Lib Dem councillors – the thin orange line between Britain and the harsh effects of Brexit

We fought hard, we won where we could, but lost where it mattered. Brexit is on the doorstep.

And that’s where we should be too.

A wise man once addressed the European Parliament in the wake of our most successful European elections ever and told us that Brexit is not inevitable. And while that may not be as true as it once was, the most devastating consequences of Brexit for our communities are not as inevitable as they may feel sitting here in the crushing aftermath of a truly momentous step back for Britain.

Brexit Britain still has all the issues we had before the referendum, but will quickly run out of the EU funding we’ve relied on to hold them at bay. For every issue you hear raised on the doorstep in the case for Brexit, there’s a part that local government has to play in solving it.

And this goes far beyond potholes and bin collections. Lib Dem councillors, and indeed Lib Dem councils, must be on the frontline of some of the biggest political battles in post-Brexit Britain.

In the face of austerity and a cabinet hell-bent on making life more difficult for the most vulnerable, councils will be the ones asked to take responsibility for the cruelty the government cannot bring itself to inflict.

For every time the government fails to protect refugees, Lib Dem councils must step up in defiance, like Lib Dem run Cheltenham Borough Council has in becoming a ‘Town of Sanctuary’ for refugees.

For every time the government says it’s getting ’tough’ on benefits, cutting people to the bone who deserve more than the perpetual poverty they see fit for them, Lib Dem councillors must promote modern approaches to the social safety net, like Lib Dem councillors in Hull have in promoting universal basic income.

For every time the government tries to cut our country down we must find a liberal approach to building it back up. Because that’s what patriotism is. We love where we live and who we live with, wherever they’ve joined us from, and defy anyone or anything that stands between us and what’s best for the open, inclusive and united place we call home.

We all love photos of Lib Dems pointing at rubber ducks in flooded potholes, but I want to be able to look back on this dark moment in British history and point to something that means far more. Hope.

For every Lib Dem councillor we elect in 2020, I want us to be able to point to a small part of this hostile environment we’ve made better as a result of being elected.

For every Lib Dem council, I want to be able to point out the cutting edge, truly radical approaches to the biggest issues facing our country that we pioneered in the years to come as they transform the future of our country.

And then we need to do it all over again.

* Alisha Lewis is a former Liberal Democrat MEP's staff member, and future Cheltenham Borough council candidate.

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5 Comments

  • Graham Jeffs 3rd Feb '20 - 10:38am

    Aspirations are great, it’s the ‘how’ that is so important. The discussion about community politics and leaflets has been interesting. Possibly the latter, in moderation, at least show that we are alive……..

    But my main concern is that there should be a better understanding of local government finances – maybe that’s because I’m pretty ignorant of it myself. Most of those local councillors I have asked about this seem pretty vague too – the budget comes from somewhere and they aim to shoe-horn ‘wants’ within the overall total. I have the impression that many councillors simply don’t really know how local finance works.

    If we are to improve and protect local provision, do we not need to explain the limitations on expenditure under which local government struggles? Forget the graphs and associated bumph that local councils put out to council tax payers – surely it boils down to;

    a) Amount raised by council tax – how much stays locally and how much is siphoned off to other areas/uses?
    b) How much does government ‘support’ amount to?
    c) How much do the services imposed by government cost?
    d) Are the revenue effects of capital expenditure recognised when that capex is being considered? [No point in spending capital if you can’t maintain it]
    e) What are the policies in respect of reserves? To what extent can a local council choose to vary these?

    It’s no use us saying we can do better but having a major aspect of that local management apparently ‘off limits’. It’s a tricky situation, but basically people need to realise they don’t get something for nothing – and I speak as someone who lives in a fairly wealthy area inundated with pot-holes, with a flaky education system and medical provision that staggers from one week to the next – and that’s just the tip of the ice-berg.

  • The ruthless and shameful pushing down of the brunt of austerity onto local authorities is one of the most ignominious legacies of the coalition.

  • “The thin Orange Line” ? As someone who served for twenty years as a Councillor, yes, but only to a small extent.

    If more hardship results from Brexit, more cuts will be imposed on local Council services and state welfare provision, (as happened in 2010-15). Councillors will have limited scope however heroically they may be pictured.

    Sadly the Food Banks (demand up 22% in the last twelve months) who will have to try to pick up the pieces.

  • Peter Hirst 4th Feb '20 - 2:18pm

    Does the top up to some local authorities come from the others or central government? Giving electorates more say on services’ costs would improve general satisfaction though it is those who need them most who can least afford them. Who decides on which authorities gain and which lose? I am not aware of much transparency on this issue.

  • Graham Jeffs 4th Feb '20 - 6:16pm

    Peter – you make a good point. Local government finance is in many ways opaque – a proliferation of statistics not necessarily in context. Additionally the day to day mechanics don’t seem to follow general practice elsewhere.

    I believe our aim as a party should be to initially press for sensible reforms to make the existing systems much more ‘fit for purpose’ and the sources and destinations of funds transparent. Otherwise electors and councillors are largely left impotent in terms of local provision.

    I note, also, that band H is uniformly three times band A. This multiple seems far too small. However it’s an issue that can be readily understood.

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