[The contents of this letter are the opinions of David Robert Worley only and not that of any political party, group or other]
According to Cllr Cowan, the WBC is run in secrecy by the Tories, hence he's left them. They ignore us on issues like Elms Field, etc. and need a shake up. I'm not standing in the Emmbrook by-election for the Greens. I am supporting Imogen for the Lib Dems. As well as supporting her in this election, I ask the Wokingham Labour Party to withhold their candidate for this by-election to ensure Imogen's victory. We can slowly chip away at the Tory majority if we put aside our petty differences and vote tactically over the next 3 years.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE RESIDENTS OF WOKINGHAM
Rome was most certainly not built in a day.
An 87% majority for the Conservative run Wokingham Borough Council is undeniably impressive. It must have taken hard graft to achieve. But with great power, comes great responsibility.
What has been done with that majority?
When Conservative Cllr Cowan wrote that the local Conservative ruling majority had become an 'autocratic, close and secret regime, with a blatant distrust of its residents', it doesn't come as a surprise to many Wokingham residents at all (full story at Woky Paper here http://www.wokinghampaper.com/councillor-quits-wokingham-tories-blaming-council-secrecy/amp). The controversial yet popular Hare Hatch Sheeplands Garden Centre has gained over 12,000 unique signatures before for a petition; completely ignored of course by the council. Concerns raised by constituents about Elm Field have gone unnoticed (watch the 3 hour extra ordinary meeting from 2014 https://youtu.be/oAa7QcuUaZc). Plans for Peach Place are going ahead despite concerns over available parking during the build. The joint venture with Reading Borough Council to build a new car park on popular green space in Reading will not resolve traffic congestion when Winnersh park and ride goes unused. Even here in Emmbrook residents clearly still feel frustrated with the Matthewsgreen Farm redevelopment where 760 new homes are being built. Heavy traffic is being directed right past their doors with some construction work happening overnight with little to no prior warning for the residents to prepare, probably because the council knows they will kick up a fuss. It is quite easy to build up an idea of why so many people get frustrated with this council and the way it is operating like a private members club.
Of course, this remoaner is likely to be ignored for the time being. The only way to make any real change to the situation is to educate residents on these issues as best we can and let them decide for themselves at the ballot box. Unfortunately for us, the residents of Wokingham, we have no elections in 2017 to express such a distaste for the way in which WBC operates.
But Rome wasn't built in a day.
We are prepared to play the slow game, if necessary, to take down any regime that does not aim to represent the will of its people. And please, no cheap slurs about getting over the referendum.
There is a chance to take back control of WBC (see what I did there) but it will take time. All seats will have to be contested before or during the 2020 General Election. The first will be here in Emmbrook during a by-election on the 17th February. We have seen 2 elections here in the past 12 months. The first, a by-election, won by 21 votes and the other last May by 13. I stood in the later election, gaining 119 votes. Above the national average for a Green I might add. Therefore, I feel I hold the balance of power. Bringing 119 (seemingly new) voters in to local politics is no mean feat.
I sit here pondering the many ways this could play out. For clarity, my party, the Green Party, have not yet decided if they are to support a candidate in this by-election. The only certainty is that as Wokingham Green Party's election officer, I know I will not be standing in this election. This is due to a number of reasons, not least to do with the rare opportunity that lies before us. Emmbrook is arguably the most marginal seat in Wokingham, so it seems fitting for it to become the foundations of our new Rome.
Indeed it is true that for this to succeed it would take a small swing of voters to step in the right direction. I realise that for this to happen, I would have to convince a younger generation of voters to vote Lib Dem. I hope I am making this clear.
I am willing to sabotage the by-election just to spite the Tories.
This is in no way an attack on Kevin Morgan, the Tory candidate. Not personally. His leaflet suggests he would support the Grazeley homes development, stating that 'enough is enough' for developments in Emmbrook. If only the Tories had an 89% majority to stop the awful things that the 87% Tory led council are doing. I simply do not wish to see anyone propping up a Borough Council that does not seek to represent the interests of its residents.
Again, the Green Party have not yet decided on whether they will support another party or not for the Emmbrook by-election.
But my mind is made up.
I will be supporting Imogen Shepherd-Dubey for the Liberal Democrats in the Emmbrook by-election and I sincerely hope you do too.
I therefore also call upon the Wokingham Labour Party to withhold their candidate from this by-election in order to further ensure the success of Imogen as the 'pro-alternative' candidate.
If there are any more resignations before the end of the year, they will be duly welcomed. Assuming of course that this plan works, the council would have a consistency of 85% Tory and 15% Other or a ratio of 46:8 if you will. It is a minor change in the short term, it is all we can do. For now.
If this is successful, I challenge other parties to work together, progressively, to take down this Tory mafia den. The Greens have spoken of the Progressive Alliance before, standing to one side to achieve a common aim: less Tories in power. The parliamentary by-election in Richmond is a poinient example of how this can be successful. In total, analysing the last result in each contested WBC seat, 12 seats could have been won by a non-Conservative if parties did not contest each others seats. Here are some of the seats that could have swung another way:
2020 Bulmershe and Whitegates - 27 votes - Lib Dem support Labour
2020 Charvil - 12 votes - Labour supports Independent
2020 Evendons - 112 - Labour supports Lib Dem
2020 Maiden Erlegh - 408 - Lib Dem supports Labour (returning the favour)
2019 Bulmershe and Whitegates - 423 votes - Lib Dem supports Labour
2019 Emmbrook - 425 votes - Green and Labour supports Lib Dem
2019 Hawkedon - 679 votes - Green and Labour supports Lib Dem (returning the favour)
2019 Twyford - 71 votes - Green supports Lib Dem
2019 Winnersh - 416 votes - Labour supports Lib Dem
2018 Hawkedon - 63 votes - Lib Dem supports Labour (in return for future support)
2018 Maiden Erlegh - 543 votes - Labour supports Lib Dem (in return for future support)
2018 Shinfield South - 538 votes - Lib Dem supports Green (with much work required)
This has not been discussed between any political parties in Wokingham as of yet. It is simply an example of what can be achieved if we put aside our minor differences. However, I do call for these discussions between Wokingham Green, Labour and Lib Dem parties to take place over the coming years.
The changes above give the council a ratio of 34:20 by 2020. Finding 7 more seats out of the substantial majorities some councillors sit on is tough. Labour will be owed a small debt should so much of their support be thrown towards some 2nd place Lib Dems and it may be possible to identify by-elections or other seats which Green and Lib Dem support can return the favour. It may be that any defending Labour seat will not be contested by the left. It may be that many sitting Tories will retire in the coming years from political life and thus open up opportunities to continue to chip away. Still, going from 46:8 to 34:20 in 3 years wouldn't be bad progress. It would certainly put the council in a much healthier position than it is now, with a proper opposition to stick up for residents and hold the council accountable.
If we are willing to work together, to build a better Rome, then remember that it was not built in a day. Like any journey in life, it starts with a first step.
I sincerely hope that the Emmbrook by-election can be the first brick towards a brighter Rome.
David Robert Worley, Emmbrook resident