Over the last few weeks I have been blogging about the ridiculous mess the Luton Labour party have got themselves in over the nominations from Luton Borough Council to fill Luton’s places on Bedfordshire Police Authority. You can read my previous posts on this here:
- Labour cock up leaves Luton without representation on Bedfordshire Police Authority
- “Labour Party spokesman” wrong on Police Authority formula
- Meet the Bedford Labour Councillor the Luton Labour Party want to throw off the Police Authority
I am a bit behind with the news but I wanted to update Strange Thoughts with the latest developments. It seems that the issue has now been resolved but not without Luton Labour Councillors delving deep into the realms of high farce. I wasn’t at the key meetings but the events that unfolded have been told to me by a reliable source.
To quickly recap, appointment of Councillors to the police authority from the three local authorities that make up Bedfordshire are made on the basis of the strength of the political parties across the whole of the county. Following the recent local elections this meant a split of 4 Conservatives, 3 Labour and 2 Liberal Democrats. It was widely expected that to meet this arrangement Luton would send to fill it’s three places 2 Labour and 1 Lib Dem. However, it was decided by the Luton Labour party to grab all three places for themselves. When the police authority met to determine its membership these appointments were duly rejected by the other police authority members. This has left Luton without representation for several weeks while key decisions about policing in Bedfordshire were being made.
The next opportunity to resolve this situation came at the meeting of Luton Borough Council on 19th July when Councillors could try again to make the appointments of representatives.
One of the curious things about the agenda for that meeting was that it included a report to the Council from it’s representatives on the police authority. How, given that at that time LBC had no representatives, the report could be presented did not seem to be explained. However, the report did include a nice summary of the situation from the authority’s perspective;
“The Joint Selection Committee did not agree to the nominations submitted by the Luton Borough Council as they had not followed the recommended political allocation.
Luton Borough Council had therefore been asked to review their nominations. The Bedfordshire Police Authority Joint Selection Committee expects to meet before the next meeting of the Police Authority which is on 22 July to consider the revised nominations and determine Luton Borough Council’s appointments to the Authority.
The Police Authority expressed concerns that Luton Borough would not be represented at any of the Committee meetings until this matter was resolved, particularly with the significant changes being developed and implemented over the next 4 months, and hoped that the three councils were able to resolve the matter promptly.”
The question would the Labour party do the sensible thing allow one Liberal Democrat to go forward or would they be stubborn in their insistence that Labour should have all three places?
Apparently, when the meeting came to the appointment of police authority representatives the leader of the Labour Group put forward the names of two Labour Councillors. The Liberal Democrat group then put forward it’s chosen nomination of former police authority member Cllr Martin Pantling. So far so good. It looked like the Labour party had accepted defeat on this issue and had chosen to do the sensible thing.
But then the farcical element of the meeting began. The Labour leader asked that a vote be taken on the acceptance of each individual nomination. The intention was clearly that the Labour group wanted to vote for the two Labour nominations but against the Lib Dem. This would mean that Labour’s chosen members could go forward to the police authority but that the Lib Dem would be excluded.
However, the Mayor then intervened. He said that an individual vote on each nomination could not take place. There were three nominations for three places so all should go forward without a vote. This clearly scuppered Labour’s plan. Now a sensible group of people would have accepted this and moved on. Not Luton Labour. They started to try and find ways to engineer a vote.
I am told that Labour Councillors then began attempting to nominate other members of the Liberal Democrat group! They nominated Lib Dem leader, Cllr David Franks, who promptly refused the nomination. They then tried to nominate Cllr Peter Chapman who did the same. Becoming more and more ridiculous they tried again by nominating Cllr Jenny Davies with predictably the same result.
So they then changed tactic and nominated an extra one of their own, Labour councillor Roy Davis. At first Cllr Davis accepted the nomination and the vote began. But descending further into farce, halfway through the vote he then withdrew.
Now this may have been amusing at the time but it has very little to do with securing proper and effective representation for Luton on the police authority. Indeed it could be easily interpreted as the Labour group having a personal vendetta against Cllr Pantling, so determined were they to exclude him. Whatever the motivation, it doesn’t reflect well on Luton’s elected representatives. Sadly, following the last local elections giving Labour even greater dominance on the Council I fully expect such game playing to continue and probably worsen.
However, this incident also shows that they can’t always have it their own way. They have had to accept the reality of the situation and give up their attempt to exclude the Liberal Democrats from a place on the police authority and to bully the rest of Bedfordshire into doing things their way.
The good news is that Luton is now properly represented on the Police Authority. The Luton members are now Cllr Malik and Cllr Whitaker from Labour and Cllr Pantling from the Lib Dems.
This content was originally posted on my old Strange Thoughts blog.