The Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has praised Eastleigh’s victorious Lib Dems for the ‘brave’ way they have stood up to ‘nimbys’ at a rally in Central Eastleigh. Despite an emphatic victory in Thursday local election, Independents in Bishopstoke unseated three sitting Lib Dems and the party has wasted no time in wheeling out a ‘big-gun’ to fire the opening salvo to the 2019 local campaign.
The Lib Dem Leader was greeted with cheers when he joined Eastleigh’s newly elected Lib Dem Councillors and activists on the Leigh Road recreation ground to celebrate the start of their 25th anniversary year in power following results which saw them take 82% of the seats with 51% of the vote, making Eastleigh the safest Lib Dem council in the country. This, despite a recent string of well publicised defections, a delayed and disputed local plan and criticisms over their corporate investment strategy.
Cable described Eastleigh as the Lib Dem’s ‘flagship council’ and in swipe at the newly elected Independent councillors in Bishopstoke, who oppose Eastleigh’s local plan, the Lib Dem leader praised the council for showing ‘bravery’ by standing firm in the face of “nimbyism.”
“This is our flagship council – it’s high quality government that’s demonstrated how government can really work. Keeping council tax down for 15 years yet maintaining high quality public services. if you show a business-like approach to funding you keep the public onside. The thing I really like is this brave and socially responsible approach to housing where you are expanding the housing stock …and actually really working for people.
“I’m particulary proud of Eastleigh because they have been running this town for a quarter of a century they’ve doen it well. they are clearly popular amd despite all the pressure they’ve kept up the standard of serives …and they’ve taken on the challenge of building houses. Now obviously you get opposition fron nimbys but they face it down they do it sensitively and this one of the very few councils that are really trying to”
Eastleigh News asked Mr cable to expand on his comments about Nimbys and he said he believed they could be won over by an ‘infrastructure first’ approach to development:
“Unfortunately, this happens everywhere. this happens in my constituency and across the south of England; those people who are housed tend to resist new development because it encroaches on them but the way to deal with it is the way they’ve dealt with it here; to provide infrastructure that goes in before development so there’s proper roads, schools, things that the council can take care of. I’m almost certain Bishopstoke will come back.”
Keith House, the leader of Eastleigh Borough Council said he also believed that voters in Bishopstoke would return to the Lib Dems after they realised that the independents offered ‘no plan’.
“The problem the independents have got is they haven’t got a plan – they haven’t got an alternative and that will become really clear to the electorate. We failed to get our message didn’t get through in Bishopstoke we’ve got to reflect on that to make sure that we get it right next time because we are the only ones that do have a plan. We are the only ones who can tackle traffic congestion in the Bishopstoke area and also ge the housing we know we need. Simply saying no isn’t going to be an ansewer because we’ll still get the housing imposed by government we just wont get the infrastructure.The indpendents have a problem going forward, they haven’t got a plan they haven’t got an answer and they are going to have to defend that to their community.”
Keith House also said he saw the result as an endorsement of the council well publiscised investement strategy.
“We are the only council in britai that’s been given an accolade from the taxpayers alliance for keeping council tax down -the best reord outside London according to the tax payers alliance – and protecting services. If we were in most council areas in Hampshire we would see leisure centres closing; art centres closing down; less money going into community organisations in grants. That’s not happening in Eastleigh. We’re still funding all of those things because of a prudent financial strategy that brings in 10 million pounds a year to the local authority.”
Afterwards Vince Cable posed for selfies with activists and then both he and Keith House had a quick walkabout through the Saturday market stalls, stopping to chat with members of the Eastleigh Operatic and Musical Society who were handing out flyers to publicise their forthcoming production of the Mikado at the Point. Cable told the opera-lovers he was no stranger to showbiz himself having previously starred in ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. However, the former business secretary is not the first ex-strictly cabinet minster to tour Eastleigh market, having been beaten to this honour by Ed Balls in 2010.
The Liberal Democrats might not be popular in Bishopstoke but it seems there are plenty more voters in Eastleigh who are happy enough to keep voting for them.
Bishopstoke independents have been invited to respond to Vince Cable’s comments.