Last week Councillor Claire Carr wrote a letter to explain her position regarding the Cooperative Alliance Agreement that the Green Group has entered into with Labour to form an administration.
I respect Councillor Carr and am disappointed that she felt unable to join the alliance. However, her letter misrepresents the agreement we have entered into.
Councillor Carr makes the point that one of the reasons she cannot support the agreement is that she thinks it removes Green councillors’ ability to ask questions and bring amendments. However, the agreement explicitly states that both Green and Labour cabinet members can vote with their conscience. There is no removal of the right to ask questions and bring amendments. In fact, as members of Cabinet we are now more able to challenge and shape council decisions.
Of course this will require a greater commitment to consensus decision making and if Greens feel the process is not being honoured by the Labour group we will not hesitate to call it out. We have a commitment to ‘no surprises’ from either side, which is a key component of building trust in the process, and we will of course flag any major disagreements and try to resolve them amicably.
Councillor Carr mentions that she will operate free of a whip, implying a difference between herself and the rest of us. But in fact the Greens do not operate a whipping system and we are certainly not bound by the Labour one.
As Greens we were elected to make change, and that is only possible by taking power. Entering into an alliance, though it is challenging, models the kind of cooperative and open way of working that this town deserves and is already the model for both Lewes and Rother Councils. In fact this was a key demand of the people who voted for us.
A new spirit of cooperation and openness is already in evidence. Last week’s cabinet was the first one in which all councillors could ask questions; soon the public will be able to do so. Once the necessary constitutional changes have been made, this will apply to all other public council meetings as well.
The Hastings Greens are, as ever, committed to creating a council that works closely in partnership with its residents, tapping into the exceptional skills and energy of this town. I look forward to realising that commitment and I hope that Councillor Carr will join in the endeavour.