Politics getting in the way of child safety?

By Mick Scrimshaw on September 22, 2017

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I spoke in favour at Northamptonshire County Council yesterday of a motion put forward by one of my Labour colleagues calling for action over school parking. They highlighted the dangers often associated with road safety around dropping off and collection time.

This issue is of particular concern to me as it is a real issue at several schools in my Division. I argued that we must do something, and we can’t carry on the way we are. I spoke particularly about the part of the motion that called for more enforcement to deal with parking at junctions, on kerbs and double parking, and also wanted to start an awareness campaign over these issues.

The motion was lost simply because the entire Conservative Group voted against it. Their argument was that it was irrelevant to the County Council as it covered things that were the responsibility of other partners. For examples they argued parking enforcement as being the responsibility of the police, and air quality that of the local Borough and District Councils'.

Although it was pointed out to them that in Northamptonshire parking enforcement has been decriminalised (apart from in Kettering) and became the responsibility of NCC some years ago. It was also pointed out that whilst on paper it may be true that the Boroughs deal with air quality, we work in partnership with them all the time, and in fact one of the County Council’s Scrutiny Committees currently has a working group set up to look at exactly this issue.

It seemed to me that the Conservative’s leadership had instructed their group simply not to vote for the motion for no other reason than that it came from the opposition and to use any argument they can to try to make this sound reasonable. I genuinely can’t think of any other reason.

One Councillor even argued that these matters were best dealt with by individual councillors rather than having a policy covering the County as a whole. I don’t believe that they don’t care about children’s safety, and indeed they made the point that they did again and again. Then why then wouldn’t they support something aimed to strengthen safety measures? I found the whole thing rather petty.

I understand there are political dynamics to these kinds of debates but there also needs to be a constructive way forward. Earlier this week for example, at Northampton Borough Council, there were three motions put forward by the Labour opposition and the ruling Conservatives simply put forward some small amendments to the wording that allowed them to keep political face and then voted for them.

Surely that’s how democracy should work if all sides are genuinely trying to help local residents?

Mick Scrimshaw is the Leader of the Labour Group at Kettering Borough Council, the Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance at Northamptonshire County Council. He has a public record of standing up for Kettering as a County Councillor for the Northall division in Kettering, Northants and since May 2015, a Borough Councillor for the William Knibb ward. He is a keen cyclist and also runs a family business with his wife.

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