Something doesn’t add up: The Plymouth Conservative’s double-standards manifesto

At long last, the Conservative Group on Plymouth City Council have published their 2014 local election manifesto! But something doesn’t quite add up… The Conservative Group Leader, Cllr Ian Bowyer, has accused the Labour Group of “double standards”, and yet many of the manifesto commitments he has made are things which the Labour Group have promoted, and his group refused to support…

Strive to keep council tax low and keep the books balanced – The Labour administration have delivered two balanced budgets so far since taking control of the city council, and on neither occasion did the Conservative Group propose an alternative budget. We have been criticised repeatedly by Plymouth, Sutton & Devonport Conservative MP Oliver Colvile for increasing council tax, yet he seems reluctant to take any responsibility for the slashing of £65million from our budget – a decision he voted for. At no point have the Conservative Group suggested what extra services they will cut as a result of freezing council tax.

Give much higher priority to fixing potholes and poor pavements – The Labour administration have put millions of pounds into fixing potholes and pavements in the city – filling in 8,000 in six months alone in 2013 – which the Conservative Group refused to support. At no point have they criticised the two Conservative MPs in the city who voted for cuts to our transport budget, meaning we have more potholes to fill, especially after a tough winter, with less money to fill them.

Press the Government for more resources to begin a phased major road resurfacing programme – It’s a shame they didn’t criticise their own MPs for voting for less resources for us to be able to do this. In fact, the Conservative Group stayed extremely silent on this issue.

Reduce car parking charges in the city centre – In a similar boat as freezing council tax, no word on where the extra revenue would come from – which services are the Conservatives keen to cut?

Not introduce car parking charges at local shopping centres such as Plympton, Plymstock, and Crownhill – No parking charges for shopping centres in the Conservative wards of Plympton and Plymstock, or the Conservative Leader’s ward of Eggbuckland – hooray! Not such great news if you live in a ward represented by Labour and have a shopping centre, though.

Introduce 20mph speed restrictions near all schools – Was this an idea from Cllr Kevin Wigens, Shadow Cabinet Member for Transport? Cllr Kevin Wigens who used to promote himself as the “motorist’s friend”, and criticised Labour’s road safety campaigns and schemes?

We will stop installing “silly mini roundabouts that annoy everyone” – Who is everyone? The people’s whose lives are made safer by the slowing down of traffic? The motorists whose lives may be inconvenienced by slowing down for an extra couple of seconds? It’s good to know where Conservative priorities lie.

Actively encourage the redevelopment of the city centre including Colin Campbell Court because the overall shopping experience needs revamping and made fit for the 21st century” –  I look forward to see Cllr Ian Bowyer develop on the Labour administration’s redevelopment of the city centre. Has he seen our plans for the redevelopment of Bretonside bus station? How about the redevelopment of the Civic Centre in the centre of Plymouth? It’s good to see cross-party support on such major developments… Oh, wait…

“Labour has presided over more out-of-town retail investment” – Good news for shoppers who like the out-of-town experience, or who cannot access the city centre themselves – like when bus routes into the city centre have been cut since the Conservatives sold our bus company.

Review plans to site the coach station behind Iceland – Sitting on the fence, as ever. Claiming support for the redevelopment of the city centre in one breath, not throwing their support behind a brand-new, modern coach station (supported by coach operators) in the next – instead claiming that a Conservative Council would build a coach station adjacent to the existing railway station. Where is it going to go?

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Continue to support Argyle as a community-based football club – Where else would it be based? Bishop Auckland?

Use council-owned sites to provide more homes for local people – Presumably they will be opposing the bedroom tax like the Labour Group, if they are concerned about the amount of homes available for Plymouth residents? Presumably they won’t then be voting against housing developments, especially in their own wards? Oh, wait…

Continue to press the Government for action to provide additional rail routes into the South West from London – Good! That’s what we need – can they use that energy to press for government support for other major issues which affect our residents and businesses?

Continue to protect the former airport site from redevelopment in the hope that a private sector led solution will come forward with a deliverable and fully funded business plan – The Labour Group has protected the airport site from redevelopment until at least 2021, following the Conservative-requested “Armageddon Clause”. The Labour Leader has made clear his support for the reopening of the airport if a private-sector solution is found, and the Labour Group is fully supportive of the land remaining as airport land, unlike Conservative Councillor, John Mahony, who said he has “had doubts about it’s viability for years”. 

Encourage sensitive development to maintain a green and pleasant city – “We will resist garden grabbing planning applications.” It’s a pity that the Conservative Group didn’t oppose putting large, unwanted buildings so close to residents’ homes when the then-Conservative led Planning Committee voted through a huge incinerator right next to peoples’ homes in Keyham, St Budeaux and Ham.

Promote the public use of Drake’s Island and safeguard the future of Mount Edgcumbe – Last year, the Conservative Group on the Planning Committee refused to support a planning application for the rejuvenation of Drake’s Island.

Campaign to bring more full-time jobs to Plymouth and encourage more apprenticeships for local young people – Good to see the Conservative Group so supportive of the Plymouth Labour 1000 Club initiative, despite the coalition’s rising levels of youth unemployment.

In comparison, Plymouth Labour Group has delivered 99 of 100 2012 election manifesto pledges, and has promised another 50 for the coming year, building on the success we’ve had in the past two years with more jobs and more homes. You can follow Plymouth Labour at @PlymouthLabour. 

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