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The End of an Eventful Year, with Another to Follow

December 23, 2016 4:01 PM

It's been a very eventful year, with some success, but also some disasters.

We Saved Leicestershire's Fire and Rescue Service

This time last year we were concerned over threats to Leicestershire's Fire and Rescue Service. Tory Leader Nick Rushton and Labour Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby looked set to force through draconian cuts that would have closed two fire stations and reduced the number of fire engines by a third. Despite warnings from unions and ex-fire officers, it looked as though they were set to press ahead, but our campaigning work paid off and they were eventually forced to u-turn.

It is quite a relief that immediate threat to our Fire Service is over but I am still concerned for the future. Rushton and Soulsby's response to the disaster was to blame it all on the Chief Fire Officer rather than acknowledge their own role in it. My fear is that no lessons will be learned and that the same mistakes will be repeated.

Fear, Xenophabia and MisInformation won out in Key Elections

The UK referendum and the US presidential elections both delivered shocking results where fear, xenephobia and misinformation seemed to "trump" rationality, decency and good sense. It's led to fears that we now live a post-truth world where power goes to the most convincing liar rather than the one with best competence and best plans for their country.

It means we live in extremely challenging times, but such times is when history is made. I expect we've all looked back at key moments in history, when Liberal politicians achieved momentous changes and shaped the future. Perhaps we've even been a bit envious that they lived in a time when history could be shaped, and wondered if we would ever have an opportunity to make such an impact. Maybe it's our generation's time to make history of our own...

Major Service Failure at County Hall

In November, the Tory-run County Council's new Help to Live at Home scheme failed horrendously. Large numbers of vulnerable people were left without care as some providers pulled out leaving some areas without provision. There was huge coverage in the local media. After we brought up the issue at the last Council meeting, this headline appeared the following day:

Houseman Headline

Leicester Mercury Front Page

The Tory Lead Member responsible for it tried to deflect blame by saying that it was the providers' fault for failing, and that he'd merely followed the recommendations set out by a scrutiny panel, chaired by a Lib Dem member. However, the panel we chaired specifically recommended that each area should have more than one provider - if that advice had been followed then it wouldn't have mattered if one or two providers had dropped out as there would have been alternatives to pick up the slack.

We can't allow the Tories to make excuses on this one. The failure happened because they refused to listen. As the cuts become even deeper we can expect these kinds of failures to become more common.

The Year to Come: More Cuts and Elections!

2017 looks set to be a big year for us in Leicestershire.
As soon as the Christmas Holidays finish we'll be back at County Hall, preparing for the budget and another round of horrendous cuts to Leicestershire's services. This year we can expect to say goodbye to bus subsidies, so that by 2018, only bus routes that are commercially viable will remain. This is likely to leave large numbers of rural areas without a good service.

Next year will be the County Council Elections, giving us an opportunity to topple the Tories and their control of Leicestershire County Council. 2016 was the first time that the Lib Dems started making gains in 8 years. The fightback is under way and we hope to make similar gains on Leicestershire County Council, particularly in Market Harborough, Birstall and Barlestone.

If you would like to help us make gains on the County Council, please get in contact.

And who knows, there may even be a snap General Election!

Happy Christmas and New Year!