Tom GOrdon
Tom Gordon Libdem

Liberal Democrats withdraw support for the Harrogate Station Gateway Project

5 July 2023

Lib Dems send a message of no confidence to North Yorkshire’s Conservative Executive over the Station Gateway Project.

At a meeting of North Yorkshire Conservative-controlled Councils Executive on 4 July 2023, Cllr Chris Aldred has announced that the Liberal Democrat Councillors in Harrogate and Knaresborough have been forced to withdraw their support for the scheme in the face of Conservative failures.

Commenting Cllr Aldred, said:

When the Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Committee passed a motion in support of the scheme it was conditional on the Conservative Council agreeing to listen to local people’s concerns. It is clear that they have no interest in doing this therefore we can no longer support the scheme.

We asked for a working group so that local Councillors could be involved, again, they failed on this. We can not have those people who will be most affected by these changes feel sidelined or ignored.

In their joint statement, all Liberal Democrat Councillors for Harrogate and Knaresborough say they have lost all confidence in the ability of the Conservative led Council to deliver the project for the benefit of Harrogate.

This announcement follows on from previous comments made by Tom Gordon, Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats who has questioned the deliverability of the scheme.

Commenting Tom said:

I welcome the decision by Harrogate and Knaresborough’s Lib Dem Councillors to remove the conditional support for the project given the inaction of this failing Conservative Council Administration.

Local residents have the right to be informed about what is happening in our town and to know how our money is being spent. Local residents have told me they feel in the dark about the current and projected costs of the project. Only to be told that aspects of the project can be removed or scaled back to deliver the scheme in budget. This lack of honesty about what is actually deliverable and the lack of meaningful engagement undermines public trust and confidence in the Station Gateway project.

Cllr Chris Aldred Gateway Speech to Executive 4 July 2023:

I am addressing Executive Members today, on behalf of ALL the Liberal Democrat members, who form the democratically elected majority on the Harrogate & Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee.

It is with disappointment that I am speaking here today. Disappointment at the failure of this Executive to engage with business and residents in a meaningful way.

Disappointment at the failure of this Executive to respect the recommendations of Harrogate’s democratically elected Councillors on Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Committee.

And disappointment that those most closely affected, are left feeling ignored, with their genuine concerns sidelined.

On the 5th May, as detailed in the report before you (3.3), agreement was given by the ACC to pursue further investment in the proposed Gateway scheme. This was not universal support, and it was given subject to conditions, which were –

That the genuine concerns of individuals and groups continue to be listened to, debated and responded to

and that the ACC has a meaningful role in the implementation of the scheme, including conversations with concerned individuals and groups.

As far as I can see, no action has yet been taken to meet either of these conditions.

At the following ACC meeting, on 8th June, Councillors expressed frustration that there had been no engagement with individuals and groups who had expressed concerns a month earlier.

I proposed a motion seconded by Cllr Slater, in which we called for two simple things. A programme of engagement meetings to be drawn up and the details published before the 30th June, and a Working Group of ACC members to be set up. You can see this request quite clearly in the report before you, at 4.7

Two simple asks. Simple asks that would have gone someway to mitigating fears that this scheme is being forced on Harrogate regardless. The impression you are giving, is it is this or nothing.

This motion was supported not only by all my Liberal Democrat colleagues, but by the Conservative member in who’s Division this scheme will have the most impact – Valley Gardens & Central Harrogate.

Well, 30th June has come & gone, so now our question must be, are you unable to comply with the requests of the ACC, or are you just unwilling to do so?

Sadly, I think it is the latter.

Given your abject failure to deliver – or even engage – on these requests from a democratically elected local committee of this Council, I am here today to inform you that the Liberal Democrat members of the Harrogate & Knaresborough Area Committee, who represent the majority of local people, are unanimously withdrawing our support for this scheme.

We have no confidence that this Executive – in particular the Executive Member for Highways & Transportation – have the competence to deliver this scheme in a manner that will be of benefit to Harrogate.

We do not need a scheme forced upon local people and businesses without engagement. Meaningful engagement is not a tick box exercise, it is about ongoing conversations. Actually Listening.

Liberal Democrat members will continue to monitor every aspect of this scheme, on behalf of our residents and hold the Executive to account for every pound of public money spent on it.

But we simply can not support a scheme that is being driven by an administration determined to ignore residents, businesses and Councillors alike. An administration who constantly fall short of what is expected.

This administration seems more focused on clinging to power and has prioritised it’s own political backroom conversations aimed at maintaining a majority in the chamber, above getting a grip on this controversial issue.

We have given you enough opportunities to demonstrate you are sincere and competent – sadly, you have clearly demonstrated that you are neither.

We now call upon this Executive – in particular the Executive Member for Highways & Transportation – to demonstrate positive and transparent action. Admittedly this maybe more in hope than in expectation.

We want to see a fully costed plan. One which makes it clear which areas will be scaled back to stay within budget constraint, or where the money will be coming from to meet any overspend. And we still want a series of engagement meetings and a working group to be created as per the recommendations of the Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Committee on June 8th.

This is not too much to ask. It is the bare minimum.

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