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JIM PARKER: Standing by his vote against group

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 13, 2012

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THERE they were — poised for a major victory against their fiercest political rivals, only to be undone by one of their own.

The Lib Dems must have thought they had the Tories by the short and curlies at last week's Torbay Council meeting.

It was all over moves to do away with cash help for people on benefits and paying their council tax bills.

Previously, the Town Hall has helped pay the bills for some of those people claiming benefit and of a working age — in some cases all of the charges have been paid.

Faced with trying to find massive savings of £10million in the coming 12 months, the ruling Tories put forward a motion that these people should now pay at least 25 per cent of their annual bills.

Civic chairman and leading Lib Dem councillor Roger Stringer either voted against or abstained (he says he cannot remember) in that vote.

But then an amendment was put on the table by his own Lib Dem group calling for a 12.5 per cent contribution rather than the 25 per cent.

The vote was split right down the middle which left Cllr Stringer with the casting vote — which he used to go against his own group's move and their amendment was lost.

He was subsequently summoned by group chairman Andrew Baldrey and group leader Steve Darling to explain his actions.

Cllr Darling said: "He voted against us. It is a private matter to be discussed with Roger behind closed doors regarding group discipline.

"We have held a meeting with Roger and it is now for the group to decide."

According to the group standing orders — evidently it's all about 'loyalty' here — there are three ways forward: taking no further action, a verbal warning or a written warning.

Cllr Darling said: "It needs to go back to the group. We do a statement of fact back to the group."

He said the normal process for his councillors was 'if you have any concerns about the way the group is planning to you should have told the group leader on what you were planning to do'

"He (Cllr Stringer) did not. I was somewhat disappointed."

Cllr Darling says savings could have been made by doing away with other council tax discounts and was concerned about the impact a 25 per cent contribution to council tax bills would have on some people.

"They are already being squeezed by having other reductions," he said.

Cllr Stringer stands by his decision.

He says: "I voted against the amendment because I thought this effects the whole of the Bay.

"It was a very, very difficult vote. It just thought it was the best for the Bay.

"I am neutral. It was a really difficult decision to make.

"The group has asked me for my reasons which I can understand.

"I have told them the reasons and I have come home quite happy.

"I think they may say 'don't do it again'.

"I stand by what I did. It was the best for me. I was the last in the line.

"I did not know how I was going to vote. That's the truth. At the end of the debate I had an idea in my mind.

"I thought 'sorry boys, I cannot go for this'.

"It was like being in court when I was a magistrate. You listen to both sides before making a final decision. That's the way to do it.

"In this 12 months (as civic chairman) I am non political.

"I am the piggy in the middle. It's about the Bay. I took this position to do what I could do for the Bay."

He was praised by none other than deputy mayor and leading Tory Dave Thomas, who said: "He was in an incredibly difficult position. I thanked him publicly for what he did."

To be honest, I'm not absolutely sure about the ins and outs if these proposals. I only know a lot of people already struggling to make ends end are going to be hit even harder, but it is refreshing to see a councillor putting people before politics.

THE Riviera International Conference Centre has never been the flavour of the month with some as it continues to be a drain on the public purse. Some of those critics may be won over — or at least be given some encouragement — with news that a new management team at the RIC appear to be slowly but surely making in-roads into reducing those demands.

New board chairman Cris Boyce has revealed that after just nine months in charge the RIC will be able to cut its annual subsidy from the Town Hall — normally more than £640,000 a year — by more than £212,000 for the coming year. But will that be enough to keep the wolves from the door ....

I am told there is some disquiet that more is not being taken from the RIC as £10million cash cuts begin to bite hard.

Torbay Mayor Gordon Oliver has made no secret of his support for the seafront complex. He found them an extra £250,000 this year for urgent repairs and word has it that he is still very keen for the support to continue. But does he have the full support of his own group going forward?

Some may believe that the RIC should take more of a hit as part of the Draconian cuts across the Bay.

I gather the position may become a little clearer when the overview and scrutiny people look at the budget in the New Year. At the moment, it appears the Mayor is sticking to his guns. But we may be in for some interesting votes when not just the opposition may be thinking differently. Best of luck, meanwhile, to Mr Boyce and his team....

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  • realityzone  |  December 17 2012, 6:25PM

    Its a rather curious and invalid notion to suggest that to have any worth on this planet you have to "soil your hands." There's people who are handed every advantage by their parents and end up in the gutter and others who make something of their lives. Word of advice, take Care Dave_David, being bitter is bad for your health.

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  • Dave_David  |  December 17 2012, 12:43AM

    realityzone....agree with what you say......except for you agreeing with MaryGee...he is a man and a troll...uses several names and all are banned. Jim Parker what are "short and curlies"? is that the best your English will allow you to type...poor stuff mate. I despair at our council and councillors, you have Oliver as the lead and Stringer as a deputy, neither have soiled their hands in their lives, both have life handed to them on a plate by their parents. No mention of Cowell that must be a first in the columns of the H.E., you know the man that works in Newton Abbot, his last two jobs were, mind you got fired from the first, the man that tweets from council meetings, that is not what he is paid to do, he should be representing his constituents. The man that goes to Torquay United and moans and looks miserable, Billy No mates.

