Opinion: How the Liberal Democrats transformed Hull City Council

Cllr Abi Bell is Deputy Leader of Hull City Council. She writes about how the Council has gone from the worst in the country to the best under Liberal Democrat administration.

Another year and another election in Hull. It seems like only yesterday we were fighting the General Election. Last year we missed out on winning the Hull North constituency from Labour by just 600 votes – securing the 4th best swing from Labour to the Lib Dems in the country and turning what was once an unassailable Labour stronghold into one of the country’s most marginal constituencies.

I think it’s fair to say that the political landscape has changed a fair bit since last May. We are in Government for the first time in a century. The Lib Dems have not been idle either. In just one year in Government we have pushed through policies which directly help people here in the Hull. To name just a few: the pupil premium, restored the link between pensions and earnings and, most importantly thousands of people have been taken out of paying income tax all together.

I doubt any of the above would have happened if either Labour or the Conservatives were in government alone.

As a party we also face some new challenges. The need to tackle Labour’s deficit has led to some tough decisions being made both locally and nationally. Labour also has a much stronger position in the national polls than this time last year.

In Hull, the main opposition is Labour. So with the local elections, now only four weeks away, we will have to work in new ways, fight harder, and campaign more than ever before if we want to succeed.

Work on this year’s campaign began almost as the last one ended. During the summer we kept delivering literature and talking to people on the doorstep.

After listening to what hundreds of people have to say, it is clear that many people cautiously welcome the Coalition Government. I would be lying if I said everyone was happy about the Lib Dems being in coalition with the Conservatives. And yet people like the move away from only ever having two choices of  either Labour or the Conservatives. We also know that many people like our policies and are happy to see us getting them through in government.

Most importantly of all, local people recognise the hard work the Lib Dems have put into turning the Council around over the last five years. I could wax lyrical about all we have achieved since 2007 such as:

  • a massive increase in recycling, better roads
  • improved customer services
  • establishment of the Freedom Festival
  • hosting of the round the world Clipper Race
  • a two year freeze in Council Tax
  • cuts in senior management pay
  • reduction in the use of consultants
  • helping to attract green energy giant Siemens to construct a new wind turbine factory in Hull, creating thousands of new jobs.

The contrast between now and 2004 when Hull City Council was Labour-led could not be more startling. In 2004 Hull was branded the worst council in the country And last year the Audit Commission found Hull to be the most improved council in the country.

Labour let down Hull badly. The Audit Commission report highlights their failings in one damning sentence, “The fundamental cause of the Council’s continuing failure to get to grips with the difficult issues which it faces is poor political leadership and governance.” Those people that demonstrated such “poor political leadership” are still in the Labour party and make up the bulk of their shadow cabinet.

The fact that the Labour party in Hull has not moved on since 2004 should be of great concern to anybody who is thinking about voting for them. In nearly 3 decades of unopposed power they failed to get investment in the city, did not help to create new jobs, stalled regeneration and let the Council slip further and further down the national league tables.

The Labour Party’s alternative budget proposals showed just how little vision Labour actually have for Hull. Apart from a few unrealistic promises, their budget contained nothing new. It has no direction or vision for the city. Instead, they voted to leave £7.5 million worth of savings to be made next year – putting off the tough choices just so that they can go into this election pretending that they can afford to make no changes to what the Council does. They have not said where that axe will fall next year, and of course are not coming clean with the people of Hull about what their plans really are.

In power nationally, Labour spent money they didn’t have and made promises they couldn’t keep. The cuts Britain faces at the moment are the direct consequences of those choices Labour made whilst in power. It’s sad to see that they have learned so little from their mistakes that they’re proposing to do the same thing to Hull all over again if they win in May.

The only conclusion I can draw is that they hope not too many of the electorate will realise all this before May 5th! Rest assured we will be pointing it out to them.

The Lib Dems on the other hand have a vision for Hull. We want Hull to be at the centre of the world’s energy industry, Siemens wind turbine factory is a start. We want to see more regeneration of city. We want our children to get the education they deserve. We want to help people to find work. Along with all these things we want our Council to be the best run in country.

I’m proud of the difference the Liberal Democrats have made in Hull. We’ve turned the worst Council in the country into the most improved. We’ve helped deliver a sustainable economic future for the city after decades of Labour neglect and disinterest.

Uploaded as part of  Caron Lindsay’s Elections, Referendums and Liberal Democrat Achievements Guest Editor Day

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This entry was posted in Local government and Op-eds.
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4 Comments

  • David Evans 7th Apr '11 - 2:18pm

    Excellent to see what a difference good Lib Dem politics can make. There are too many towns in the UK that have been and often still are being failed by Labour politicians. I hope you get the response you have earned and have an even bigger majority after May.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Shame about cutting poorer kids out of music provision.

  • Is there anything you wish you didn’t have to do?

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