Cllr Ian Bowyer is Leader of the Conservative Group on Plymouth City Council.
As voters head to the polls on May 5, they know there is too much at stake to risk a Labour-run council in Plymouth.
The future of Devonport Naval Base and HM Dockyard hangs in the balance as local people clearly recognise that Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader spells big trouble for Plymouth – a major risk to jobs and prosperity. Corbyn’s stance on the replacement of Trident is deeply worrying. Scrapping the Trident replacement programme would have enormous implications for the defence of our country and for Plymouth where over 10,000 jobs are dependent on the Devonport Naval Base. Over £685m of spend within our local economy would be lost – it would take years for Plymouth’s economy to recover.
High spending, high tax policies will also hurt working people. They damage our local economy which has seen unemployment halve – over 2,400 more people in Plymouth now have the security of a regular wage packet. Conservatives in Plymouth want to deliver more jobs and apprenticeship opportunities and build on the increasing business confidence we see within our growing national economy. Our ambition is to grow the City’s population to over 300,000 but we recognise that to do so will need more homes, schools, better roads, leisure, health and retail facilities – all of which will need careful planning.
Our priorities come from listening to residents: some are local and some are strategic and city wide. These include better rail links which are vital for Plymouth and the entire South West region. We have new rolling stock and faster trains promised for 2018, but we also need a more resilient and reliable line allowing 2 ¼ hour journeys to London – we can’t allow the South West to be cut off again during stormy weather.
Locally, it is obvious the City has a growing litter problem – we will set up a task group to bring forward a city wide strategy. Our pavement surfaces have deteriorated – we will introduce a pavement improvement programme. City motorists are reporting more congestion – we will review city traffic light operations to try and smooth traffic flows. We want to explore further the concept of volunteering.
Our local election this year has assumed greater importance as, for the first time here in Plymouth, the Council is in “no overall control” after last year’s elections. Historically Plymouth has tended to lean one way or the other, Conservative or Labour, and so last year’s result meant some serious discussions across the two parties were needed. The outcome was an agreed “working arrangement” which allowed the business of the Council to go forward, with the largest Party (Labour, 28 seats) assuming the executive functions of the Council, with Conservatives (26 seats) running the scrutiny function. This year, as a “target Council”, we are working hard across the City to reverse this position.
The City covers three constituencies and we have formed an “umbrella campaign group” with the Association Chairmen, the MPs, our Campaign Manager, my Deputy and I. We have overseen the campaign, agreed priorities and issues, and established a clear, consistent branded message across the City to promote the Conservative vision for Plymouth. Our message has been simple – we will offer a competent community based Council that delivers public services to the people of Plymouth.
We won’t forget we are Conservatives – we will strive to keep council tax low and balance the books. We won’t spend money we don’t have or borrow money we can’t afford. Conservative Councillors will stand up for Plymouth. This election is all about Plymouth jobs, Plymouth families, and Plymouth’s economic prospects.