Ken Hind - the Leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council - Letter to the Editor of The Clitheroe Advertiser
I read with interest the letter from CRAG Chairman Steve Rush in last week's paper.
The Ribble Valley Borough Council Election campaign for 2019 has already started with Steve Rush's letter as he has conceded on Facebook he is to stand in next May's elections. The public must realise CRAG is a political party, not merely a pressure group. Attacking the Ribble Valley Council Leader obviously attracts press coverage so I do not apologise for correcting misleading impressions made by CRAG about how the Conservative Councillor's Group and Ribble Valley Borough Council operates.
We can be proud in the Ribble Valley that both our Borough Council and the majority Conservative Group are very democratic. The Conservatives elect a leader every year and all major decisions on which Conservatives need to take a view are discussed and in our Group meetings. Councillors who have an issue of conscience or a ward interest vote as they feel right, completely unfettered by the views of the rest.
Typical of the way we operate was decision about progressing negotiations with the Clitheroe Market Quarter Development .. Full discussion took place amongst Councillors. Each side of the argument - whether to progress negotiations with Barnfield Construction to develop the market or abandon it - were presented by different speakers. All councillors then spoke to express their views.
Following this lengthy debate a vote was taken and the decision was to progress the project with Barnfield to negotiate a final design, then a contract and in conclusion agree the costings. No final decision to go ahead with the project was made and may never be made if the negotiations do not take place to the council's satisfaction or in the public interest.
Following this decision the matter went to Policy and Finance Committee where it was voted on again and referred to Full Council. In Full Council a further debate took place and 5 Conservative Councillors voted against the proposal and 21 in favour. The minutes of this meeting are on the Council's website giving the names of the Councillors voting for both options.
In Council everyone knew there were still outstanding problems before there was any design to show to the public. The result of the negotiations has to come back to Councillors and a decision made which may be not to go ahead with the Barnfield project.
The suggestion that I as Leader can decide what happens is nonsense and shows a lack of understanding about how local government works.The Ribble Valley Borough Council runs a committee system in which every Councillor votes, unlike most of the Councils in Lancashire where there are cabinet systems which involves a smaller number of Councillors making decisions Councillors are decision makers in our Borough and none of our Councillors feel they have no relevance. The Leader is one vote in 40 - only first amongst equals.
We are listening to the public, hence the need to negotiate changes to the project which are the result of widespread consultation with the public and interested groups.
When we, as a democratically elected and democratically run council have something to show to the public in relation to the Clitheroe market re-development we will present it and explain what is proposed.
Meanwhile we await CRAG's spokesman making some constructive contribution to the future of our Market instead of the constant destructive comments made in search of his personal press coverage.
Leader Ribble Valley Borough Council.