Lib-Dems surprisingly ride to the rescue of Wiltshire’s Tory-controlled council

Written by Jeff Osborn, Independent Wiltshire Councillor on .

The Wiltshire Council budget meeting on Tuesday provided a fascinating insight into the way that Wiltshire politics is developing.

The most significant event was the budget amendment proposed by the Lib Dem Leader, Councillor Jon Hubbard, which skilfully found an extra £250,000 for the threatened Youth Service across the county.

A substantial slice of this comes from getting the council to go “paperless” – doing away with all printed agendas, minutes and papers for councillors and offering them Ipad style tablets.

Particularly intriguing was the manner in which this amendment was warmly welcomed by the Conservative administration and incorporated into their substantive budget motion. Ranks of Conservative councillors loudly applauded Jon Hubbard.

The question I have to ask is: Why are the Conservative so deficient of talent and initiative that they are forced to rely on the Leader of the Lib Dems to ride to their rescue?

For they certainly did need rescuing.

There is a petition to save the Youth Service doing the rounds and gathering support. In fact the young people organising it were at the council meeting and spoke to it. One wonders where the Conservatives would be without Jon Hubbard’s intervention.

However, when it came to the vote, at least five Lib Dems refused to support the substantive budget motion incorporating Hubbard’s amendment. For the public record, I voted for the budget – admittedly with some reluctance – largely because I am committed to retaining a viable Wiltshire Youth Service.

Two questions remain to be answered; first, whether it will prove practical for Wiltshire Council to really go paperless? Second, whether this split in Lib Dem voting will continue and what will be its long term consequences?