If anyone doubts that local and national issues can be the same thing, just think about UK aviation policy. For those dependant upon Gatwick for a job or those living under a flight path the future of the airport is a very local issue indeed.
As a councillor more and more national issues are taking on a very local face as we are forced to deal with the consequences of Government policy, working at the bleeding edge of the deep cuts this Government is inflicting upon our community.
Housing policy is an example. Leading housing charities are warning that policies now being implemented will result in a major rise in homelessness. It’s the council which is going to be left to pick up the pieces.
Meanwhile the Government’s ‘commitment’ to Localism has proved utterly hollow. Councils have faced a 27% funding cut since 2010, one of the harshest in government. Research by the LGA shows that by the end of the decade councils will struggle to provide even the few services required by law.
Now the Government threatens to take away local planning powers under some belief that despite 87% of all planning applications are accepted, somehow letting through the other 13% is going to restore economic growth. It won’t. What it will do is enable people to build without thinking about what’s best for the local community.
Where powers have been localised, the funding hasn’t. While council tax benefit is now provided locally we only receive 90% of the funding needed to cover the bill. All that’s been devolved is the decision where to swing the axe. If the Government wants to cut they should have the guts to do it themselves, rather than hiding behind their councillors.
Councillors of both parties have complained in committee of the last minute and often poorly thought out policies the council is being forced to implement by Government.
I’ve worked with Conservative councillors in Crawley and I continue to believe many of them are good people, people who must be sick with what their party’s doing in Government. But actions speak louder than words and if they don’t agree with the harm the Government’s doing, now’s the time to prove it.