In the Spring of 2013, we went into the County Council elections with 5 key messages for the voters:
1) On Education – We need to invest in the future, & Labour councillors will fight to build up the School Improvement Programme & other measures to boost young people in education.
2) On Travel – Concessionary Fares help people play an active role in society, & Labour councillors will back the reintroduction of concessionary travel for people in education or training or doing voluntary work.
3) On Unemployment – Labour councillors will promote County investment in construction and other projects which will create economic growth and properly paid jobs in Suffolk.
4) On Privatisation & Divestment – Labour councillors will speak up about the risks of loss of accountability, failure of private companies to deliver safe and adequate services, and the loss of well-trained and well-motivated staff.
5) And on Care – warning about the effect of massive cuts to this Council’s expenditure on the most vulnerable people in our County.
Since then, we have brought motions to this Council Chamber, demanding
• A radical restructure of this Council’s education department
• An end to cuts to the School Improvement Service
• Enhancement of the Education Welfare Officers
• An effective strategy for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder & Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
• An end to Zero hours contracts for private sector employees delivering County services
• A commitment to becoming an accredited Living Wage Employer
• Retention of all the Children’s Centres
And budget amendments to restore concessionary fares, invest in underperforming education pyramids, and mitigate social care cuts.
On every single one of these things, you have voted us down. Does that mean we should change our minds about what we believe? Does that mean that we were wrong to raise these issues? When the Conservative Party got more votes and seats than us in 2013 on a platform which hardly mentioned education in Suffolk other than to claim that it was on a speedy road to recovery, did that mean that they were right and we were wrong? No!
Over and over again, on the issues that really matter to the lives of people in Suffolk, the Councillors in our Party have been proved right by events, and the complacent and ideologically-driven obsession with cuts shown by this administration has led to precisely the loss and degradation of vital services that we have warned against.
So we are not going to alter our views about what needs to be done. We are not going to tone down our approach in order to appeal to Councillor Noble any more than we did to Councillor Bee. Because the Labour Party, and Labour Councillors in Suffolk, actually believe in something. We believe in the power of effective, democratically accountable, public services to improve the lives of all our citizens, making our society here in Suffolk healthier, safer, better educated, more cohesive and more dynamic.
And it is that belief which unites us as well as motivates us. We have a message for the people of Suffolk which does not depend on cliques or factions, which is not tweaked or boosted with implants or ditched a month before each election. Labour exists to help you and all of us work together to achieve those things which you cannot do on your own. And it is that message which we will continue to focus on getting across to the people of Suffolk, and not who happens to be “in” or “out” in Endeavour House.