WITH the local elections looming, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the borough council, Norman Davies, spoke to Peter Kennedy about issues he thinks are important.
WHEN the Liberal Democrats wrested Solihull from the Conservatives in the 2005 General Election, there was speculation they might take control of the local council as well.
In the borough elections the previous year, they had gained five seats. The Lib Dems appeared to be on a roll and poised to end Tory domination of Solihull MBC.
But the big breakthrough has not come so far. The Lib Dems have gained additional seats in recent years, but on a more modest scale than in 2004.
Could this be the year for that hoped for breakthrough? The Lib Dem group leader, Norman Davies, would like to think so. "I'm confident we can achieve further headway," he said.
"I sense that many people in Solihull want change. The Conservatives look tired after so many years in power."
With 18 seats at present, compared with the Tories' 24, the Lib Dems face an uphill battle in reaching their goal. "The magic figure for taking overall control of the council is 26 seats," said Councillor Davies.
He rejected the idea of forming an alliance with the Tories - similar to the coalition on Birmingham City Council -but said the Libs Dems should be allowed to take part in important decision-making.
Cllr Davies said: "At present the council is run by a cabinet and the cabinet is made up entirely of Tory council-lors who represent wards in the Parliamentary constituency of Meriden - there are none from the Solihull constituency.
"This cannot be right. There should be Liberal Democrat representation on the cabinet, with responsibilities shared between all the politicians."
Cllr Davies is critical of the council's record on recycling under the Tories. "We think there should be kerbside collections of cardboard as well as paper and also plastics. And we want to establish recycling facilities at all major business parks."
Another issue that features prominently in the Lib Dem manifesto is education and youth work. It says: "We want to create more purposeful activities for young people with detached youth workers to approach and work with those who are resistant to more positive lifestyles."
Cllr Davies said: "We also think the use of schools by the community should be encouraged, making the premises available to people in the evenings, at weekends and during school holidays."
Cllr Davies, who is 65, was first elected as an Olton councillor in 199..TEXT:6. He is a former deputy head teacher of a comprehensive school and assistant leisure director for Birmingham City Council...SUPL: