COUNCILLORS debated for five hours at a meeting on Monday with items on the agenda - including the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway - causing a stir amongst members.

Labour Councillor Sean Woodcock, put forward a motion at Cherwell's full council meeting calling for the council to oppose the Expressway as his party believes proposals - including the exact route - have not yet been clarified by the Department for Transport.

Green Councillor Ian Middleton proposed a friendly amendment and Lib Dem Councillor Katherine Tyson seconded it, however Labour opposed.

One Conservative voted in support of the motion, but all 25 others voted against, meaning it was defeated.

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Mr Woodcock as well as other councillors said the conservatives are not representing their residents.

He said: “Once again the Conservatives running Cherwell District Council have opted to stay silent rather than stand up for local residents on this issue. This Expressway may have devastating consequences for local habitats, will hamper efforts to reduce our carbon footprint all for minimal benefit to the people already living here.

“Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary who has remained in post after last week's election, promised a review of the Expressway. He also said that local support would be instrumental in any decision as a result of that review. By failing to make clear our views now, the council has been found wanting on the issue again."

Councillor Nick Cotter expressed his view in the meeting that Conservative members are only following each other and not standing up for their own beliefs and findings.

He said: “It’s a classic response from Councillor Wood who seeks always to divert from the real question in hand. I’m inviting you as an elected representative in this authority to - for goodness sake - for once take a stance on something. Councillor Wood - for goodness sake - just man up.

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“Perhaps you could, for once, get off the fence to join the other councils across this county and take a stance. This is not about unencumbered economic development, this is about retaining a decent living and working environment for the people who live in this district.”

Another heated debate got underway in the meeting with item 12 on the agenda where Conservative Councillor Tony Illot put forward constitutional changes to the council in a bid to update it, seconded by leader of the council, Conservative councillor Barry Wood.

However, members of the opposition questioned why the report had not been scrutinised and no consultation was held beforehand, leading members to believe that very little thought had been put into the document.

Changes were made to motions so that now there is a 250-word limit and they cannot be ‘frivolous’ or ‘vexatious’ otherwise they could be rejected.

Changes were also made to amendments whereby they must be received by 12 noon on the second working day before the Council meeting, and they must not take the original motion over 250 words.

And there are now shorter notice periods for questions to the council.

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Lib Dem Councillor Conrad Copeland proposed amendments to several of the changes but they were all refused by the Conservatives and the changes were passed.

He said: “I presented the amendments in good faith, I had assumed that this was a genuine effort to actually engage in constitutional reform even though this has never been put through a committee.

“Instead, it appears to have been an exercise in stifling debate - both on the changes proposed and motions to council in the future. These conservative proposals have run roughshod over democracy and hinder councillors in their efforts to have the concerns of their residents heard.”

Mr Wood said in the meeting that councillors already know what the outcome of meetings will be, so changes are necessary to make the system more efficient.

He said: “I think to some large degree members opposite seek to make pay out of not a lot. They seek to find loops and jump through the same hoops in order to for the sake of argument keep us all going round in circles.

“I believe changes that have been made enable us to be more effective and efficient.

“Everyone knows what the result of the vote is before they walk into the room. You may say that’s bad but that’s how the system works.”

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But Mr Middleton believes there are other reasons for the council to pass through the changes.

He said: “One has to ask what the motivations would be for the council agreeing to these proposals so readily. It’s probable that the recent change in the makeup of the council, with more non-conservative councillors being elected every year, the Tories are simply frightened of public debate.”