New Era at Babergh District Council

I guess it (a Tory majority) had to happen at some point, just a surprise that in Babergh it took as long as it did – 40 years or so. Working in a ‘hung’ council had its positive and negative points but all of those are preferable to being on the back benches. Time will tell whether a Tory administration is good for Babergh but if the experiences at County are anything to go by then hold on to your hat it could be a bumpy ride.

Leader Jennie Jenkins assured those councillors not in the administration (8 Independants, 3 LibDems and 1 Labour) that their views were important and would be sought out, then proceeded to fill all of the policy panels with Tories.  Talk is cheap!

A message that it would seem fails to reach Tories, both in the District and County, is that their residents would prefer to retain the fabric of their community rather than slavishly follow a zero tax increase and the resulting cuts necessary to balance the budget. Just look around you, in the winter the roads look like a rolling rubbish tip with the lack of greenery exposing huge amounts of litter. Then the growth comes in and covers it up, but this creates blind spots at every rural junction.

Now I agree that you shouldn’t have staff levels that are geared to peaks but if you have a rolling peak throughout the year then a bit of flexibility within the workforce could eliminate this perennial problem, that and not trimming contracts so that rubbish is only collected upto 2 metres from the curb when we can all see it up to and including the hedgerow.

Beginning to sound like a grumpy old man so I had better stop, but is it wrong to take a pride in our wonderful county?

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The Fight Back

The election results were devastating, many a great MP and councilor lost their seat.  Certainly we made mistakes in 2010, both pre-election and post, but the country would have been in a far worse position without the Liberal Democrats helping to form a stable platform to enable recovery and to apply a brake on some of the more excessive Tory policies.  However, the British public chose the 2015 election to make a few messages:

>         Scottish voters wanted a greater influence over the decisions made in Westminster;

>         English voters do not want SNP to be the tail that wags the Labour party;

>         UKIP became the receptacle of the vote against the ‘mainstream’ parties;

>         Students, disillusioned after the tuition fees ‘debacle’, turned Green.

Strangely the policies of the parties seemed irrelevant, which could explain why, whatever the parties announced, the polls didn’t move.  The last minute swing to the Tories was driven by a fear of a Labour / SNP coalition.  None of the ‘messages’ were going to lead voters to select the Liberal Democrats.  Since the event most commentators have said that the results were extremely unfair on the Liberal Democrats who had been doing a good job in coalition.  Some went on to predict the end of the line for the party.  However, as usual, they have underestimated the strength of feeling that many people have towards the Liberal Democrats especially when it comes to policies.

Since polls closed last week, over 10,000 new members have joined the Liberal Democrats.

Last week’s elections hurt us all. Across the country our candidates and campaign teams worked so hard but did not get the results they deserved.   We have a long journey ahead to get our party back where it belongs, but we are starting that journey ten thousand people stronger than we were – people from all over the country, all sorts of backgrounds and ages.

>   Over half of our new members are aged under 35 and our oldest is 91 (welcome to the family Tily);

>   82% have not been a member before and 72% have not been involved in any sort of campaign;

>   They have highlighted a huge range of issues, like protecting Human Rights Act and blocking the Snoopers Charter.

>   Top locations are Sheffield, Bristol, Twickenham & Richmond, Cambridge, Islington, Battersea and Cardiff.

Would you like help the fight back by becoming a volunteer or by joining the party?     www.libdems.org.uk/join

Regionalunitaridevolutionism

Predictable – when you promise one of your siblings a box of presents all of the others want to know what they are going to get. Its even trickled down to the nieces and nephews i.e the regions and counties. Of course what everyone conveniently overlooks is that, as the box of financial toys is fixed, for every winner there has to be a loser. Can power be passed down without money to go with it?

Despite recent cutbacks we are still spending far too much on the public sector. It is too stodgy and unresponsive – transformation programmes taking years and only delivering efficiency savings at best or a reduced service at worst. Is the unitary option the only logical way to go? Certainly from Joe Public’s point of view, the ‘Council’ is singular, but how do you divi up the area so that you can achieve maximum efficiency savings without losing touch with the parishes?

Can we learn from business where they periodically go through the centralise / decentralise cycle? Each change brings early benefits but are they sustainable – presumably not or the cycle would be broken at some point. Businesses have target customers and can design a delivery model to suit their demographic but councils have to reach everyone and each service we provide should be considered independently – education, health, adult care, housing, highways, businesses, etc.

Personally I think we should be seen as ‘the sail beneath the wings’, enabling communities to thrive and be largely self-sufficient but we are being driven by a ‘growth’ agenda from Central Government which is at odds with what many communities want or can cope with. Highway infrastructure has been inherited from a bygone age, narrow single carriageways, no cycle paths and a public transport system that allows massive over competition on certain lucrative routes and ignores others. I love Suffolk for what it is but are we in danger of morphing into an extension of Essex or losing our identity altogether?

So how would you vote – single unitary based on Suffolk as a whole; 2 or 3 unitaries (west, north, south-east) or to stay as we are and pull up the drawbridge?

picture - spaghetti junction

Hot Air

It is bad enough having to sit and listen to the best part of 80 councillors yack on and on in the County Council meetings but when the Council Chamber is airless with temperatures nudging 90 it really is unbearable. Do the conditions affect the decisions made – unlikely as they have all been ‘cooked’ up in political group meetings that precede Full Council.

When does consultation mean selling a decision already made and when does it mean listening to views that could / should affect the decision? Well consultation on whether to keep Monks Eleigh school open obviously fell into the former category as despite 120 people being against the closure it will close. So when you hear that the Council are conducting a consultation exercise on its 42 children’s centres it must be a worrying time for parents, children and workers alike – especially where the ‘C’ word has already been discussed. I will be keeping a close eye on this ‘consultation’.