30/12/2016 Leave a comment
So, as 2016 draws to a close, it’s a bizzare year to sum up.
On the personal front, it’s been a terrible one as we lost Dad in far too sudden circumstances. We all miss him a lot. It a strange thing to say when you ‘painted’ as this old hard-nosed individual but it’s a moment in life when both your parents have gone, of course we all must go through it, but it still a sobering moment for each of us. Over Christmas, Lisa and I visited an Aunt of hers who is learning to live with Dementia, a dear lady I have known for 19 years who is struggling and in contrast before we left we travelled further north to visit my Auntie who is older but as sharp as a pin and in top form! Old age is a strange journey and there is no play-book but what I do know is that this country has to wake up to the needs of an ageing population or we will sleep walk into an unpleasant society where old age is not celebrated but seen as a burden. There are many things on the horizon but how we change our health and social care system and start building homes that address the needs of older people is right up there.
The highlight of the year for me as a Councillor, was being introduced to Her Majesty the Queen at the Home of Horse-Racing Museum official opening. As we awaited her arrival I chatted with David Burnip the former CE of FHDC and asked him if he remembered my stance on the Palace House purchase and rescue, by the council, all those years ago. He did, I was against it! And we reminisced about the then District Council Leader Geoffrey Jaggard and his vision. The day was all about the Racing Community and how Newmarket can capitalise more on being the world headquarters of Racing but without the decision taken by these two chaps all those year ago to rescue a tumbled down spooky old house and semi delicate yard, none of it would have been possible. If you ever find yourself in Newmarket do go along as it’s a world class museum and the way it helps you understand of the science of Horse-racing is impressive. Not to mention the heritage and art which is just stunning.
On the national and international political front, it’s been a staggering year where the rule book has been ripped up. You can see that Brexit is going to be the most complex, time consuming thing for our Government to get right and make sure our economy does not suffer more that it has too. I suspect the history books will have a somewhat mixed view on David Cameron’s time as Prime Minister but I briefly met him at Felixstowe Docks 100 days from the Referendum and he spoke with passion and conviction that strangely was not the hallmark of the remain campaign which seemed to me to fail to make the points about access to the single market being vital to our economy and that the vast majority of those working in Britain from Europe where either here ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’ style contributing to our industry or here raising their families and paying their taxes, i.e. contributing not taking British jobs. The government and our new Prime Minister must find a way to get the best possible exit we can and that won’t be easy.
Internationally we will shortly watch the inauguration of a new American President and I recall the hope and expectation that hung in the air at President Obamas’, I suspect the world will watch with different feelings at President Trumps’.
Here in Suffolk I have had the pleasure to lead the County Council and the frustration of Devolution. I say pleasure to lead the County Council because it is. There is lots more to do and we are doing it but I am proud of the staff, the Cabinet and my group and how they have all risen to the challenge of significantly less Government funding and our demand that the Council lives within its means and maintains a sensible level of reserves. As I look about the sector our cautious, prudent approach puts us in a place that is very different from some councils beyond Suffolk, there begins to be real concern that some councils may start to run out of money and fail to deliver front line services, I have often said that unlike the NHS, if councils run out of money the cheques don’t just carry on being honoured, staff will not get paid and services will fail, not here in Suffolk. As a political party, we pledged and have delivered 7 years of 0% base Council Tax rises only putting up the Council tax to pay for the National Living Wage which everyone agrees is the right thing to do for the lowest paid workers in our society. However I say a frustrating year in terms of Devolution because across Suffolk we can see how it can help us reshape Public Services and be a part of how we create a community that addresses the needs of our ageing population at the same time as investing in new infrastructure to accelerate growth and housing, which is vital for the quality of life we will want to see. Yet at the end of the year Suffolk has no deal. Cambridgeshire does but not Suffolk. The Public surveys, the business leaders and their respective trade bodies and all councils agree we want a Suffolk based Devolution deal, will we get one, it certainly won’t be for the want of trying and or effort.
Looking ahead… well that’s another blog!
If you have been kind enough to read this, may I take the opportunity to wish you and your family a very Happy, Healthy and Successful New Year.