Last Monday, concerned residents with the support of the Welwyn Hatfield Labour Group presented a petition against the Conservative’s ‘Brown Bin’ Tax.
I went to the meeting, I had been following the issue and wanted to see for myself how things were going to pan out. After Cllr Max Holloway presented the petition on behalf of 2,455 residents, it fell on deaf ears and the Tory cabinet decided to push ahead with their proposal, recommending it go forward to the special council meeting that was going to take place an hour later.
Fast forward to 7.30pm. There’s a packed gallery full of residents waiting. Will the rest of the Tories see sense and vote against their masters proposal? Or will they force the tax payer to pay even more for services already covered in their Council Tax? Or at the very least, will they answer residents questions and justify their actions? Cllr John Dean, Conservative leader of the council, began by saying no public questions would be allowed. However, there was hope yet. Labour Cllr John Fitzpatrick spoke of mismanagement, ill-conceived ideas and of apologies that we, as residents of Welwyn Hatfield will never see. This theme ran throughout as a stream of opposition councillors stood up to speak on our (residents) behalf and indeed they did.
As councillor after councillor stood up to defend and put the public first, all we could see from the gallery were endlessly bored faces of the Tories who clearly had already made up their minds but crucially, not getting to their feet to say why, so embarrassed they were to now be supporting the exact opposite of what they told people at election time. Despite Labour Cllr Broach trying to rally a rebellion in the ranks of the Tories with a booming speech that met with applause from the public, they simply sat in silence refusing to engage.
Cllr Dean eyed the public with contempt whilst playing with his pen, but It’s hardly surprising that with the pay rise he and his party voted for they could afford to pay for 800 Brown Bins. Conservative Cllr Steven Markiewicz finished the evening by shouting at the gallery (who he labelled “the callous few”) declaring that Tories will continue to win no matter what they do, despite accusing others of arrogance. Knowing he was being filmed by several members of the public, he declared explicitly that the Tories can do whatever they want and will still win elections.
The recorded vote finished the evening and of course as predicted, this was a done deal as far as the Tories were concerned and the ‘Bin Tax’ passed. Sitting in the public gallery, you could feel the anger from residents. Someone near to me said, we need a bins to put food waste in; but what Welwyn Hatfield needs is to bin off the Tories.
Going to these meetings is important for us residents. We need to understand what is actually going on and what the representatives we VOTE in are getting up to. It might not be glamourous, but I would say to all residents, come along and see what is being done in your name by the people who represent you.