Paying a high price
There’s no denying that it was a disappointing night last Thursday at the count for the local council elections. Since that time, it has been pleasing to hear that the Prime Minister understands the concerns, frustration and expectations of people here in the Vale and across the country.
Local Conservative councillors worked really hard over the last four years. In spite of gaining credit from auditors and a range of independent inspectors across health, social services and education, the wider political picture meant that they paid a very high price.
There was a complex political picture here in the Vale. A Conservative / Lib Dem coalition at UK level; a Labour run Assembly and a Conservative run council. Working out who is responsible for what, is not as straightforward as it may appear.
Without question, the Local Development Plan (LDP) was a priority issue on the doorstep. The plan is demanded by the Assembly and directed the Vale Council to find space for 10,000 new houses. As a result, the local council took the blame for something they didn’t want to do in the first place. The approach in England, dictated by UK government is very different, where imposing new building on any community cannot take place in such a way.
It will be interesting to see how the new council will approach this issue. Some parties talked about scrapping the LDP but in reality, this is not an option, according to the Welsh Government.
People were also frustrated about the lack of money available for local projects – new schools, roads, parks etc. Again the local authority were hamstrung by the funding (or lack of it) provided by the Welsh Government. The Vale receives one of the poorest funding settlements of all local authorities across Wales. We receive £77 less per person than Cardiff and £188 less per head than Bridgend. This is something that has to be addressed. Why do we have to pay more and receive less than other parts of Wales?
The confused message from Westminster also didn’t help.
Five months ago, David Cameron was at his highest level of popularity since becoming Prime Minister. This was at the time when he vetoed the EU treaty. What’s happened since? The Liberal Democrats partners were uncomfortable with this stand point and as a result, he had to row back somewhat. This caused confusion amongst the electorate. He should have stuck to his original position and pleased the country in standing up to Europe, rather than one sixth of the coalition.
All governments need to focus on what really matters; the economy, health, education and skills, immigration and Europe. They need to work in support of each other to help overcome the national debt and the need for job creation.
I will do all I can to support the Vale Council, whoever runs it, to gain a fair funding settlement and hope that they will respond to the need for further efficiency gains and cost cutting to help reduce the impact of the national debt.