ONE party has not backed the council’s housing consultation, saying that it is a flawed exercise.
Labour group leader, Cllr Andy Croy, said: “I don’t think it’s a genuine consultation.
“At the Overview and Scrutiny Meeting where the consultation’s details were announced, the Lib Dems on the committee called for it to be three months instead of the one it is. Why would the Conservatives be opposed to this extension?
“A normal consultation is three months, it’s all very strange.”
And Cllr Croy also had concerns over the cost of the exercise, saying that the council could have achieved the same impact for a much reduced sum citing his party’s recent Post Office petition as an example of a most cost-effective action.
“We got 6,000 signatures and all it cost us as a party was about £50 on photocopying,” he said.
“The Labour party has concerns over the way in which the Conservatives are spending council tax payers money.
“They have met with the Prime Minister four times on the issue – and she still lives in the borough. She doesn’t need £50,000 spent on her to know what people in Wokingham think about housing. As an MP she should know what people think.
“The Government has just introduced a new National Planning Policy Framework , it’s done and it’s so obvious that this consultation of residents can’t don’t anything to change that.”
Cllr Croy also felt that by asking residents if they think too many houses are being built, it raises false hope that there would be a change to the number of houses that have already been agreed.
“It won’t affect those homes – they are done deals. The council are fighting things 22 years too late,” he explained, adding that the homes are being built before the right infrastructure is in place, such as the Southern Distributor Road which is currently being consulted on.
The borough, he felt, will always be a target for additional housing partly because of its proximity to Heathrow airport and its proposed third runway.
“The borough council supports this runway. If they were serious about the suburban way of life they would be pushing for that runway to be built somewhere else,” he said.
But above all, Cllr Croy felt that this was a political exercise aimed at winning votes.
“The consultation was announced four hours before purdah began, litterally at the last minute,” Cllr Croy said, referring to the council meeting held in March when Julian McGhee-Sumner was leader.
“The Lib Dems are being dragged along. It’s a very, very expensive way for a political party to persuade the population it has a grip on the situation.
“Politically, it’s very, very clever, but the result is not even meaningful. The Tories say they couldn’t have a referendum, but they are wrong. You just have to ask residents the right question.
“The real reason why they didn’t want a referendum is that it would cost more than £200,000 and it would have the same lack of impact: the Tory Government want to build more housing in the South East.”