Trafford Council: Ideologies clash over Tory flagship

Old Trafford, home of Lancashire County Cricket Club Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Tories say the redeveloped Lancashire County Cricket Club is a good example of public-private partnership

Trafford Council has been a Conservative flagship as the only metropolitan borough in the North of England to be held by the Tories but this year it could be turning from blue to red.

As the groundsman at Lancashire County Cricket Club mowed the outfield for the 20 20 match against Worcestershire Rapids across the road at Trafford Town Hall, the battle lines were drawn for the election.

And it is a straight head to head between two big hitters, Conservative v Labour. The 26-year-old council leader Sean Anstee is bullish about his council's record.

"Trafford has the lowest council tax in the north-west, we want to defend and protect our world class schools which we know would be under Labour attack should they win the council," he said.

He added: "And we are also making sure we are campaigning on our local economy on infrastructure and investments - roads and highways."

Labour are targeting four seats, which if they win, will make them the largest party.

Its leader David Acton explained their issues.

"One is the privatisation of services such as street cleaning, street lighting and road maintenance along with some of the massive cuts which have taken place including the closure of 10 children's homes, the closure of the remaining elderly peoples' homes and a day care centre," he said.

To help their campaign, the Conservatives brought in the new Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, Sajid Javid, to look at the redeveloped Old Trafford home of Lancashire CCC.

"I have been really impressed by the Old Trafford ground and it shows a great partnership between the public sector - the council - and the private sector and what that can achieve when both put their minds together," he said.

Ideological divide

The battle for Trafford is ideological. Tory-led Trafford and Grammar schools are synonymous and the party fiercely defends its school system.

And the two main parties have very different ideas about how services should be provided. The Conservatives think they can be done cheaper and better using private sector partners.

Mr Anstee said: "I think there is a huge role the private sector can play in some of the services which we provision today and they already do.

"I mean the waste collection service is already operated by the Veolia - a private sector company that comes and collects our bins. It is still a Trafford service. Eighty percent of our social care is operated by a private sector provider, it is still a Trafford service."

"There's ways and means of being able to sustain discretionary services by using the private sector and taking costs out," he added.

But that is something Labour are fundamentally opposed to.

"The first thing that any private company wants is a profit for themselves and I believe firmly that the public sector can do it better than the private sector," said Mr Acton.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Labour is opposed to the privatisation of council services

"I believe very passionately that there is a difference in approach that we have from that of the Conservatives and I think you have to manage services efficiently and effectively but we can do that ourselves," he added.

If neither party can secure a majority, they may come and knock at the door of the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ray Bowker who pledged: "We put people first before the politics to ensure that we can give them a real quality of life across the borough."

With 37 years service on the council it is a position he is no stranger to.

"We have worked with both the Labour group and the Conservative group working in a coalition with them," he said.

Mr Bowker added: "We would discuss with the leaders of the two other groups and ask them what their future holds for the people of Trafford.

"The party that comes closest to the ideals of the Lib Democrats group and that is putting the people first, we will negotiate with."

There are new players on the pitch this time. UKIP have candidates in all the marginal wards.

With the match so finely poised, either side could end up appealing to a Liberal Democrat umpire to decide the contest.

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