2012, A year in the life of: Vivien Pengelly and the Conservative Party
Throughout December, thisisplymouth.co.uk looks back at the past year in Plymouth. We will delve into what happened during the last 12 months for people, organisations and even buildings in Plymouth. Today we will be looking at Vivien Pengelly and the Plymouth Conservative Party.
At the beginning of 2012, council leader Vivien Pengelly (Conservative) took a look at the year ahead for Plymouth. She foresaw a 2012 that was going to be a challenging year because of the economic situation, but stressed that there were also plenty of positive things to look forward to.
Some of the highlights would be the Olympic Torch relay and the opening of the new Life Centre in March which would provide Plymouth with some of the best sports and leisure facilities in the country. Other exciting events included the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations and Armed Forces Day.
On a personal plan, Cllr Vivien Pengelly had been shortlisted for a national Leader of the Year award, partly because of the performance improvements the council had showed during her time in charge and the way she had managed a range of major changes in the city, including the sell-off of Plymouth Citybus.
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However, after a promising start to the year with much to look forward to, things took a turn for the worse during the spring.
A row erupted between Vivien Pengelly and the Lord Mayor, who accused Mrs Pengelly of stealing the limelight at official events and the ongoing debate about the new waste incinerator became a political hot potato in the run-up to May’s local council elections, with Cllr Vivien Pengelly speaking out defence of it just days before the elections.
And when the votes had been counted it was clear that Cllr Pengelly would no longer be the leader of the council. She and the Conservatives lost power to Labour, who gained enough votes to secure a comfortable majority.
After the elections, Cllr Pengelly said UK Independence Party was partly responsible for her party's defeat.
"They did us a lot of damage. They cost us control – definitely – and I think the Government must stop and listen to what UKIP is saying," Mrs Pengelly said.
After the elections, the Herald's Martin Freeman met the now former council leader for a talk about the elections and life after them.
One of the things Mrs. Pengelly stressed was that there was nothing a local politician could do about the national party's woes, the taxes on pasties and grannies, and the economy sinking back into recession.
"People are fed up with politicians of all parties," she said, and revealed some of the things about being in power that she was not going to miss:
"I don't like meetings," she said.
"And I don't like politics," she added, without a flicker.
Feelings on meetings and politics aside, Mrs. Pengelly and the Conservative Party came out swinging as the new opposition.
Moves to postpone a decision on the fate of Plymouth City Airport were attacked, there were calls to investigate how much the Labour council’s unsuccessful opposition to the new incinerator cost the city and Conservative council members hit out at how the new council was wasting taxpayers' money by giving councillors an assistant.
And towards the end of the year, a fierce censorship row broke out when the council held back the webcast of a meeting.
Cllr Vivien Pengelly said she had been told that it would not be available on Plymouth City Council's website until "certain parts" have been removed.
"I don't think that's right. I am shocked that the webcast is being doctored. It was a public meeting," she said and addad that the Labour-led council had made a big play about being open and transparent but was not living up to its promises.
During the summer, one of the very issues that had meant Mrs. Pengelly was nominated for a Leader of the Year award at the beginning of the year came back to haunt the Conservatives when Stoke councillor Jill Dolan quit the Conservative group, saying she wanted to be able to vote against the party whip in the interests of residents.
Mrs Dolan singled out the sale of Citybus as a factor in her decision.
What have been your favourite moments and/or stories about Vivien Pengelly and the Conservatice Party this year? And what other people, organisations and buildings would you like to see us use for the 'A year in the life of series? Let us know in the comment field below.
Selected 2012 stories about Vivien Pengelly and the Conservative Party: