OMBC leader challenged over Parish Council “hot air” claims

COUNCIL leader Sean Fielding has rejected opposition calls for Oldhamers to have greater input in the final say on Greater Manchester’s controversial housing and employment blueprint.

And Cllr Fielding has now been rebuked for comments, described as “insulting and rude”, about Shaw and Crompton Parish Council.

In October, the second draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) will be published.

It has been delayed three times, the latest due to an updated population projection, showing a slower rate of growth than expected.

At Oldham Council’s September meeting, Cllr Fielding was asked to bring the final GMSF plan back to a meeting of the full Council for debate and adoption.

In making the request, Cllr Howard Sykes, Leader of the Opposition, said: “If we get this wrong, it will represent a disaster for our communities and for our green belt.

“I understand a decision has recently been made by the 10 Labour Council leaders and the Mayor of Greater Manchester (Andy Burnham) who have decided that the ultimate decision to adopt, or not to adopt the final plans, will rest solely with them.

“There will be no requirement to bring the plan to a full meeting of each of the 10 Councils for debate and a full vote on formal adoption by all councillors. This is a complete reversal of democracy.

“The 10 Labour Council Leaders and GM Mayor are saying ‘leave it to us, we know what is best for you’.

“It is certainly not what I and many others envisaged but perhaps it is a sign of things to come with so called devolution to Greater Manchester.

“Ward members are elected to lead, but also to represent the constituents and the communities we serve.

“How can we do this if we are denied the final vote on the plan?

“It is simply not right that such an important decision can be taken by so few people,” added Cllr Sykes describing the plans as a “backroom deal.”

Cllr Fielding hit back “strongly refuting” any backroom deal.

He added: “There was previously a motion to full Council, brought by opposition members as to whether we should or should not withdraw from the Spatial Framework in its entirety, and that motion was lost

“This is a strategic plan on the allocation of land for homes and allocation of land for employment use for the whole of Greater Manchester,” he added.

“And it is appropriate the decision is taken at the right level of governance.

“As a strategic plan for the whole of Greater Manchester I would argue the right level of governance is the Combined Authority of Greater Manchester city region which is where this decision rests.

“There will be a meaningful consultation when the revised plans go out in October.

“And that will be the opportunity at which members and members of the public will have the opportunity to respond.

“I know the Lib Dems are fond of increasing layers of bureaucracy and bringing things to decision making that they don’t need to come to in the way they champion the creation of parish councils in Saddleworth and Shaw and Crompton which collectively costs taxpayers across the borough an additional £260,000 for a self-indulgent exercise in allowing people to make hot air about issues that needn’t come to those bodies.”

Cllr Fielding’s “hot air” remarks have now been challenged by Louie Hamblett, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Shaw and Crompton Parish Council.

He told the Correspondent: “I am bemused by Cllr Fielding’s comments regarding the Parish Council from a party that seeks to represent ‘For the many, not the few’.

“The leader of the Council should welcome all opinions from every person, group or representative body within the borough.

“To state that the Parish Council is a body in which vast sums of taxpayers money is spent just so residents can “make hot air” is ludicrous, insulting and frankly rude to the residents whom we work hard to represent.”

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