THERE’s an old saying that goes something like: The more things change the more they stay the same.

I’m guessing that Labour councillor Russ Bowden is quite pleased about that, given he has been voted in to continue his role as leader of Warrington Borough Council when the town’s first in-person full council meeting took place in more than a year.

Despite losing seven seats in last month’s election, the Labour group still has overall control – but will face new official opposition after the Tories won 10 seats to add to the one they already had.

So I think we can expect some verbal fireworks in the coming weeks and months as Tory group leader Kath Buckley, councillor for Lymm South, starts to take aim.

And she’s been quick out of the blocks, criticising the town’s draft local plan which set out plans for more than 7,000 homes on green belt land

Cllr Buckley said: “We’ve been vocal for some time that the local plan as it stands is not sound and we don’t believe it would be adopted by the planning inspector without significant changes.

“The council must prioritise development on the 150 brownfield sites identified throughout Warrington and make best use of the former power station at Fiddlers Ferry, which has now become available.

"Our priorities are protecting Warrington’s green belt.”

That’s fine, I suppose, if you happen to live near the green belt in the leafy suburbs of Appleton, Stockton Heath, Lymm and Croft. But many people in Warrington don’t.

I suppose Cllr Buckley has to play to her voters but I’d have been more impressed with a ‘plan’ to use brownfield sites if she had seen them as an opportunity to build so-called pocket parks on some of them.

But where I really take issue with her is over the Fiddlers Ferry site. People in the west of Warrington have lived in the shadow of the power station for 50 years. To that extent, we’ve paid our dues.

While I don’t want to start a culture war with those who live in the more affluent parts of town (and their elected representatives) the concept of using the vast Fiddlers Ferry site for housing or commercial property smacks of not in my back yard-ism from Cllr Buckley. Let’s face it, Fiddlers Ferry is just about as far away from her Lymm ward as you can get and still be in Warrington.

So I would respectfully repeat a suggestion I have made before. The closure, demolition and remediation of Fiddlers Ferry provides a once in a generation opportunity for the land to be returned to nature as a woodland park for all of Warrington to enjoy.

Keeping on the subject of Cllr Buckley, I notice she’s still trotting out the tired old cliché that the Tories, if they ever take control of the council would deliver “better services for council taxpayers and deal with the level of debt built up by Labour.”

Let me give you a couple of examples of why this is wrong.

Assume you have an income that keeps on going down year after year but you want to maintain your lifestyle. So you borrow money. As each year goes by, your income goes down so you borrow more and more. You, inevitably, will find yourself in unsustainable debt and your finances will collapse. You will be bankrupt.

That’s the kind of debt the council’s critics would have you believe the Labour group has got us in.

So to the second example. Assume you have an income that keeps on going down year after year but you want to maintain your lifestyle. So you borrow money at a reasonably low interest rate and buy a house you can rent out, so-called buy-to-let.

The rent from the property more than covers your mortgage payments and you can use the extra income generated to support your lifestyle.

If the worst comes to the worst, you can sell the property and pay off the mortgage with the proceeds.

That’s the kind of debt the council currently has. The money borrowed has been used to buy assets that generate income.

Yes, it feels like a risky strategy and some of the council’s schemes don’t sit well with me (think Redwood Bank), but the fact remains the council isn’t using the profits to fund an excessive lifestyle, it’s using it to fund essential services in the face of cuts in central government funding thanks to years of austerity from successive Conservative governments.

Which brings me to my final question for Cllr Buckley. If the ‘level of debt’ is dealt with by you and your colleagues, with the subsequent reduction in income, how, exactly, do you propose to fund the ‘better services for council taxpayers’ you want?

And by the way, that’s not a rhetorical question.