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High Wycombe gets Fairtrade status nod but Wycombe businesses should be priority, says ex-council chief
MOVES to make High Wycombe a Fairtrade town have been approved – but the district's ex-leader says the council has got its priorities wrong and should be putting Wycombe businesses first.
Cllr Alex Collingwood, Conservative, who was Wycombe District Council chief until May, said farmers and companies in Wycombe must come first.
For this reason he rebelled against the motion to approve Fairtrade status.
But he lost a full council vote, with just nine supporting him.
He found himself at odds with his successor as council leader, Tory colleague Cllr Richard Scott, who felt the right balance had been struck.
The purpose of Fairtrade is to make companies pay sustainable prices to prevent traditional discrimination against the world's poorest, weakest producers.
Cllr Collingwood insisted Wycombe businesses should be promoted and supported over Fairtrade, saying: “The strength of the actual recommendation is not strong enough to support our local residents, local businesses and local farmers.
“That should be our first and only priority."
At the October 7 meeting, he said: “We are here to support the whole district. That's our job that's our role in life. We are not concerned with what else may be happening in the rest of the world.”
Cllr Tony Green, Conservative, Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration, agreed that supporting Wycombe businesses was the most important thing.
Cllr Scott said: "We don't see the need to seek to promote, we're not promoting Fairtrade but we are supporting wherever possible and that's what we're saying about local business.”
Cllr Scott had already made an addition to the proposal for WDC to “continue to endorse local and other family businesses within the district” and this addressed such concerns as Cllr Collingwood's, he said.
Cllr Trevor Snaith, Liberal Democrat, said: “WDC should first and foremost buy all of its products and services from local businesses before going outside of the districts to purchase them.
“The inference is to stop going for 'best value' and buying from up north. Instead buy from local people, from local consultancies and local organisations.”
Cllr Ian Bates, Labour leader, said: “There is no conflict between supporting Fairtrade and supporting local businesses.”
Cllr Sebert Graham, Labour, accused the Tories of being parochial and said: "Yes I want to see local business in High Wycombe thrive and flourish but at the same time I want us to support the poor people of the world.”
Councillor John Gibbs, Conservative, Cabinet member for Community, got frustrated with the debate, saying: "We are a free market economy, this is not a five-year plan, it is not animal farm where some people are more equal than others.”
WDC's approval contains a clause stating Wycombe For Fairtrade Steering Group will not place any financial burden on taxpayers. The Cabinet will endeavour to use Fairtrade products at WDC meetings and functions.
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