ATTACK ON COLLEAGUE: council meeting erupted into anger
The Floral Pavilion where the meeting took place, Image: Google Maps
A council meeting erupted into anger last night after one Labour member launched an attack on his Tory colleague.
Cllr Stuart Whittingham, who represents Upton for Labour on Wirral Council, provoked an impassioned response from Conservative members for a claim he made about their constituents.
The Upton member was taking part in a debate on Wirral Council’s plan to invest £5m in a community bank, with Liverpool Council and Preston Council also set to support the project.
It is hoped that once set up the mutual will support small businesses who cannot access credit with regular banks, as well as those hit with extra bills for not having a bank account.
Speaking at last night’s meeting, Cllr Janette Williamson, leader of Wirral Council, said her constituents in Liscard were supportive of the idea and that many were seriously “financially excluded” and facing huge difficulties due to being unable to access a bank account.
It is important to note that the £5m sum is from the council’s capital programme, meaning it is not competing with day-to-day services such as adult social care or leisure services like Europa Pools for funding.
Conservatives at the meeting, including group leader Cllr Tom Anderson, said the £5m investment would not be in the interests of Council Tax payers.
Cllr Anderson said there were many better uses for the money, including building affordable homes, and that residents talked to him about issues such as the grass not being cut and the borough looking like a mess, rather than starting up a community bank.
Addressing the Tory councillor, Labour’s Stuart Whittingham said the Conservative group needed a lesson in what community wealth building, the philosophy behind the community bank, really means.
He spoke about the impact the bank would have, as Cllr Williamson did, and added: “It’s alright going to your little communities, they’re all well-off and they’ve got their nice little bank accounts and their pensions in their back pockets.
“You want to start thinking about the less well-off people in this country.”
Tory councillors were incensed by the remarks.
Cllr Tony Cox, who represents Hoylake for the Conservatives, said what he had just heard was “one of the most ludicrous statements” and he asked Cllr Whittingham to retract it.
Cllr Cox added that Upton has some of the most lucrative areas in the entire borough and that all wards have different economic and social backgrounds.
Cllr Whittingham said that he lives in a council estate.
Fellow Conservative Ian Lewis reflected on the words of several councillors earlier in the meeting, which called for civility in council debates following the death of the MP Sir David Amess, who was stabbed to death on Saturday.
Cllr Lewis said he felt Cllr Whittingham’s comments were out of order and that although he did not want to play “deprivation bingo” he was brought up in a cold, damp, rented house in Huyton under a Labour council.
He added that the job of a councillor was about doing your best for the borough and asked Cllr Whittingham to withdraw his comments which he found “quite offensive”.
Words: George Morgan, Local Demcoracy Reporter
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