Friday, April 28, 2017

What's a little fracking between friends?

When the CWaC Labour spin machine gets going it can be a very effective resource at stopping real debate or even telling the truth about a particular situation as it unfolds before us.

This week I took the often travelled journey to CWaC headquarters in Chester to be part of the call in team for a very important and emotive item which on the face of it should not have required a call in if my voice or the voice of residents had been taken into consideration throughout.

For those of you who are not sure what a call in is and what it is for, its a mechanism where a decision of a committee or group within council can be asked to be scrutinised in depth by one of the various scrutiny committees (there are four) in CWaC. These committees are well run, two with Labour Chairpersons, one with Conservative and one by our independent Councillor.

So what was called in? Well, in order to call anything in there must be a minimum number of councillors and I was one of those calling in the SPD (Special planning Document) that has been developed by the LPWG (local plan working group)  around fracking and how (or not) to do it.

Why did I call it in? I like the other call in members did not disagree with the SPD but we felt it did not go far enough. I (we) wanted a situation where by any fracking application could be held to a referendum by local communities after working with fracking companies to see if there were any mutual benefits such as infrastructure, financial etc. You could therefore imagine that residents would have a say or even THE say on whether the fracking would go ahead.

At this point, I need to remind readers that in Labours manifesto pledge of 2015, they committed to this "We will seek to put a moratorium on the extraction of shale gas methane in the Cheshire West and Chester area...". However, after gaining power they were told they had no legal powers to do so (the first sign of a lack of understanding how it all works perhaps?)

So they (with our help and backing) have brought along the SPD - without which frackers can put in lots of planning applications to frack and CWaC can't do much about it.

We wanted it to be stronger......

and so we end up at the call-in April 26th and a few days after a general election is called and a couple of days after the Conservative group leader told Labour and officers that we are now under the rules of "purdah".

I hope you are still with far anyway. One of the rules of Purdah is that no local council facilities or buildings can be used for electioneering. A pretty common sense rule I think as that is not what Council Tax is paid for.

At the call-in, Chris Mathers, Labour MP for Chester, with a very small majority (I'll leave his ability for another blog perhaps) turns up. No doubt ready to make a compassionate election speech about how good labour were on turning about face on their promises not to frack.

And here in lies the truth, if we continue with the call-in, the legal team will stop it due to purdah, if we delay the meeting, we all have to tootle off to Chester again and in the meantime we have no SPD (which we conservatives support) with which to protect our residents. Thankfully common sense prevailed and we withdrew with assurances that the additional points would be discussed at a later date, webcast and recorded.

In the meantime......

The CWaC Labour spin machine goes off course and at full charge, accusing the call in members of wasting time, money and playing games. Some call this "fake news"...I have other words but can't print them here without upsetting even more people than the Labour cronies who might read this blog.

The biggest criticism comes from Matt Bryant (yes, the one due in court to appeal a decision) who calls us the pro-fracking Conservatives. I would remind readers he has gone from"no fracking here" to "we can frack now" within a space of two years......not bad eh?

No doubt this will also run and run but sometimes I think what residents want is strong rules and regulations which rely on them to have the better judgement on what is right in a community.

I'm not sure Labour can deliver that.....

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