So, what is the Lib Dem viewpoint on forthcoming government cuts in the council budget?
Considering the mess we have inherited, they are inevitable, LibDem leader Cllr Dave Wood tells us.
Speaking on the BBC Radio Suffolk’s Breakfast Show he said ” it is inevitable that there will have to be be cuts – and ones to frontline services. The important thing is that we must make sure that children and the vulnerable are protected as best we can.”
” There continues to be a lot of talk about the Councils in Suffolk sharing services,” Cllr Wood added. “Lets stop being precious – it is okay to talk but now is the time to act! We missed out a couple of years back squabbling over whether Suffolk should be unitary or not, and so we missed the boat. Yet a three tier system is unwieldy, expensive and leads to unnecessary duplication. Lets forget ideology and go for practicality. Now is the time to open the debate once again – and this time, lets go for it!”
Suffolk’s Annual Public Health report 2013 – Moving forward? concerns itself with travel and health and recommends a move to ‘active travel’ – and a wholesale transfer of many journeys or parts of journeys to the bicycle or foot.
In supporting the report, Lib Dem leader Cllr David Wood urged the administration to look again at its public transport policy. “We need to see see buses in rural areas in the evening on Sundays and Public Holidays once more, enabling rural Suffolk to be open again for business and not totally reliant on the car,” he said.
He pointed out that vast areas of Suffolk’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty prime land for cycling an wakling, cannot be accessed by any other means than car – a frankly ludicrous anomaly!
Lib Dem spokesman for Transport, Cllr Caroline Page, is a committed cyclist, pedestrian and bus user. She was also enthusiastic about this report, but has reservations about its chance of implementation.
“Sadly there seem to be many councillors who are converted to active travel in theory but not at all in practice. At the full council debate on the subject last Thursday, I heard a stream of excuses, exculpations and explanations from individuals who are compensated by the Council Tax payer at 44p per mile to remain in their cars at no cost to themselves – and so don’t have to make the same choices as others they represent.
While there remains such a clear gap between what councillors think is a good idea for others and what they are prepared to do themselves, we are not going to progress as far or fast as we would like,” she says.
On a happier note, it looks as if the Suffolk train services are becoming more proactive on the subject of cycles. After introducing many more cycle parking spaces and introducing ‘Boris bikes’ on its routes, Greater Anglia has now formally launched its new cycle strategy with a consultation. You can find further details and a link on Caroline Page’s blog
On this Sunday’s Politics programme, SCC Lib Dem leader Dave Wood will be voicing robust support for his party at both local and national level in advance of the Lib Dem party conference.
“After the initial shock at finding ourselves blamed for everything the Coalition government does, and the protest vote that cost us seats, we’ve realised that people have got into the habit of relying on us to hold the worst excesses of the Tories at bay, without acknowledging any of the good things we do. They’re having their cake and eating it! “ he says.
“So, instead of just getting on and doing the job – as we always do – we have to start shouting about our local and national successes. It’s up to us to bring our out light from under the bushel because it is clearly in the interests of both Tories and Labour to keep it hidden. But we do a lot. Let’s stop being so modest about our achievements.
Locally our hard work and dedication is acknowledged and respected. This is why no sitting Suffolk LibDem councillor lost their seat in the 2013 election. Yet for far too long we have been hard-working councillors that everybody knows and relies on without expecting the pat on the backs we deserve. We need to be proud of what we have achieved and be proud to tell everyone about our successes. In Suffolk, our local defence of local services saw off Andrea Hill’s New Strategic Direction, while nationally, we are behind all those many innovations like the triple lock pension, tax-cuts for the low paid, the pupil premium, and bringing record numbers of poorer students into higher education etc. These are improving life for so many of us in Suffolk – and in the UK as a whole.
We need to confront people with the reality: ask them what the Tories would be doing if we Lib Dems weren’t there to rein them in and keep watch on things. Unlike a lot of other European countries, the UK is not used to Coalition governments and hasn’t fully understood how they work. Too many people choose to see this Coalition as a friendship group, rather than what it is – a temporary alliance of very differing views. It suits the Labour party to support this view – after all the Coalition only exists to deal with the mess they left this country in.
We must not be afraid to tell everyone what we are doing and be proud to do so.”
Views and News from Suffolk County Council Liberal Democrats