Labour's rising star Archie Hadfield, Cllr Chris Myers and Organiser Guy Lucas-Bhana at the post full council mayoral do

The May meeting of Council is meant to be more ceremonial and administrative rather than political. It is centered around electing a new Mayor and Deputy and appointing members to the various committees and panels that oversee the work of the Council.  I paid tribute to the work of outgoing Mayor Cllr Swerling.  Despite our political differences I acknowledged her role in leading the Borough out of lockdown and towards a new reality of living with the COVID virus.  I also noted key highlights of her year including the moving Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony and the inspiring Civic Awards evening.

Labour put forward a full slate of committee nominations despite the ruling Conservative Group taking the vast majority of places and ensuring they have an overwhelming majority on every committee.  We had some success in my election as Chair of the influential Shareholder & Investment Committee and in the elections of Councillors Gray and Ozarow as Vice Chairs of the Operations and Review scrutiny committees respectively.  Or so we thought! We believe that opposition Councillors should chair all of the scrutiny committees.  It isn’t fair and balanced for the Tories to effectively mark their own homework! But we’ll come onto that later. 

The agenda began with the election of mayor for the municipal year 2022-2023. Every year the Tories tend to hijack what should be a non-partisan role by whipping the vote for one of their members.  They tend to shamelessly use the Mayoralty as a parting gift in exchange for persuading one or other of their older long-standing members to retire and open up a so-called safe seat to a younger contender.  An inducement to retire or a poisoned chalice of a gift, some may say.

This year they nominated current Deputy Mayor, former Council Leader and immediate past Finance Portfolio Holder Cllr John Graham. But instead of putting up an Labour candidate who would be certain to be voted down, we took a different approach. We nominated Cllr Paul Hodgson-Jones, a newly elected councillor in his new home town of Huntingdon, to use his last year in the council as mayor before he disappears for good. We did this to highlight Tory hypocrisy. How can he serve local people properly as a Councillor in two different parts of the country?  Why should he claim two sets of allowance payments whilst not focussing properly on either set of residents?  Want to find out more? Watch this proposing speech and seconding speech from Labour’s Cllr Chris Myers followed by myself.

The meeting then progressed to the election of Deputy Mayor.  The Tories nominated Cllr Victor Eni.  An odd choice.  Despite working with me on a cross-party motion supporting the Black Life Matters campaign he has been reluctant to demonstrate that he can be dynamic and independently minded.  We have always supported Cllr Eni’s work at Town Council level on Borehamwood’s annual diversity festival.  Notwithstanding that, we have always argued that the Mayor and Deputy should come from different parties to highlight the political plurality of the Council.  That would be fair.  Hertsmere Tories clearly don’t do fair.  In politicising the two key Civic posts we believe that the Conservatives ultimately devalue them.  Therefore, Cllr Richard Butler proposed Cllr Chris Myers as Labour’s nominee.  In his speech he commented on how Chris has been a steadfast representative of the people of Furzefield, and how he could use that experience to represent all of the people in Hertsmere. I was proud to second that and build on the sentiment that Chris personifies Hertsmere, he’s got the talent, ambition and drive that is so prevalent in our borough. Unfortunately he was not elected, but that came as no surprise due to the size of the Tories majority.

Councillor Morris Bright was confirmed by the ruling group as their choice of Leader to serve his fourth term. I’ll be pressing hard to ensure he raises his game and delivers the critical support local people need to get through the cost of living crisis as well as pushing for the critical health, education transport and infrastructure improvements that our Borough so desperately needs.

Executive members, who oversee different portfolios were then confirmed. We are very excited to announce that we will now be allocating members of our group to act as “opposite numbers” to the key portfolios in scrutinising their work and providing Labour and Co-operative solutions where the ruling group are failing to step up to the plate. Please see below a photo of the roles and our shadow role holders:

Labour's Shadow Cabinet Appointments

Shockingly,  just as we thought it was all over bar the formalities, the Tories did something to reinforce their persona as the nasty party. Despite approving a previous document confirming that Cllr Dr Dan Ozarow would serve as Vice-Chair of the Policy Review Scrutiny Committee, they voted to replace him with Cllr Glenn Briski.  Cllr Briski was recently one of the individuals found guilty by the Conservative Party itself for negative campaigning and acting in a way that could incite antisemitism against Dr Ozarow himself. I immediately pointed out that this spiteful move further institutionalises the disgraceful bullying of Dr Ozarow by the Tories.

I was horrified, and I hope they are ashamed of themselves for stitching up one of the most important committees in a political attack on Labour.  Shamefully, before they nominated Cllr Briski they tried to persuade the Liberal Democrat group to take the role.  We thank our Lib Dem colleagues for refusing to participate in these spiteful games.

So, as we enter the last municipal year before the May 2023 local elections I’m proud to have been re-elected as leader of our Labour and Cooperative Group that consistently punches above our weight.  Keep an eye on this blog for more details of my priorities for the year ahead.

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