Wokingham Today

A tale of two manifestos

- TONY JOHNSON caveat.lector@icloud.com

THERE’S an election brewing and it’s due on Thursday, May 3. And what’s different about this election is that two of the political parties have published their policies and plans for the future of the borough.

The Liberal Democrats, led by Cllr Lindsay Ferris, published their manifesto back in autumn last year ( The Wokingham Paper, October 5, 2017) and have updated it in preparatio­n for May 3.

While they’ve influenced change, they’ve chosen to present their approach as ‘problems – solutions’.

In a break with tradition the Conservati­ves, led by Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor, launched their manifesto last week ( The Wokingham Paper, April 5).

They’ve chosen to present their approach as ‘a record of action – a promise of more’. However they also include some ‘key facts’ along with statements from front bench members.

While the styles as well as the length of the two manifestos differ, the substance is more important.

Stripping away the titles, verbiage, pictures, repetition etc, one has 43 policy statements while the other has 47.

What’s fascinatin­g is the points of agreement, as well as the points where they differ.

So without further ado, here’s a simplified comparison of just the main policies from the two leading local parties, topic by topic.

House Building

Both: Reduce government imposed housing numbers; improve local decision making; introduce self-build initiative­s.

LD: “Homes for local people” – Wokingham Borough Council to own, manage and control things from land through to homes and provide more of what’s needed locally. Also use local builders where possible, to help make homes affordable for the young, suitable for the elderly and putting local residents first.

Cons: “Rent to Buy” – Wokingham Borough Council to finance those who’ve never owned a home by putting aside part of their council rent towards a deposit on a home. Also: increase house building programme via Council owned companies and fight “land-banking” so that the right homes go in the right places.

Social Housing

Both: Differ …

LD: Use the council owned housing companies to build council houses.

Cons: Reduce the numbers of people waiting for social housing and build more specialist homes for our ageing population. Give tenants a strong voice in shaping and designing their community and neighbourh­ood.

Regenerati­on

Both: Differ …

LD: Scale back regenerati­on proposals for Wokingham itself and spread existing resources to other areas of the Borough. Also – reduce risk and debt for Wokingham Borough Council.

Cons: Continue the regenerati­on of Peach Place, Market Place, Elms Field and Carnival Pool. Also – invest in new ways of generating income for Wokingham Borough Council.

Both: Make sure civil parking enforcemen­t and parking charges each work properly and in the right places.

LD: Develop a new transport and parking strategy and build roads and infrastruc­ture before houses. Better coordinati­on and communicat­ion of roadworks to reduce disruption.

Cons: Spend £124 million to build or improve roads for new residents and existing ones. Develop alternativ­es to car journeys across the Borough and promote fairer residents’ parking permits.

Environmen­t & Leisure

Both: Increase recycling of waste, improving plastics and introducin­g food recycling.

LD: Retain weekly waste collection and introduce kerbside glass and tetrapak recycling. Remove DIY waste charges and fight for quieter & cleaner motorways.

Cons: Cut the grass better and spend money on greenways and byways. Build and open leisure centres in Ryeish Green, Bulmershe and Carnival Pool. Improve California Country park.

Schools & Education

Both: Differ …

LD: Lobby government for increased funding for our schools and a revamped education policy. Improve everyone’s lifelong learning opportunit­ies.

Cons: Improve the offer for 0-5 year olds, help all children achieve their potential, including SEN and help younger people to engage in decision making.

Health & Care

Both: Work with NHS, voluntary sector, councils and public to deliver better services and care for the elderly and vulnerable residents in our communitie­s.

LD: Help people lead ordinary lives with long term costs met via a reformed National Insurance system with local budgets and introduce cost caps on life savings and assets.

Cons: Introduce a Recovery College for vulnerable adults and make reducing social isolation, loneliness and homelessne­ss a priority in the provision of adult social care locally.

Finance & Fairness

Both: Improve access to Wokingham Borough Council’s staff and services.

LD: Cut back Wokingham Town regenerati­on and reduce financial risks and WBC debt. Consult residents, improve public access to informatio­n and communicat­e honestly and openly. Use council-owned housing companies to provide affordable homes for young residents and build council houses.

Cons: Maintain a high standard of services, keeping Council Tax and charges as low as possible. Look for investment opportunit­ies that will produce income for WBC and spend £500 million over the next three years on roads, housing, schools and leisure centres.

The Last Word

In contrast to the ‘personalit­y politics’ of past Wokingham Borough elections (aka the mud-slingers match), these manifestos are a long overdue and much welcome developmen­t to make local politics easier to understand.

So to respect the parties’ initiative­s, The Wokingham Paper is making the originals of each manifesto easy to access in one place: www.wokinghamp­aper.co.uk/manifestos. If you haven’t got access to a computer, please ask your local candidate for a copy of their manifesto.

So that’s it, Over 24 pages of manifestos with nearly 5,000 words on past, present and future condensed to just one page with 580 words on the main policies alone.

And while the Labour Party, Green Party, and Independen­t candidates haven’t published manifestos (as of the time of writing), next week you’ll be able to read a comparison of the policies they’ve put forward in whatever they’ve published.

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