Swindon Council’s Labour opposition have reacted to council leader Rod Bluh’s public declaration on the council’s web site that he accepted free hospitality from house developers Crest Nicholson at an event in the Houses of Parliament to discuss the government’s housing policy.
Crest currently have an application with Swindon Council to build 1,700 houses at Tadpole Farm in North Swindon.
Labour Group Leader Jim Grant said: “Six months before a major planning application by Crest Nicholson is to be determined by the council’s planning committee, I really don’t think it was appropriate for the council leader to be accepting free hospitality from housing developers. This sends the wrong message to the local community, who already feel the council is not consulting them enough over the Tadpole Farm development. If I were leader of the council, I certainly wouldn’t have deemed it appropriate to have accepted free hospitality from the developers.
"We now need to understand what this meeting was about, whether there were any other elected representatives of Swindon at this dinner and why Councillor Bluh thought having this free hospitality from Chrest Nicholson was appropriate when the Tadpole Farm development is only 6 months away.
"Because the Planning Application for the Tadpole Farm development has now been submitted, the council is more restricted in how we can improve this major development. If the Labour Group had been in charge we would have met both the developers and North Swindon residents and would have tried to get the best deal possible for the North Swindon community. By accepting hospitality from Crest Nicholson, the Council Leader certainly isn’t appearing at least to take this approach”
Councillor Rod Bluh said he was being accused of making public that he had gone to a meeting in London to represent Swindon’s interests. “This is a crude attempt by the opposition to smear the council leader which is as opportunistic as it is dishonest.”
“The only reason Labour know about this is because attendance at the event was rightly and publically declared and published on the council’s website.
“It is entirely in order of the leader of a council which is under severe development pressure to attend events at the House of Commons that give him the opportunity to discuss future housing policy with other council representatives, MPs, policy makers and the building industry.
“The theme of the dinner was to discuss the government’s housing agenda rather than any specific site in or near Swindon where building may be contemplated. Far from acting against the interests of Swindon people in attending, it would have been wrong not to go.”
Click for Councillor Bluh’s declaration.