The time for change is here

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - OPPO SING VIEW - Coun­cil­lor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil

It’s al­ways wise to keep an eye on what the Con­ser­va­tives are do­ing; as a re­sult, I watched much of the Con­ser­va­tive Party Con­fer­ence last week. nearly choked on my cof­fee when Theresa May in­sisted that aus­ter­ity is over; this is cer­tainly not the view we have in lo­cal gov­ern­ment. Philip Ham­mond has made it clear that more cuts are on the way, and we are go­ing to have to be creative in how we sus­tain our pub­lic ser­vices, and pro­vide more so­cial hous­ing.

These cuts come af­ter eight years of sus­tained aus­ter­ity; we’ve seen a con­se­quent rise in home­less­ness, the use of food banks (in­clud­ing by work­ing peo­ple), and in­ad­e­quate fund­ing for the NHS. On the other hand, the gov­ern­ment ap­par­ently has plenty of money to spend on tax cuts for large cor­po­ra­tions, grants to the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party, and even £120 mil­lion for a so­called “Fes­ti­val of Brexit”.

Lest we for­get, we are the sixth rich­est na­tion in the world. We have re­sources that many na­tions would envy; the only way that we can af­ford ex­pen­di­ture on ex­trav­a­gantly du­bi­ous projects and yet not have suf­fi­cient re­sources to help hard work­ing fam­i­lies is due to chronic mis­man­age­ment both on a na­tional and lo­cal level.

This in­ep­ti­tude is only matched by heart­less­ness: open a news­pa­per and it’s easy to find sto­ries about Win­drush mi­grants who have been bru­tally de­ported de­spite hav­ing con­trib­uted to Bri­tish so­ci­ety all their lives. I re­call the case of a dec­o­rated former RAF squadron leader liv­ing in Peter­bor­ough who was ini­tially told he wasn’t a Bri­tish cit­i­zen and whose wife and son were de­ported. For­tu­nately, this case was so egre­gious that it was favourably re­solved. Other sto­ries, like those who were as­sessed as be­ing “fit for work” de­spite suf­fer­ing from de­bil­i­tat­ing or even ter­mi­nal ill­ness, are rife.

Given this, I was also floored by the Prime Min­is­ter’s call for a pol­i­tics that unites us. She is clearly ap­peal­ing to an in­stinct for con­sen­sus that her own party does not share. One need only look at the rap­tur­ous re­cep­tion that Boris John­son re­ceived at his fringe meet­ing to see this; one need only watch our coun­cil meet­ings via Face­book to get an­other help­ing. The wider coun­try is just as di­vided: there’s ten­sion be­tween rich and poor, young and old, north and south, Re­main and Leave. This does not ap­pear to be get­ting any bet­ter.

On re­flec­tion, the con­fer­ence con­firmed for me that it is time for change; much of what was said in the Con­serv- ative Con­fer­ence could eas­ily have been said in 2016 and 2017. There was no change; rather, the poli­cies and per­son­al­i­ties were set in as­pic. Mean­while, the coun­try is mov­ing on, its needs re­main un­ad­dressed. The sands of the hour­glass have run out; it’s time for re­spon­sive pol­i­tics, not the pol­i­tics of blus­ter and nos­tal­gia. It’s time to do the hard work of di­rect en­gage­ment with our prob­lems, not out­sourc­ing them. It’s past time for change.

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