03/01/2013 Leave a comment
So it’s that time to reflect on the old year and start to think about the new one. I gave up on New Year resolutions a long time ago on the basis that few lasted more than a couple of weeks and none passt the month mark!. But it’s a good time to take a few days and create a battle plan for the year ahead. Personally it’s also a time to reflect on the eternal work/life balance and when you’re a minor politician the biggest challenge is it’s trying to get that balance right between my business, council life, representing your community, learning, friends and maybe a little personal time with the family.
Politically the big one is the County elections in May and we have been hard at work for months putting together our Manifesto, our blue print of the next 4 years. I think it’s fair to say that increasingly the room to manoeuvre is being eroded as grant funding is restricted year on year. I can wax lyrical on why the government is quite right to sort out the fiscal madness that we seem to have got ourselves into under Labour but for all that it does not alter the stark reality of what we are facing in Local government.
Someone said to me a couple of weeks ago at achristmas gathering that we have seen the halcyon days of Local Government and to some degree I think they are right, when I was first elected a resident brought a problem to your attention – you found the budget, you found the officers and the system to sort it out and problem solved, now it’s much harder to address the problems people face and often it requires a different community based approach to resolve problems; often this takes time and its time that people are usually the least forgiving with.
It is certainly a far more challenging and difficult decade to be in local government and that makes this a really exciting time. A time when doing things the same way just will not do and there is also an real imperative to actually address the situation; deep in the bowls of my blog site there is a blog about a conference I attended a couple of years back where Matthew Taylor CE of the RSA spoke about the need to take real action rather than simply salami slice your way back to the 1980’s of public services. That really stuck in my mind and rather than a sort of managed retreat approach it is important to take steps that address the reality and opportunity of less money and not, as in the shameful past of the last Lib/labour control of Suffolk, to not address the funding issues and simply put up the Council tax by 11.9% and 18.5% in two successive years.
The opportunity is to change the way things are done, it would be a truly miserable time if all you did was manage the retreat, the exciting part is to grasp the opportunity to protect services by doing things differently. The primary duty of a Council is to protect the vulnerable in our community, putting up the Council tax does little to protect those who may not yet be the most vulnerable but are certainly struggling with the household bills at this difficult time; but at the same time you have to address the expectations of the many, no easy task; get it right and you’ll stay in power, get it wrong and you’re out!
As we approach the election I expect to see a series of proposals from the opposition that simply do not address the realities of the grant funding but hey like the last Labour government why face up to reality when you can stick your fingers in your ears, close your eyes and go la, la, la! until it all goes away.
But before all that, where my gym membership card?