Stroud’s Conservative MP Siobhan Baillie has been officially asked to retract “inaccurate and misleading” statements that she made about Stroud District Council in Parliament.
In the House of Commons on October 16 she incorrectly claimed that the council is run by the Green Party and Labour Party. While this statement may be politically convenient for Ms Baillie as a Conservative MP in the run-up to the general election, and in a key marginal constituency, it is not true. The Greens lead the administration with Independent and Liberal Democrat Councillors, and Labour are not part of the Council leadership team.
Ms Baillie also incorrectly claimed that the Local Plan had been withdrawn. In fact, the council is still waiting to hear from planning inspectors about whether the Plan can continue.
Ms Baillie then criticised the district council for not securing money from the Levelling Up Fund last year. She did not mention that she backed the unsuccessful bid and did not acknowledge that the Levelling Up Fund was widely criticised by local leaders of all political colours, particularly for requiring local authorities to bid against each other, which was an utter waste of public money.
Cllr Catherine Braun, Green Leader of the Council (pictured), has written to ask Ms Baillie to withdraw the inaccurate comments, which were made as part of a question about Berkeley Town Council’s regeneration plans and which were published in Hansard, the official record of Parliamentary proceedings (scroll down to October 16).
Cllr Braun said: “It is deeply disappointing for the residents of the Stroud constituency to see such a lack of integrity by their Member of Parliament, which appears aimed at damaging confidence in local government.
“I would like the MP to acknowledge the misrepresentations she made, to correct them, and to be more honest in future when she speaks in the House of Commons.
“As Leader of the District Council, I seek to work cooperatively with our local MPs for the benefit of the district and would welcome their respect for our work at the council, and engagement to achieve shared objectives.”
Cllr Braun’s letter, copied to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, reads as follows:
“Dear Ms Baillie,
I am writing to you, with copy to the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the Commissioner for Standards to request that you retract an inaccurate and misleading statement about the composition and competency of Stroud District Council, which you made in the House of Commons on 16th October (Hansard Volume 738), which is deeply disappointing for the residents of the Stroud constituency and potentially damages confidence in local government.
You stated: “Berkeley Town Council has created a much-needed regeneration plan that will make the town worthy of the tourist attractions nearby, such as Berkeley castle and the Dr Jenner’s House museum, but we have little faith that the Green and Labour-led district council will get the levelling-up bid over the line. It failed before and its local plans have also been withdrawn. Will the Minister meet me to discuss the issue?”
I will highlight three issues where you have mis-represented the Council and our work in this short statement:
• Council leadership. Stroud District Council is led by the Green, Independent and Liberal Democrat groups. As you are aware from regular briefings and the local media, the Labour group has not been part of the council administration since October 2022.
• Funding bid. Stroud District (which was assessed as a second level priority area by Government) was amongst 418 councils which were not awarded funding in round two of the Levelling Up Fund allocation. Only 21 % of councils were successful. As you are aware, the Stroud District bid, which you backed, also received strong cross-party support and 50 letters of support from partners, leading business and community organisations, reflecting the quality of the work undertaken and Stroud District Council’s ambition for our district. In this context, I will also note that the fund design and highly unusual allocation, by parliamentary constituency rather than local authority area, as well as the requirement for local authorities to bid against each other, was widely criticised by local leaders of all political colours.
• Local Plan. The development of a new Local Plan is of key importance to people living and working in Stroud District, as it will determine where new housing and development takes place. As you are aware, the draft Local Plan is at the stage of Examination in Public. The Planning Inspectors have raised concerns, which Stroud District Council seeks to address, by providing further information, working with Gloucestershire County Council, South Gloucestershire Council and National Highways in particular. At this stage it is incorrect for you to state that it has been withdrawn, as we do not yet know the status of the plan. As you will be aware from your discussions with Council officers and members, we await the Planning Inspectors’ decision on whether the Examination in Public can proceed.
Finally, I will be writing to Berkeley Town Council to reassure them that Stroud District Council remains as committed as ever to supporting their excellent regeneration ambitions, as we are for all market towns and parishes across the district.
I hope you will agree to correct the record on these points and that by working together, the Council and the local MPs can achieve more for our local area.”