Last night I sat in the chamber at Harlow Council to watch and listen to the debate on the council budget.
Jon Clempner, Tony Durcan and Labour’s team on the council presented a real vision of the future for Harlow, £1m to regenerate the town, streetlights turned back on and valued community projects protected not just for this year but for next year and the year after. As you might know I’ve been running a petition over the last year calling for the streetlights to be turned back on after Essex County Council switched them off, so obviously I’m supportive of the Labour proposals to switch them back on.
The Tories put up a series of amendments which seemed to have everything to do with the upcoming election and very little to do with making things better for local residents.
After consistently criticising the council for not taking enough action on the traveler encampments, the Tories wanted to throw another £60,000 at the problem, but do nothing to address the root cause. They wanted to cut council tax by 0.5% meaning on average Harlow residents would save 2p a week, £1 over the course of the year. What a shameful example of empty gesture politics that the Party who have presided over the worst decline in living standards in living memory, the party that has made working families £1600 a year worse off, is going to give us £1 before an election. Who are they trying to kid?
This is the worst kind of hypercritical, cynical stunt politics that so many of us have had enough of. All of the Tory spending plans would last for exactly 1 year, coincidentally, that would be after the general election. Let’s remind ourselves what the same people were saying about tax this time 5 years ago;
This is a positive budget. Jon and his team are being straight with Harlow residents, they’re asking people to pay 7p a week more on average to protect local services, turn the lights back on, regenerate our town and build the first council homes in a generation. It’s a new way of doing politics that isn’t about a making a set of phony promises, but a common sense approach to how we meet the challenges of 2015, and how we meet them together as a community.
I’m really proud the petition I started last year to get the streetlights switched on has been successful and that it influenced this budget. Now I am excited about going forward with a more positive future for Harlow - with more homes, regeneration and our lights turned on.