Welcome to my day: 5 September 2022 – catching up with the paperwork…

For those of you amongst our readers who don’t know, I’m a Parish councillor in my small, but perfectly formed, village in Suffolk’s Gipping Valley. For a variety of reasons, we’ve recently laboured without either a Chair or a Parish Clerk, and I am reminded how fragile our democracy is. You see, democracy requires not only politicians but administrators and these are increasingly in short supply.

Politicians, as a species, are seldom popular, but the hostility shown to the more high profile ones puts off potential candidates at our tier too, and we need 100,000 councillors at the first tier in England alone. Many Town and Parish Councils are, effectively, democracy-free zones, without contested elections and with vacancies often filled by poorly publicised co-options. That lack of competition risks poor, unchallenged governance and thus poor representation at a level of government that spends over £1 billion per annum.

So, if you live in an area with a Town or Parish Council, do think about putting your name forward in next May’s elections.

I’ve spent today updating our website and preparing financial reports. Balancing our budget and paying the bills here is rather less stressful than the challenge likely to face Liz Truss today – inflation heading into double figures, energy costs climbing fast, industry beginning to realise the damage that will surely follow.

Of course, I’m assuming that it will be Liz, although you can hardly dare rule out the possibility of a late Sunak surge, improbable as it may seem. And, with rumours of Conservative MPs already plotting to overthrow her, she is going to have to tread very carefully in order to survive.

But it’s her apparent belief in trickle-down economics which is deeply troubling. If she really believes that cutting taxes for the relatively wealthy will help the poor, and is keen to cut public spending, something is going to have to give. And that something is going to be those who were barely making it as it was, individuals, families and businesses. The increasing number of stories about pubs and restaurants facing huge increases in energy bills suggests that unemployment will rise, both amongst the businesses themselves but suppliers too.

There was some positive news over the weekend, in the form of an announcement that bus fares in England will be capped at £2.00 for a three-month period in the New Year. Out here in the country, that’s going to make a real difference given how expensive bus fares are and it will be interesting to see if it has an effect on declining ridership numbers. It is, relative to schemes to massively reduce train fares in Germany and Spain, a small intervention (expected cost – £60 million) but perhaps that reflects the value placed on public transport generally by this Government.

No doubt today will be dominated by the announcement from the Conservatives as to their new Leader and our new Prime Minister. Feel free to comment below the line on what you think will happen next, and we’ll doubtless have official reaction from the Party when it comes.

Until then, have a great day and I’ll see you on the other side…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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  • Michael Cole 5th Sep '22 - 12:55pm

    “Feel free to comment below the line on what you think will happen next, and we’ll doubtless have official reaction from the Party when it comes.”

    Ok: This country is in a terrible mess. Truss & Co ? They haven’t got a clue.

  • Thoughts on our new P.M. I am wracking my brain to try to think of a Prime Minister who was so lacking in presentational skills, so devoid of charisma, and without obvious intelligence. And I can remember the day Harold Wilson was first elected ! In normal times the arrival of L.T. in No.10 would provoke a mass selling of assets and burying of gold in the back garden, but I guess we’ve been softened up by 3 years of Johnson and mendacious mediocrity and shameless cronyism now seems the norm. At the very best we will see the national debt spiral out of control, at the worst…………

  • Jenny Barnes 5th Sep '22 - 2:04pm

    I had this awful thought. Given that Truss likes to pretend she is Thatcher, what are the chances that she will set off a war to enhance her chances of re-election? there’s just enough time to take on the major continental power with claims on a nearby island, just like Argentina and the Malvinas back in the day. https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/c04c873a-fb5a-46a2-ab14-6bedde139a29 China & Taiwan. She could send HMS High-Value Target. Unfortunately HMS Delusions of Grandeur is suffering from “mechanical issues”. In my country we call that “broken”.

  • As a fellow Parish Councillor, I share Mark’s concern at the democratic deficit at first tier councils. To put it bluntly, co-option should simply not be allowed. It invites the sort of cronyism that we despise anywhere else in the political system. If a T/PC can’t attract a full roster of councillors then it should proceed with what it has got until the next election.
    T/Pcs who are “short” should be allowed to hold new elections every May for the empty seats, rather than have to wait 4 years. If a T/PC is not even quorate it should be absorbed into the neighboring parish, and if the public complain they have only themselves to blame.

  • Neil James Sandison 5th Sep '22 - 2:42pm

    Liz Truss may be more of an asset than we think . If she does push a neo-thatcherite agenda through she may alienate the 60,000 conservative members who did not vote for her , A hard right leader who does not like handouts for those most in need will soon clash with one nation conservatives and she could come unstuck very quickly . remember she has only gained the premiership based on Johnsons majority in the House of Commons not on her own mandate .

  • Phillip Bennion 6th Sep '22 - 9:30am

    Mark is right on local democracy. We haven’t had a parish election since 2011. However, freezing bus fares here will have zero effect as our Tory County Council scrapped the service 2 years ago. The nearest bus stop is now 6 miles away. I do agree with Neil Sandison that if Truss carries out her campaign promises she will alienate a swathe of centrist Tory voters as well as committed opponents. However, I think it likely that she will be forced into a reality check by our current predicament. Small businesses will be forced into mass bankruptcy as their existing energy contracts expire. Current offers are at least 5x the price being paid under old contracts and there is not even a price cap protection. My view is that the government will have to concede on a package and it may precede a complete unravelling of the Truss programme.

  • David Rogers 6th Sep '22 - 11:35am

    Mark and Chris Cory (comment above) are absolutely right about the democratic deficit at town/parish level, which I’ve seen so often over the years in a variety of places. I’m rather taken with Chris Cory’s suggestion as to how this might be tackled – a bold idea which to my knowledge has never been suggested before! Fortunately my own Town Council experience (Newhaven, 1989-2011) was very different. We always had contested elections for all the seats in three wards, usually with all three parties standing – although sometimes we were the only ones with a full slate – plus occasional independents or single issue candidates… It was a great starting point for those interested in becoming district or county candidates.

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