Given all the talk about political faultlines changing, progressive alliances and the like, it’s perhaps surprising how few electoral pacts have occurred at local government level in the last couple of years.There was only a handful between Liberal Democrats and Greens last year and the year before, most notably in Richmond in south west London but very rare elsewhere. That’s despite the multi-member nature of many local government wards making such pacts rather easier than in single-member Westminster constituencies.
So far, I’ve only spotted one such pact this year.* It’s from part of Mid Sussex, where the Liberal Democrats in Burgess Hill explain that their pact with the Greens is based on a common set of policy priorities:
The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party in Burgess Hill have agreed a ground-breaking partnership in Burgess Hill. They are pledging to work together for the benefit of the town and have agreed to back each other in the local elections on Thursday 2nd May.
In a joint statement Joe Foster, local Lib Dem chair and Anne Eves for the Green Party said, “We want to show the town that it is possible for two political parties to work constructively together and fight for the improvements that the town deserves and is crying out for.
“The Tories have run Burgess Hill Town Council and Mid Sussex District Councilas a closed shops for too many years even though they only get a minority of the votes. As a result open government has suffered and any criticism of their decision-making is treated with contempt. We want to change all of that for the good of the town.
“You only have to look at some of the poor decision-making and lack of progress over the last four years to know that it is time for a change.”
The Liberal Democrats and Green Party have agreed to work together in three key areas:
Environmental protection and development
- Provide further support for the Green Circle Network and all our green spaces with a greater focus on bio-diversity and schemes to protect vulnerable animal and bird species;
- Consult on low-carbon community transport schemes to better connect towns and villages and to reduce traffic congestion in town centres and on-street parking in residential roads;
- Campaign for safe provision for cyclists especially on routes to schools, and measures to slow traffic on certain residential roads;
- Push for sustainable design in any new housing, to include renewable energy generation, anti-flood measures and wildlife-friendly features;
- Combat waste: explore extending recycling to food waste; support schemes to eliminate single-use plastic and set up a repair café in Burgess Hill; and
- Resist further housing development outside of the district plan area (e.g. south of Folders Lane).
Rebuilding communities and the local economy
- Deliver a replacement for the Martlets Hall which the town’s Tories gave away;
- Consult on schemes to improve trading activity in Burgess Hill, for example by introducing a Town Discount Card or Town £;
- Revive the Burgess Hill Town Centre Partnership which the Tories put on hold to deliver initiatives to attract trade and secure a better share of grants to support independent Burgess Hill businesses;
- Hold the developers to account for the slow pace of change in Burgess Hill’s town centre and pressurise them to deliver the project to an agreed timetable;
- Provide disability toilet facilities in the town centre;
- Get a greater share of grant funding from Mid Sussex District Council by establishing an independent, not-for-profit Town Team and use these grants fairly across the town; and
- Provide additional support to the town’s community groups across all age groups and abilities.
Open and transparent government
- Make decision-making more transparent;
- Involve residents in the policy-making process by consulting more regularly;
- Extend the scope of the right of residents to ask questions at Burgess Hill Town Council meetings;
- Restore trust in the planning process; and
- Treat all media outlets equally even if they are critical of council decisions.
Joe and Anne added, “Having a strong contingent of Liberal Democrats and Greens on Burgess Hill Town Council and Mid Sussex District Council will be a breath of fresh air providing just the sort of ‘grown-up politics‘ that Burgess Hill and Mid Sussex needs. We are not just a partnership between two parties but a partnership with the town’s residents.”
* Update: I’ve since picked up news of agreements with the Greens in Broxtowe, Canterbury, Cotswolds and Vale of White Horse.