No sooner were vows exchanged than hell broke out!
The media has been notified that the new chair of West Lancashire’s planning committee was accused of wrongly refusing to allow a councillor to speak about an application just one day after being appointed. Cllr David O’Toole came under criticism after ruling that Cllr Gareth Dowling was ineligible to address the committee at tonight’s public meeting but insisted that it was not a political decision.
The committee will hold a public meeting in Ormskirk tonight during which an application to demolish a garage on Ash Close and build a bungalow in its place will be considered. However, the meeting is already being overshadowed by a row between rival parties less than 24 hours after promises were made to work together for the people of West Lancashire.
The meeting will be the first held since Labour lost overall control of the council and the Conservative and Our West Lancashire parties joined forces to vote through changes which saw the influential chairmanships of committees divided among the three parties. But the uneasy relationship was quickly exposed as Labour’s Cllr Dowling
accused Cllr O’Toole, a Conservative representative, of ‘shutting down the democratic process’ in refusing to allow him to address the committee about the application.
Cllr O Toole’s
strongly disputed that suggestion and argued that the council’s rules prevented him from speaking about a matter which he had already addressed the committee on when it was first considered and deferred in April.
Cllr Dowling said “Sadly, we are already seeing the shutting out of residents’ and elected members’ representations at public council meetings, less than 24 hours after the Conservatives and Our West Lancashire joined forces to secure the chairmanships. As a former Chair of the planning committee myself, I am clear that the constitution of the council as set out in Item 14 allows for the Ward Councillor to speak on a planning item in their ward.
“This was clarified with the council’s legal officers and the previous chair of the committee, but already we are seeing the Conservative chair ruling out Labour councillors’ public speaking. Residents across the borough voted for a range of parties including Labour, Conservative, OWL and independents this month, but I firmly believe they did not vote for their voices to be ignored and that of their elected representatives.
“It is a very sad state of affairs and worryingly this may be a sign of things to come from the new Conservative and Our West Lancashire alliance. The losers in all of this this are the residents of Knowsley Ward who turned to me for my support with this planning application on the Redgate estate, however, I can assure them I will use any and all other means available to me to represent their views to the members of the Planning Committee, some of whom have only just been appointed last night, who will be making their decision tonight”.
Watch this space!