  • Corsham999  |  December 15 2012, 9:36PM

    Jim, Jim Parker help the people that need it brother. Put into print the true facts that will help people that have fallen on hard times and need help but unless something is done soon are going to suffer more than they are already.Search your heart man you know whats right and whats wrong , help to protect the people of the Bay from the effects these savage cuts that are coming after 4 years of hard times.I love this Town and struggle sometimes to see the gap between the "haves and have nots" the difference is more extreme here than in most pats of the UK (even though it is a hidden sadness) just go to Marine Drive take a look and then go some areas in Watcombe. People can't always get good jobs or come from families financially "well off" we are what we are even though most strive to do better.Jim fight the cause for fairness "you have the pen".

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  • Corsham999  |  December 15 2012, 8:18PM

    It just seems to be the same the whole world over, its the rich that get the spoils and the poor that gets the blame. Hey it was the greed (which is a sin the last time I looked) of the rich city boy bankers and the FSA incompetence in the Capitalist Western World got us in the *hit.So some people that genuinely need help that have fallen on hard times in this country should get it.Some of the people that are making judgments on people that get financial help or don't get it are from the political elite that helped to get us in this mess in the first place (do you trust them). So what are the alternatives hum well we help ourselves glad to see organizations like the Re Cross and the Sally Army coming to the fore these days man we need them the I'm alright selfish prats will not help believe me.

  • realityzone  |  December 15 2012, 7:49AM

    I sympathise with your plight and with your frustration Cruey but the bigger picture here is that the present Government and local authorities everywhere are having to deal with a massive deficit, much of it inflicted by the the previous Government. When they left office a Treasury minister left a note for his successor which said " best of luck there is no money left" which really sums up where we are. I don't belong to any party political persuasion but if I was going to point the finger here it would have to be to Gordon Brown's custody of the nation's money. Trying to sort it out and reigning back the welfare state will inevitably lead to controversy and areas of unfairness. Ok some pensioners appear to escape the worst of the cuts but QE has wrecked the value of their savings and many are far worse off because of Government policy. MaryGee has a point, Parker's writing is driven by his own agenda so I don't trust it.

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  • Cruey  |  December 14 2012, 8:23PM

    @MaryGee...is this a another case of I'm alright Jack?...what a stupid comment....I would not wish a disability or illness on my worst enemy....... my family have been to hell and back and had to face very tragic times.....I only hope and pray that the Tories along with Stringer never ever have to face a situation where they do not know how and when they will be able to pay the bills due to an illness .... I am more than disgusted at the lack of compassion shown to some of our most vunerable people in Torbay .no lets get the tourists here and the big ships in the Bay..Lets plant stupid Palm tree's...... the list of money wasted is endless

  • Cruey  |  December 14 2012, 8:12PM

    @MaryGee....... well your comments say it all ......another case of I am alight Jack is it?...I would never ever wish a disability or sickness on my worst enemy....Yes my family have been to hell and back with both......... I pray and hope all those that can make such stupid comments and people like the Tories along with the help of Stringer never have to face what a lot of us have ...... and no we are not on benefit..I am saddened by the lack of feeling to those most in need ...heartless and uncaring.........

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  • MaryGee  |  December 14 2012, 7:51PM

    Typical parker pen. Full of poop

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  • stephenjohnco  |  December 14 2012, 5:23PM

    I am totally disgusted with his Local Authority's decision to make all those "of working age" to contribute towards the Council Tax from next year despite taking into consideration the circumstances of the individual. This very inept Government, which I and many others consider has little idea in dealing with the financial crisis, is making decisions which is seriously affecting those who can little afford to make further sacrifices to their income. I am "of working age" and will be for very many years yet but due to severe ill-health will almost certainly not be able to return to work. I recently completed an online Local Authority survey and several questions were asked as to whom should be made to contribute. There were comments to the effect that those on state pension would be protected from making any contributions this despite many of those in receipt of pension being far better off than those in respect of ESA and/or DLA. I have an elderly relative who receives far more in benefits than I and also receives other assistance such as winter fuel allowance. If we are all in the same boat then surely ALL of us should contribute irrespective of age. If I am told to make a contribution towards Council Tax then the only ones who will lose out will be local traders as I shall have to cutback on food, clothing, etc. If we all had to do so, then local traders may have to close and the Local Authority would suffer loses from its income of rates and taxes. Who therefore wins in the long term?

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  • Cruey  |  December 13 2012, 2:06PM

    Well done to the Mayor for not giving a toss about those already struggling.....I am alright Jack ...yes there are some that are to lazy to work but there are many more who CAN'T work and also with the lack of decent employment in the Bay many have 2 or more jobs to try to keep a roof over their heads......Selfish, thoughtless and very uncaring.hang your head in shame Stringer..... all the cuts this Tory lot are making to elderly, vunerable and disabled fits in very nicely with the Governments cuts ..... Ohhh if only they lived in the real world