought to the council and is open at this time for consultation. No decisions have been made at all as yet”
Mr Snook then went on to accuse councillors of not carrying out all of their duties as described on the direct.gov website
“Why don’t councillors hold surgeries like they are supposed to? They get an allowance for that kind of thing and they’re not doing it”
The direct.gov website links to a page which suggests councillors should hold up to three drop-in surgeries a month.
Cllr Thomas bluntly told Mr Snook:
“We don’t have to have surgeries there are alternative ways of meeting the public.”
After the meeting Cllr Thomas told me that he did not think drop-in surgeries were very effective.
On the last occasion he held one he said the only person who ‘dropped in’ did so to ask him the time. He said he thought surgeries worked well in rural areas but in a town like Eastleigh he found the best method of making contacting with residents in his ward was by knocking on doors – something he does ‘At least several times a week’
“Personally, I meet more of my residents and get more case work in Tesco’s than when door knocking”
The Independent Councillors on ELAC – Glynn Davies-Dear and Dave Broughton – have recently been holding formal ‘street surgeries’ in their wards.
Sam Snook has previously spoken of his disillusionment and break with the Lib Dems which has come to a head over the Local Plan and proposals for the construction of 1300 houses off Chesnut Avenue and Stoneham Lane despite the clear opposition of local residents.
He has said he is now considering whether to stand in Eastleigh South as an Independent in the forthcoming May elections.