Friday, September 21, 2007

Basildon Council Cabinet passes Compulsory Purchase Order

It was Basildon Council’s Cabinet last night; that is the public meeting of the executive Councillors that run the authority to formally make the key decisions for the Council. Unlike some other Councils we run a mixed party Cabinet, with 8 Conservatives and 2 Labour members. We don’t have to, the Conservative majority could easily dictate an all-Conservative Cabinet, but this way is better for democracy. It does mean, however, that the Cabinet often disagrees and it did last night on two matters. One of these was a compulsory purchase order on a site in Basildon Town Centre. Now, these are often emotive because no one really likes the idea of an impersonal local authority taking away someone’s property, even though they are fully compensated. The trouble is that not doing them can often leave large-scale regeneration plans foundering because assembling the land for building projects can be stopped by just one holdout holding the entire project to ransom. In this case it was a garage, part of a national chain, where the site would contribute to a housing development that we desperately need. Out policy is that we only turn to CPO after good-faith negotiations have been exhausted, and they certainly were in this case. However, Labour, in the form of their leader, voted against it. Let’s hope they wouldn’t do anything so foolish if they ever were to run Basildon again. It is a lack of political push in things like CPO that leaves so many grand regeneration plans gathering dust on shelves. If you want to make a real change to your community it is not enough to talk the talk; you have to walk the walk, and that can mean making hard decisions. If you are not up for that then, frankly, don’t put yourself up for election.

It was the Labour leader alone last night, there was no sign of his deputy, who is now also the prospective Labour candidate for the Basildon and Billericay seat and there were no apologies either. If you are not up for attending Council meetings then that’s another reason to not put yourself up for election.

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