This week saw a fresh intake of councillors taking their seats in Bradford. The ruling Labour group has now swollen to 52, leaving them with even greater control of the Council and all of its committees.
The Green group of councillors now includes Martin Love and myself. Two councillors out of ninety. We have lost Hawarun Hussain, who worked hard on behalf of Shipley constituents for fourteen years and will be greatly missed on Council. She was a true progressive councillor who grew up in one of the poorest parts of the District, went to a local school, put herself through university, raised her children here in Shipley and has spent her entire working life in the voluntary and public health sector. She knew Bradford to her finger-tips and was a brilliant networker who worked closely with colleagues of all political persuasions. We wish her well.
It says a lot about Labour's determination to oust our local Tory MP that they pulled out all the stops to eject Hawarun from the Council after her many years of dedicated service to the community. Their campaign was framed around 'sending a message to the Tories', and I fully understand why they are so keen to ensure that Shipley elects a Labour MP at the next general election. In many ways, Tory Austerity has been a disaster for Bradford and Shipley, as our Labour-run Council staggers from one round of savage budget cuts to the next.
For me, though, the message I heard was that Labour has no real interest in working with like-minded political groups like the Greens, either locally or nationally, in order to bring about the positive, progress change that this country badly needs. The message I heard is that Labour will sweep anyone aside on order to try to get back into power. It was not enough for them to have a controlling group of 48 councillors in Bradford, and it will not be enough for them to have 52. 'The more the merrier' is the order of the day as the benches at City Hall fill with councillors who will bend their knee to the Labour whip.
Our new Labour Council is only a day old, yet has already approved plans to build over 1,500 new homes across the District. New homes are good and the Green Party want to build thousands of them, but not if they are so energy inefficient or devoid of renewable technologies that they are effectively 'mini carbon factories' as these will be. Over the coming decades, they will add hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon pollution to our atmosphere. New homes are wonderful, but only if they are affordable for our children (and most of these will not be). New homes are fantastic, but not if they carpet swathes of our Green Belt as many of these will. This is why the Green councillors have consistently criticised and voted against these controversial planning decisions.
Labour also wasted no time in abolishing the Environment and Waste Management Overview and Scrutiny Committee that has been chaired by Martin and myself for the past five years. This committee has worked well across party lines and done a very good job ensuring that our Council meets its environmental responsibilities. This key area of civic oversight will be undermined by the new committee arrangements pushed through by the Labour group against Green opposition.
Martin and myself and our colleagues in Bradford Green Party will continue to 'bear witness' to these kind of irresponsible Labour decisions, and campaign for more local people to vote to return more Green councillors to Bradford Council in the next round of elections.