War of words between MP and peer continues

Lord Greaves. (S)
Lord Greaves. (S)

The war of words between Tony Greaves and Andrew Stephenson has continued, this time with mud slinging over the borough’s brownfield sites.

Lord Greaves has accused the Pendle MP of a “straightforward untruth” and “misleading” the House of Commons during a debate earlier this month, while Mr Stephenson has accused the Colne councillor of running a “smear campaign” against him through the Press.

Andrew Stephenson

Andrew Stephenson

Mr Stephenson told the Commons debate on September 14th that greenfield sites “are under threat” in Pendle because the new Lib Dem and Labour administration had “abandoned” plans to spend the £1.5 million allocated for brownfield regeneration under the previous Conservative administration.

Lord Greaves said Pendle Council’s Executive considered and approved a report on the use of the brownfield fund only last Thursday evening (September 17th), when a policy was adopted on allocating the council funds, and that Mr Stephenson was fully aware of this.

Lord Greaves said: “I am extremely concerned that our local MP is making statements in Parliament that are simply not true.

“Either he does not know what is going on – for which he has no excuse – or he is telling deliberate porkies.

“I am writing to the Speaker of the House of Commons to ask him if he will require Mr Stephenson to make an apology to the House and put the record straight, if our MP does not do so himself.

“As a member of the Upper House of the British Parliament, I know just how seriously these things are taken.

Lord Greaves also accused the MP of misleading constituents through local Conservative publications and “turning his back on the council” by refusing to meet with him and Labour leader Coun. Mohammed Iqbal over important issues.

Lord Greaves added: “These important matters include the development of brownfield sites in Pendle. Perhaps if he is ignorant about what the council is doing it is because he has closed his ears as well as his eyes.”

However, Mr Stephenson has slammed Pendle’s Lib Dem leader for preferring to play “party politics over delivering for the people of Pendle”.

In an email to Lord Greaves, Mr Stephenson included minutes from a meeting of Pendle Council in July, where Coun. Iqbal had said no discussions had taken place with landowners to establish which brownfield sites could be developed and nothing had been done as no proposals had been identified by the Government.

When asked if the fund could be shelved, Coun. Iqbal said it would be “reviewed”.

Writing to Lord Greaves, Mr Stephenson said: “This disappointing exchange led to me publicly urging the Labour and Lib Dem Coalition running the council to do more to focus on brownfield development in early September.

“I received no communication from the council to suggest the position of the leadership of Pendle Council had in anyway changed, nor did I see anything in the Press.”

On the report which went to the executive, Mr Stephenson added: “Even this report is not exactly leading one to believe that at long last the nettle is being grasped re brownfield land in Pendle.

“The conclusion does not outline a clear way forward nor a timeframe by which these sites could be brought forward, even though a complete list of sites was prepared back in January.

“This report from a council officer had not been discussed by the new Labour and Lib Dem executive when I raised my question in the House of Commons on September 14th.

“In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, it could reasonably be assumed such a report would be rejected given the comments by the Leader of the Council in July, andeven if it had been accepted there would be no clear course of action nor a timetable for delivery.”

Mr Stephenson “reiterated” his offer to meet with Coun. Iqbal and welcomed what he called a U-turn adding: “I am delighted that, following the pressure applied by Conservative councillors and community groups such as Lidgett and Beyond, my public call on the council to change its position and my raising of this issue in the Commons has led to this apparent change of the executive’s position.

“I find it regrettable that you wish to continue pursuing a smear campaign against me, via the Press, and deliberately misleading people.”