At an Extraordinary Full Council held on Monday 18th December, Labour Councillors put forward a joint amendment with the Liberal Democrats to protect the future of our existing leisure centres in the Borough, and ensure funding for the Muslim Cemetery was put into the Capital programme.
The joint amendment also reversed a proposed Tory cut to road and pavement maintenance, and, importantly, made every Capital Programme business case subject to Full Council approval.
Councillor Carl Meader, Leader of Bedford Borough Labour Group, said;
“The Labour Group had grave concerns about the Capital Programme committing to borrowing £53million pounds, nearly half of which was earmarked for a massive new Leisure Village. Our aim is to ensure that the leisure centres we currently have are maintained in good condition so residents can continue to use them in the New Year. That is essential spending and, of course, we support that. Our present centres are in different areas of the Borough and are accessible for residents. If there IS any future Leisure Village project, it should not mean the closure of all the other sites as a consequence.”
“We accept that some borrowing is necessary for progress to be made with Health Hubs, improvements to Bedford & Kempston Town Centres the Muslim Cemetery, and other projects. All of these projects should be subject to approval in Full Council, once the business cases for each of them has been prepared. As I’ve said before, we are in favour of sensible capital spending for these and any other possible socially beneficial projects that may be added to the programme later.”
Councillor Mohammed Nawaz (Kempston Central & East) stated: “Despite spin to the contrary, of course the Labour Group is in favour of the Muslim Cemetery, and this amendment means that it is actually in the Capital Programme, not subject to the Mayor’s whim of being ‘minded’ to include it.”
Councillor Abu Sultan (Cauldwell) added: “The amendments offer clarity and transparency around some of the projects. As elected representatives, we have the crucial responsibility of ensuring the prudent use of Council taxpayers' money, safeguarding key services, and avoiding wasteful expenditure on vanity projects.
"Emphasizing the importance of sound business cases for projects is essential in maintaining fiscal responsibility and accountability to the public.Hopefully, this will also ensure that lies and misinformation are not spread regarding the Capital Programme and the budget. This was the case after the previous Full Council meeting, where, allegedly, a leading member of the administration intentionally worded a message to their supporters in the community, causing unwarranted anger towards some members of this council. Though this is alleged, I have no reason to doubt it, as this is not an isolated incident.”
“I am pleased that funding for the Muslim Cemetery is actually now included in the Capital Programme, which wasn't the case previously. There is strong support from the Labour Group for the cemetery, as there has been since the project was first envisaged.”
After the meeting, Carl Meader added, “The Mayor and his Tory administration worryingly demonstrated they did not understand council procedure which had to be explained to them at the meeting. This clearly showed they had misled the public with their lies and misinformation a few weeks ago.
“I am pleased all councillors saw that our joint amendment made sense and was approved unanimously.
"It’d be nice to have an apology from the Tories for their horrendously inaccurate statements that were bandied around after the last Full Council on 29th November, but I doubt that will happen.
"I take my satisfaction from knowing Labour councillors take their responsibility seriously and are diligently ensuring the best outcomes for the residents of Bedford Borough.”