A local interest post. Though it may replicate what happens elsewhere. Now, I've never seen County Councillors so angry. At least six members of the Montgomeryshire Independent Group on Powys County Council have shared their utter fury with me over the last two days. I witnessed some of them heading towards newspaper offices of the Shropshire Star and County Times in Welshpool today with black steam pouring from their ears. I don't want to seem overly partisan, but the only way to describe the cause of all this angst is their opinion that Montgomeryshire's Liberal Democrats are telling lies to the public. When I suggested that this might be a bit strong, one of their leaflets, which had been circulated around Machynlleth was thrust in my face.
This leaflet had photographs of Mick Bates AM, Lembit Opik MP, Cllr Francesca Jump and Cllr. Richard White on the front page and underneath was written
COUNCIL TAX VICTORY - Liberal Democrats councillors in Powys have won the battle to keep Council Tax increases for 2009/10 as low as possible. Independent Councillors wanted to see a rise in Council Tax of 3.99%; but Lib Dem councillors led a group calling for much lower increases, and the Council finally approved an increase of just 2.99%.
Now I'll tell you what really happened - and you can judge for yourself whether they were lying or not. Please concentrate. The first discussion about Council Tax in Powys took place at a meeting of the Council's Executive Board. The Powys Independent Alliance were supporting an increase of 3.99%. The Montgomeryshire Independents were supporting 2.99%. The Liberal Democrats began be supporting an increase of 2.75%, but after discussion decided to support 2.99%. The Conservatives maintained its already declared position of supporting an increase of 2%. At the full Council meeting when the rate of Council Tax was set, the recommendation from the Board was 2.99%. The Conservative's 2% amendment was defeated, though it was properly costed and the Montg Independents abstained rather than vote against. The Lib Dems voted against. The Lib Dems then made complete fools of themselves, eventually calling for a break to prepare an amendment, which was so utterly ludicrous that they finished up arguing amongst themselves, and not putting forward any amendment at all. Their shambolic behaviour reduced the Council Chamber to bemused laughter. The Powys Independents 3.99% amendment was also defeated. The Montgomeryshire Independents led the 2.99 proposal, which was carried with support from all except the Powys Independents.
Now you can see why the Montgomeryshire Independents are incandescent with rage. Its been simmering for week a two, but the newspaper and leaflets that the Lib Dems have been circulating has blown up into an inferno of anger and contempt. Two things have surprised me. Firstly, that the Conservative Councillors are relaxed about it all, judging that the public will see through it. And secondly, that the Lib Dems distributed a leaflet around Machynlleth of all places without any Welsh at all on it.