Author Archives: Simon Thorley

Local Government doing less to achieve more

Darlington Borough Council is skint. One of the smallest local authorities in the country, Darlington was created as a Unitary Authority in 1997. Since then, it has been governed (like many Northern councils) exclusively by Labour, and it now stands on the verge of bankruptcy (the two facts may not be unrelated).

Specifically, the Council have calculated the need for £12.5m in spending cuts over the next four years. To go: Darlington’s historic indoor market, the public library (both of which were donated to the town by the Pease family), the town centre’s Christmas lights and floral displays, several children’s centres, and multiple other social, environmental and cultural services. Streets will be swept less frequently. Charges will be introduced for blue badge holders.

Are these cuts to local services best blamed on central government, with its reduction in funding for local authorities, or on incompetent and profligate local councils? Certainly, cuts in central government funding have been made, with the provision of local services affected; certainly, other local authorities facing similar cuts are not broke. The truth of the matter is probably somewhere between the two!

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 11 Comments

Pro-business or pro-enterprise? Why the difference matters

 

What does it mean to be a ‘pro-business’ political party?

This is not an easy question to answer, although that has not stopped many political parties from describing themselves as such. Businesses are not homogenous: from sole trader to global corporation, the requirements and priorities of firms are as diverse as the requirements and priorities of the individuals who own and staff them. Policies and laws that are highly favourable to one business or sector can be – and frequently are – disastrous for another. It is entirely possible to adopt policies that are pro some businesses, but where some businesses win others must lose. Choosing which businesses win and which lose is inherently political.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 21 Comments

Where are the Lib Dem business networks?

 

After many years on the cusp of joining the party, I finally made the decision to join the Lib Dems immediately after that fateful day in May. My motivations, I am sure, were much the same as those of many other waverers – despite having a stubborn, independent streak that made me loath to join a party (any party), and hesitation over the policies of the Coalition, I could no longer stand by and expect others to shoulder the burden of protecting liberal values and defending individual rights.

I can safely say that I haven’t regretted my decision for a moment: the warm welcome from Greenwich Borough Lib Dems, and the party as a whole, has reaffirmed my belief that liberalism has a bright future in English politics.

As a small business manager, one aspect of the Lib Dems that I have always found most attractive is its independence from vested interests. Not being dominated by – or acting as a mouthpiece for – the sectional interests of organised labour or powerful corporations is, for me, what allows our party to genuinely stand for individual rights and wellbeing. It is this independence which also makes the Lib Dems the natural home of the entrepreneur, the shopkeeper and the SME business manager – the small and the brave – as the social freedoms which we strive for as a party are those which independent businesses require in order to thrive.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 35 Comments
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