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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 22 September, 1998, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Lib Dem criticism for council reform
Featherstone
Featherstone: Proposals will only benefit Labour councils
The only way to rid councils of the "Labour baron style of local government" is voting reform, the Liberal Democrats have heard.

The Brighton conference has seen a wide-spread condemnation of the government's proposals for the reform of local authorities as "Labour proposals are all about Labour's best interests".

The conference backed proportional representation for local elections and increased independence, including more financial freedom, from Westminster.

End fiefdoms

Labour fiefdoms, corruption, and one-party domination of local councils could only be ended by single transferable vote, delegates were told.

Paul Burstow
Burstow: Plans create more cliques
Paul Burstow MP, who introduced the motion, said voting reform would help to restore public confidence in the electoral system.

The government's plans to introduce mayors and cabinets would create cliques behind closed doors, he said.

Councillor Lynne Featherstone of Haringey described the white paper as "Labour proposals all about Labour's best interest".

It would do nothing for local democracy, she said.

Councillor Diana Wallace, leader of the opposition in East Riding, described the white paper as an "incredible missed opportunity".

Voting in supermarkets, annual elections and mayors and cabinets would not make a difference to corrupt councils such as Labour-controlled Doncaster, Councillor Wallace said.

She said: "The only thing that makes a difference is not where you vote but how you vote. PR, that's what is missing."

'Subtle capping'

Her views were echoed by Councillor Jenny Randerson, of Cardiff, who said the white paper was not a prescription for the ills of local government, it merely identified the problems.

It would do nothing to weaken the "Labour baron style of local government," she said.

Councillor Arnie Gibbons of Leicester South said the white paper would "destroy" local government.

Liberal Democrats were up in arms about it and so would Labour have been if the Tories had introduced such proposals, he told delegates.

Crude and universal capping would be replaced by "subtle and sophisticated capping," he told delegates.

Councillor Gibbons said: "We have a strategy for constructive opposition.

"This is time for opposition. This is rubbish."

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