The recent press coverage of the Council's Annual General Meeting covered the excitement of a newly appointed Lord Mayor. Due to Covid restrictions, the meeting was in the Alhambra. Much was made of catchphrases such as "he's behind you" and "don't touch the box”, made famous by Billy Pearce. Unnoticed by the press and more importantly the public, another nail was firmly hammered into the coffin of what passes for democracy in Bradford.
A motion proposed by myself as Leader of the Liberal Democrats was voted down by the combined efforts of Labour and Conservative Councillors. The Liberal Democrats called for a review of the way the Council operates. Not the sexiest of topics - but we have just seen the election of a Mayor of West Yorkshire, representing a significant re-shaping of the political system. The Mayor has appointed the Police and Crime Commissioner, plus her own advisors, along with the creation of another publicly funded office.
This wasn't the first time I'd called for a review, but I believe it to be ever more necessary. In a previous meeting where Councillors were discussing a "Road Map to Recovery”, the Council Leader argued that we needed to move towards a "new normal”. I argued, unsuccessfully, that we should, given the impending changes, also look at how we worked too. This is important. It is twenty years since the Council moved from a Committee system to a Scrutiny model. The plan twenty years ago was to model the Council's way of working on that of the Select Committee system of the House of Commons, where powerful and properly resourced committees hold to account those in charge, under the watchful gaze of the media.
The current Bradford system is a far cry from that model of scrutiny. The Liberal Democrats believe it is time to change the way Bradford Council works and Bradford people should have more say. What happened at the Council's Annual General Meeting is, in my opinion, the reason why we need to change.
On the day of the Annual General Meeting, I doubted that Labour would vote for a review. After all, turkeys don't vote for Christmas but refusing to listen to a debate about change was quite a shock! The debate was closed down by the Conservative group whip who moved that the Council should go straight to the vote without debate. This was agreed in a secret meeting with the Labour Whip prior to the Annual General Meeting taking place. The request for a review of the way the Council works has been blocked by Labour and Conservative Councillors working together. The Green party voted with us for a review.
That vote effectively stopped any further debate by the Council for the next six months. We believe this behaviour must stop. Bradford deserves better than its ineffective, in many ways outdated, model with its secret deals and Councillors being denied their rights to speak.
If you think Bradford deserves better, please sign our petition and join the campaign for a more democratic Bradford.