WEST Berkshire’s Conservative and Labour parties have joined forces to condemn the Liberal Democrats for ‘politicising’ Greenham Parish Council.
Last month, the Liberal Democrats put forward four candidates for the four vacant parish council seats – and with no other nominations received they were subsequently elected unopposed.
This prompted Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats chairwoman, Sue Farrant, to say: “I was astonished that no other political party nor any independent candidate wanted to seize this opportunity to serve the people of Greenham Parish.”
However, her comments have provoked a backlash among rival parties.
West Berkshire Conservative Party agent Dominic Boeck said: “Newbury’s Liberal Democrats are astonished that no other political party put forward candidates to fill vacancies in Greenham.
“Well, I have news for them. Not everyone thinks that party politics has any place in a parish council.
“Not everyone thinks that bringing in four more Liberal Democrat councillors will clear up the mess that their fellow Liberal Democrats made of the much-delayed control tower project.
“And almost no one thinks that politicising the parish council will benefit the residents of Greenham and lead to more open, accountable governance.
“Until now, West Berkshire Conservatives have taken the position that we will not field candidates in parish and town council elections, other than in Newbury and Thatcham which have long been politicised.
“Parish councils have important but modest responsibilities and equally modest budgets. We believe that independent parish councillors best represent residents’ interests.
“Following their dismal showing in last year’s general and local elections in West Berkshire, it appears that Liberal Democrats are trying to build a political platform for themselves in Greenham.”
Greenham parish councillor and the chairman of Newbury and West Berkshire Labour Party, Gary Puffett, said: “It is disappointing the Liberal Democrats are bringing party politics to a parish council that has, to date, been bereft of partisan opinion.
“Until now the council has dealt with matters in the spirit of community service. Since I became a parish councillor I have been mindful not to play party politics and work with fellow councillors with the intention of benefitting our community.
“It would seem the Lib Dems’ shameful grandstanding has changed that position and I feel compelled to respond to accusations the Labour Party were not willing to stand candidates.
“It is astonishing the Liberal Democrats value individual political ego above responsible community service but, given the party’s current national poll ratings, it is no real surprise they are prepared to do anything to raise their profile.”
Dr Farrant hit back, saying: “In 2015, two candidates stood for Greenham parish under the Labour banner and another under the Conservative banner.
“By doing that they set a precedent and that is why we fully expected them to field candidates this time around and were astonished when they didn’t.”