Tony Devenish is a member of the London Assembly for West Central.
One of the unsung roles of a politician is to act as a lightning rod to dissipate the understandable anger of the public, at whatever the Government of the day has f ***** up. Recently I attended a business breakfast where at the start, every single business leader bawled me out for the state of the B word. Then our Housing Minister Kit Malthouse (my predecessor on the London Assembly and a former Deputy Leader of Westminster City Council) spoke and answered questions for an hour. Those same business leaders made a point of coming up to me afterwards to say that despite Brexit, our Conservative Government and local government was doing some good work. Well done Kit.
With the relentless negativity of political coverage over recent months, Conservatives in our town halls have a record to be proud of. We must continue to shout from the rooftops, and cherish these real bread and butter victories rather than talk ourselves into defeatism and a slow motion car crash ahead of local elections (outside London) next month.
Those who don’t vote Conservative in our local elections will regret the sheer ineptitude of living under a Labour or Lib Dem Council – please don’t go there.
Here are seven reasons why you are better off with a Conservative council:
- Excellent state education. Across our country academies, free schools and Conservative local authority run schools give our children the start in life that schools in many (not all) Labour local authorities fail time and time again to deliver. Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster schools outperform Labour-run Camden on every single audited measure. It is Conservative councils that can be trusted to help find the sites needed for new free schools.
- Clean streets and frequent bin collections. Hammersmith and Fulham Council street cleaning has got so poor since Labour won the council in 2014 that former Tory Council Leader (and Deputy Mayor of London) Stephen Greenhalgh has announced that he’s looking to become the directly elected Mayor of that borough to reconnect local people with a Council that currently ignores them.
- Award-winning adults and social care for our most vulnerable residents’. Conservative councils innovate with compassion and where necessary lobby Government for more money. Our local government leaders have pressed for the Green Paper on how to reform this most difficult of issues, which is waiting in Whitehall ready to go post Brexit.
- Brexit preparations. Conservative councils from Kent County Council to Westminster City Council have led reassurance messaging to EU nationals and logistics practical contingency planning and I say this not to play into the hands of the doom-mongers. This is grown up politics – working with central Government and business to be ready to adjust to new circumstances.
- Transport. Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has pathetically cut pothole spending and waged war on the motorist with a ULEZ clean air policy. Even his Transport for London experts say won’t improve air quality, yet another Labour stealth tax, not to mention Crossrail Labour incompetence on a grand scale. Conservatives champion practical measures such as clean buses and electric cars. Hammersmith and Fulham Council showed Labour’s usual level of incompetence by failing to install parking meters which could accept the new one pound coins for nearly a year.
- Value for money. It is easy for noisy special interest groups to sneer but Council Tax is a regressive tax , falling disproportionally on the poorest and those on fixed incomes. It is right that Conservative councils strive to keep increases to a minimum, contrasting with the inefficiency of many Labour and Lib Dem run councils.
- Housing. After Labour’s economic crash of a decade ago – house building collapsed. We are now building twice as many homes a year than we were ten years’ ago. Conservative local authorities and the private sector have answers to real bread and butter issues. We all need to champion the case for more and better housing in the coming month.
So these local elections matter in themselves. They are not just a chance to protest against central Government. Indeed Conservative councils have been willing to challenge the Government where necessary. I know councils in London best where elections are not taking place this year. But the same story applies to Conservative councils across the country that apply the same principles. So I hope that wherever elections are happening all Conservatives will turnout and vote to have Conservative councillors.