Cllr Joseph Baum a councillor on Buckinghamshire Council and the Deputy Chairman (Political) of the Chesham and Amersham Conservative Association.
It doesn’t matter where you are in the country, if you are a Conservative activist the following sentence will almost certainly apply: the person knocking on the door cares more about politics than the person answering it.
For many readers of ConservativeHome – myself included – following the twists and turns of our political system is simply a part of our routine. But for the millions of residents out in the country who simply do not have the time or the patience to keep up, what goes on within the “Westminster bubble” is a world away from what’s actually happening in their community and what needs to happen for it to thrive. Yes, there will be the occasional story that “cuts through” but for every story emanating from Downing Street there are dozens of local issues that need attention on every street.
Whether it’s mending a broken drain or installing a new bin on a public footpath, many of the problems that affect people on a daily basis can, and are being, dealt with by local Conservative councillors.
For us in local government, the satisfaction of knowing that you got something done is why we stood in the first place. But it is particularly important here in Chesham and Amersham, which has been under new parliamentary management since June. In my last article, written in the immediate aftermath of the by-election, I said that we needed to acknowledge why we lost whilst at the same time recognising that all is not lost.
Although the work of rebuilding our Association is still very much in progress, the task of delivering for local people has never, and can never stop. Having lost our voice at Westminster, I am pleased to say that in just six months Buckinghamshire Council has made some significant progress on issues that really matter to residents.
It wasn’t our MP who approved further and much needed investment in our roads, taking the total to more than £100 million over the next four years. It wasn’t our MP who promised, and is on track to deliver on a manifesto commitment to unblock every drain and gully in the county – a herculean effort made possible by Conservative investment.
Interested in sport? In December the brand new Chilterns Lifestyle Centre in Amersham opened its doors to the public. Improvements to the Chalfont Leisure Centre were also delivered as planned earlier this year. And for all the talk of protecting our green belt, it wasn’t our MP who stood up to defend it when a Planning Application to build almost 400 homes was recently submitted to the local Council.
A strategy to improve our bus network, a county wide effort to plants thousands of new trees, a zero-tolerance policy on fly tipping which is now leading to successful prosecutions, the first ever Buckinghamshire Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair which will bring together some of the UK’s biggest employers to our community to showcase their vacancies, a Local Plan in Aylesbury which will result in a net increase in green belt, millions distributed to local businesses who are desperate to bounce back from the pandemic, or a Helping Hand scheme which is supporting some of our most vulnerable in society – the list goes on.
Whilst it will never be as glamorous as a free trade agreement with Australia or a climate change summit in Glasgow, you can be sure that these are the issues that matters to local people.
Delivering for local people can only part of the effort. At every turn we have made sure that residents should be in no doubt over who is responsible for these achievements. Since the by-election we have held six Action Days across the Association – held on the first Saturday of every month. We have surveyed, canvassed, delivered leaflets and even telephone canvassed. We have reached out to our membership base once again and looked to re-invigorate our branches. In the two major town of Chesham and Amersham, our Town Councillors have held monthly face to face surgeries in the library and street stalls on the High Street. Almost all of our councillors now have active Facebook pages, enabling residents to communicate with their local councillor and to receive updates about what they are doing. Ask a resident at random in the constituency and the chances are that they have seen or heard from the Conservatives since the by-election.
Whilst the task of rebuilding will not be complete until we take back Chesham and Amersham, the solution lies in what Conservatives do best – working hard, deliver for local people and campaigning to win.