Monday, 10 November 2008

Phone mast

News from our special correspondent in Crosby Peter Hough who reports here on the Tory debacle over phone mast policy. If this did not cause so much distress it would be funny. We have always maintained that if there are council owned sites-eg cemeteries-where a phone mast could be placed we were rather it went there than it was put next to a school. We are struggling here because the legislation is so biased towards the phone companies that they almost always win if the council refuses them a site for a phone mast when they go to appeal. It then becomes a 'double whammy' for the residents and the council, first they get the phone mast in a bad place and secondly they get the bill for legal costs etc from the phone companies. Cllr Porter appears (once again)to have got her facts wrong about the recent planning application in Kew Ward near to the cemetery.
Anyways let us let Peter tell the story:

A further example of the Sefton Tory leadership being out of touch with the rank and file, is regarding the LibDem proposition to partially lift the Council's moratorium which bans phone masts on council land.

The moratorium was brought in some years ago as a knee-jerk reaction to Tory and Labour legislation which allowed telecommunications companies to leaf-frog councils and put them more or less where they like.

I was on the panel at last months Planning Meeting where Brenda Porter publicly argued against expert advice from a Vodafone representative who said the Cemetery Road and Birkdale Cemetery masts could be placed inside the graveyards - if only the Council would allow.

She said she had been told differently by the company when she phoned them. This spilled out into the corridor where she continued to argue with Vodafone's expert witness. Members of the public looked on, and one was heard to brand Brenda a 'hypocrite'.

At last Wednesday's Crosby Area Committee meeting I was prepared to defer my report on the mast moratorium as the Cabinet have asked for a report to be sent to the area committees, before it is debated at Full Council.However, when I arrived, Tory and Labour members approached me, worked up about the issue - and said they wanted the opportunity to vote for it. As I knew I had the support of the other LibDems, I left it on the agenda.When it came to the item I acknowledged the Cabinet decision but said we needed to reinforce the issue.

Tory leader Paula Parry immediately came in and said that there was no point, 'as I can't make up my mind until I've seen the report'. The other Tories then made no contribution to the debate and got behind their leader.
It was therefore minuted that the committee 'were concerned about the moratorium and welcomed the upcoming report'.From conversations with other councillors, it would seem that most Tory members want to support the LibDem initiative to partially life the moratorium, which would mean some masts being sited away from homes and schools - but the indications so far are that Porter and Parry will be against it.

Perhaps this is because they don't want to be seen supporting the LibDems, or perhaps it's because it was Mrs Thatcher who said the companies could put their masts on pavements outside of people's homes.

Why they keep causing splits in their party is a mystery though, but as a psychologist I find it fascinating.

Cllr Peter Hough