Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of joining many Lib Dem councillors in Bournemouth at the LGA conference. Like conference, I always feel refreshed when I attend these events, because it’s a chance to share the brilliant work Lib Dems do, and to remember why we do it.
We know that the year ahead holds difficult decisions for both the national party and local government. The biggest fiscal contraction in recent years has hit local government hard. And whether you blame the banks, Labour, Eric Pickles, or a combination of all three, the hard choices around budgets are unavoidable.
Against this backdrop, it would be easy to throw our hands up in despair. But as conference reminds me, we are not a party that indulges in despair. We want solutions. We aren’t afraid to prioritise what works for the long terml, not just the next election.
Our record across the country shows this. Instead of joining simplistic calls to kick the homeless off the streets, Cambridge have worked with charities and the police to rehabilitate and educate the homeless. Southwark have pressured the council into ethical investments for their pension funds, even from opposition. Hinckley and Bosworth have brought in over 5,000 new jobs to their area, while paying their staff the living wage and keeping council tax at the 9th lowest rate in the country.
And our ambitions, unlike Labour and Conservatives, firmly include creating a fairer society for everybody, not just those who turn out to vote. Nowhere is this more acute than on issues which will hit our children and the poor hardest, whose needs are too easy to ignore. Climate change is happening now, and will affect everybody in some way. Just this week, the UN released research showing that disasters, including floods and heatwaves, have increased fivefold since the 70s.
At the same time, our Coalition colleagues continue to want to cut the green crap, as I wrote recently on here. I was amused by one of the comments responding to this article: “Tim Farron is delusional if he thinks that anything the UK does will make a blind bit of difference to climate change.”The fact is, from the grassroots to the international stage, what we do does make a difference. Without the Lib Dems in Government, we wouldn’t have the world’s first Green Investment Bank, we wouldn’t see all new homes cutting emissions, we wouldn’t be sticking to our climate commitments.
Going into the next election, I want us to strengthen that spirit of ambition that drove Beveridge to name the “giant evils” of his day, and to name the solutions. I don’t mean a free for all on sky high idealistic thinking, or an instant silver bullet. I am a realist. What I mean is a commitment to taking action, testing and refining again and again until we find what does work.
That’s why the LGA’s recent “100 days” publication is so important, that’s why I want to encourage you (again!) to get involved in the manifesto process, and that’s why I am proud to be in party that rolls up its sleeves to help. I’ve seen it across the country, time and time again: Lib Dems committing all year round to doing what’s right for Britain and our communities, not what’s right for our own interests.
Hi Tim, having kept up the tradition here in Cheltenham of winning 'safe' Tory seats I have just joined the Planning Committee where I was unable to vote on an application which I and local residents had campaigned against during my campaign. This was because I was not 'open minded', this appears to contradict the aims of the Localism Act. As a party we must stand up and have policies which enable us to speak up for and represent our constituents,we must reform the NPPF and have a presumption in favour of local people not deep pocketed applicants, thanks Paul.