There is no doubt about it 2011 is going to be an extremely difficult year, to be fair whom ever won the 2010 general election the coming couple of years were going to be tough. However the choices the Conservatives and Lib Dem coalition made are certainly made 2011 tougher than might of been.
Here in Shepton we are fighting a fire storm of public sector cuts. At the present the campaign to Save the Library is the most prominent. There will be massive cuts to the Youth service, and police making cut backs, the District Council struggling to set a balanced budget with cuts to Arts, the voluntary sector, rumours surround our outdoor swimming pool, just a few years after spending £500,000, we have to await until February before the District Councils cuts are fully explained. We await the 50% reduction in bus services.
How many of these cuts would have been not made by our local councils if the coalition government had chosen a slower pace of cuts to the deficit?
I have attended the previous two Mendip Council's cabinet meetings, what is apparent is the Conservative administration has no vision for the district, but what was also apparent was the Liberal Democrats having no alternative, in fact the last meeting neither their Chair of Scrutiny nor their Group leader attended, so those Arts and Voluntary groups never heard how the Lib Dems were going to mitigate the cuts, but one has to asks if these cuts come from Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the treasury are the Libs Dems campaigning locally to save their bacon?
The District Council elections are held this year, three and three quarters ago, the elections were a shambles, electoral numbers not on the polling cards, postal votes that never arrived, I spoke to the leader of the Lib Dems on Mendip about the shambles, what ever happened to the Inquiry? How did Lib Dem opposition hold the Conservatives to account? Elections held since has seen the Electoral Commission intervene to give helpful advice to Mendip because of there poor election management. We can only hope for better in May.
Our focus for 2011 has to be Shepton Mallet, the fight to save the Library will be a fight worth winning, what is also worth recording is that people what to be more involved in the services provided, the days are gone when people are grateful to receive services, greater empowerment in the delivery and breadth of service is required.
Young people have been hammered by this government; cuts to Sure Start; cutting back of Connexions services; cuts in the child trust funds £500; child tax credits abolished for babies £500; 10% higher charges for childcare for poorer families up to £780; EMA removed £30 a week for poorer young people and of course tuition fees raised to up to £9000 max.
Unemployment is expected to rise to 9%, with the young, the marginalised and the unskilled hurt the most, leading to low pay rises and worse working conditions.
Shepton is fairly lucky as it has capital to be spent in the form of s106 monies from Tescos and Dobbies so some improvements should continue to occur in our High Street, we must ensure value for money is extracted from that money with greater public involvement in decision making, we cannot continue with the discontent about the BAPA grants, I am writing to the Chairman of Scrutiny at Mendip asking for a investigation into the award of this grant, this so the full facts are exposed for public inspection.
Finally, I hope we can have more cracking events in the Town, I always available to help, we are going to need community spirit to get through this year.