Labour goaded over opposition to Alliance

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THE Leader of the Labour Group on High Peak Borough Council was urged to admit she had been wrong over her concerns over the Strategic Alliance with Staffordshire Moorlands.

The call came after it emerged Bolsover and North East Derbyshire District Councils were set to follow in the footsteps of High Peak and Staffordshire Moorlands by forming a strategic alliance.

The leaders of the two Labour-controlled councils have stated the partnership will help protect frontline services and keep council tax rises low by cutting management costs.

High Peak Council Leader Tony Ashton said: “You can’t help but compare that to comments from the Labour Party in High Peak.

He said some of their quotes included that the strategic alliance would be the death knell to High Peak and Staffordshire Moorlands and was a merger in all but name.

He invited Cllr Bisknell to withdraw remarks she had made previously while Cllr Bob Morris asked: “Why can’t Cllr Bisknell admit this alliance is working and will carry on working?”

However Cllr Caitlin Bisknell said while the Labour Group had no trouble in supporting the motion to wish the two councils well in their Strategic Alliance she said it was very different to that of High Peak and Staffordshire Moorlands.

“For starters both councils are in the same county, the same region and have a long history of working together: including around procurement, audit, building control – and even with Derbyshire Dales on IT issues.

“But the difference is more radical than that. These two councils are looking to set up an arms length company, which will then have the ability to share and indeed trade services with other councils.

“I understand the councils also have expertise around dealing with large – sometimes predatory – companies who may want to develop plots of land; this expertise too could be sold on to others.

“This is therefore an alliance where the benefits are clearer and more obvious than our own strategic Alliance.”

She said she knew the leaders of Bolsover and North east Derbyshire, quite well and that she had informal talks with them about how they might – if the elections go their way in May – work together more closely in the future.

Cllr John Faulkner, offering advice to Bolsover and North East Derbyshire, said both would need the political will to see it through.

“Some senior officers will see it as a threat and key senior officers must be on board and be convinced of the business case.

He said: “In the High Peak enormous progress has been made in the Alliance but it has not been without a great deal of pain along the way.”

Cllr David Lomax said Liberal Democrat members were supportive of the idea of an alliance but believed some things could have been done better.