Published: 05/08/2009 00:00 - Updated: 06/08/2009 17:16

Essex Tories accused of revenge cut

Written byBy Sinead Holland

ESSEX County Council's Tories have been accused of a "blatant act of revenge" after axing the Liberal Democrats' only full-time support staff.

The controversial vote came earlier today (Wednesday, August 5) despite the opposition's protests that the ruling Conservative group will retain 13 full time staff to support its own administration group and will also continue to accept special responsibility allowances totalling around £600,000 on top of basic councillor allowances, all at the taxpayers' expense.

Lib Dem group leader Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes said: "Only recently, Lord Hanningfield was complaining to the national press that a "vindictive campaign" had been launched against him by a Liberal Democrat MP.

"This was in response to the news that Scotland Yard had decided to investigate Lord Hanningfield's House of Lords expenses. It can hardly be a coincidence that a short time later the Lib Dem group has been thrown off the council's Waste Advisory Board and is now having its only full time staff member made redundant.

"Given the already outrageous number of full time employees dedicated to working for the administration group, it is clear that this Tory group's main preoccupation is with occupying power and then cutting down the opportunities for anyone to question them. It appears there are shades of North Korea in Essex Conservatives' style of governance, rather than the bright new Conservative image peddled by David Cameron."

Stansted's Liberal Democrat district councillor, Alan Dean, who unsuccessfully challenged the Conservative monopoly in the Uttlesford area at June's county council election, added: "Essex Tories are undermining the basis of democratic representative by trying to stifle all challenge to their monopoly.

"They couldn't take criticism over things like poor road maintenance and the closure of children's facilities at Wicken House. Cutting off opposition councillors from the advisors who help them serve the public is the first step towards a one-party tyranny and a council that cannot be trusted."

However Councillor Tracey Chapman, the Conservative chief whip and cabinet member

for environment and waste said: "The Lib Dems are more interested in defending their own expensive spin doctors than in helping the residents and businesses of Essex in this recession. Why should the tax payers of Essex pay for someone to churn out Lib Dem party political propoganda? It should be the responsibility of each member, not paid staff, to carry out their own party political work.

"It's a simply equation - one party political apparatchik or an additional teacher, two dinner ladies or reduced council tax - I know what the people of Essex would want. The Lib Dems need to wise up and get with the plot."

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