Introduction

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The Liberal Democrat vision for Wiltshire

  • We will provide:
    • better planning, with the right housing in the right places;
    • quality social care for the young, old and vulnerable
    • the best possible environment-friendly transport
    • strong support for job creation
    • a safer, more sustainable environment.
  • We will create an active ‘can do’ council that improves services for its residents. We will follow the best practice seen elsewhere, including raising money by using council resources and forming partnerships with volunteers and charities.
  • We will provide leadership and resources to support our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • We will harness the skills and energies of local people by forging collaborative partnerships with community organisations and working together to make Wiltshire a leader among UK counties.  
  • We will work to make Wiltshire net zero carbon by 2030 and to protect our green spaces and biodiversity

What is the challenge? 

Good councils take action to help local people live well and achieve their potential, but Wiltshire hasn’t achieved as much as it could have. The council has been controlled by the Conservatives since its creation in 2009. During that time, it has had two leaders and little change in its policy agenda.

Funding from central government for local councils has been slashed, leaving them dependent on council tax and other income they can raise.

What will we do?

It’s important for local councils to be smart and decisive at a time when the Westminster government has, over many years, cut local council funds. They can either shrink their services to a bare minimum or look for new ways to raise money and provide services. The current Wiltshire administration has become too timid, ignoring opportunities that other authorities grab with relish. We can’t make extravagant promises, but we can promise to do all we can with what we have. Look what’s happened elsewhere, in councils of different political shades:

  • South Somerset has raised income from commercial and residential investments.
  • Dorset has raised cash from advertising.
  • Cornwall has shown tremendous ambition to meet housing needs, with more than 700 affordable homes built each year.
  • Coventry has pioneered an ‘Acting Early’ programme to identify and help young children and families who need support.

Wiltshire has made small starts in areas such as affordable house building and the  ‘Shared Lives’ programme which provides volunteer support for vulnerable people, after prompting with a motion to full council by the Liberal Democrats back in February 2018, but other Local Authorities  have gone much further in these areas.

Look at what happened when Wiltshire’s outdoor education centres, Braeside and Oxenwood, were threatened because the council has been starved of money by Westminster. The Conservatives simply proposed closing them and ending the great service they provide to youngsters.

Lib Dems with local residents organised protests and the resulting display of ‘people power’ led to community groups coming forward to keep the centres open. That’s the kind of solution other councils come up with and it’s what should have happened in the first place.

A similar demonstration of community action led to the scrapping of Sunday car parking charges and the retention of the Special Schools in Chippenham and Trowbridge.

Wiltshire Council is full of outstanding council officers who are committed to making the lives of Wiltshire residents better and the current administration should receive credit where appropriate. However, Wiltshire now needs a change in leadership. Too often we have seen an approach of ’Can’t do, won’t do’ instead of ‘can do, will do’

Liberal Democrat plans and principles

Our plans – what we’ll do

The priority of the Lib Dems is to serve the residents of Wiltshire through a ‘can do’ approach, letting local people make decisions about local matters.  Three big themes run through our plans: promoting people’s wellbeing, protecting the environment and creating jobs,. That means:

  • housing, both to buy and to rent, and planning that is responsive to communities;
  • reliable, customer focused, low-cost public transport;
  • support for young people and families;
  • improved support for elderly and disabled residents;
  • revitalised towns and villages which allow businesses to flourish, from manufacturers and farms to IT companies and tourist attractions;
  • greater environmental sustainability.

This of course is on top of the day-to-day need to collect rubbish, fill in potholes and make sure the street lights work. And while we get on with it, we’ll take a lead in fighting for fairer funding from Westminster.

The Lib Dems are here to make this happen.

Our principles – why we’ll do it

Since Wiltshire Council’s creation, Liberal Democrat councillors have been the only organised and effective opposition.

  • We will continue to speak for residents, especially those groups and individuals whose voices are often left unheard.
  • We will review and revise leadership structures; create clear roles and responsibilities, and provide a genuine scrutiny process of the executive.
  • We will invite all democratically elected councillors who want to be constructive to engage with us and suggest new initiatives.
  • We will think strategically. Our Business Plan will include performance indicators against which our progress will be measured.
  • And we will be active. We won’t just do what Downing Street says we must, as is increasingly the case today. Indeed, there is a growing gap between the Liberal Democrat position of defending and, where possible, extending services and the Conservative position of doing no more than forced to by national Government.

This is why we will innovate and defend services that provide benefits to the local community, beyond the statutory ones that we are legally obliged to offer.

Ian Thorn – Leader of the Wiltshire Liberal Democrats, Wiltshire Councillor for Calne Central