Sadly, at full council yesterday the Conservative administration used its large majority to carry on with its horrifyingly unformed proposals of divestment – and STILL without any public mandate.
I’m sharing below the speech I made against this decision. Unfortunately, despite its undoubted brilliance, and despite equally superb and accurate speeches by my leader Kathy Pollard, deputy leader, David Wood, and colleague John Field, all the backbench conservatives voted with their leaders rather than their consciences to support this unformed, uncosted, un-budgeted, and undemocratic piece of ideologically-driven decision-making.
So in the years to come, folks, you need to remember that this decision to ‘divest’ is NOT a coalition decision. This is NOT a national decision. It is NOT based on national cuts . No, the responsibility for the NSD lies squarely in the hands of Leader Jeremy Pembroke, his Cabinet – and all the Tory backbenchers on Suffolk County Council with huge reservations – not one of whom had the bottle to vote so in public!
My speech against the NSD
In September this council agreed – via its socking Tory majority – to push through the Cabinet recommendation , the NSD
– Which stands for… what exactly? Me, I think Noddy-style Democracy sums up the process pretty fairly!
Now there are lots and lots of reasons to object to this Enid Blyton fantasy, the NSD, but I’m only given 3 minutes.
So, I won’t mention their spurious 30% cuts, nor the value of the services they want to sell off or throw away . As regards its lack of logic and responsibility to the people of Suffolk – I’ll confine myself to quoting the Deputy Leader :
“If people don’t value a service, it won’t be delivered. If no-one comes forward with an offer to deliver it, that’s proof it’s not needed.”
(What a superbly Toytown approach to service delivery that is, by the way! So, if no-one comes forward to unblock your loo, is that proof your loo’s not blocked? )
No, my three minutes is going on the democratic deficit that led to this decision – and the democratic deficit that underpins your subsequent ‘consultation’.
Now, I missed last meeting for serious personal reasons and so couldn’t cast my vote against the NSD. Did it matter? Not a jot!
Why? Because the future of Suffolk’s services lies
- not in the hands of its half a million plus electors,
- not in the hands of the 75 county councillors who represent them,
- – and, – NOT – in the hands of the 55 Tory councillors opposite who hold a majority vote.
NO, it has been made by my esteemed colleagues, the Leader and cabinet.
These ten people have unilaterally decided to ‘transform Suffolk public services”.
Last September, Council also agreed “proactive and wide-ranging engagement across Suffolk to establish whether the key NSD proposals found favour with the communities.” Note that weasel word ‘engagement’ rather than ‘consultation.’
I’m sorry Jeremy, but your ‘proactive and wide-ranging engagement’ is a farce. Nowhere in your ‘engagement activity’ did you ask the VITAL question, “Shall we do it?”
Instead you asked “Do you understand it?” And indeed, by 21 November you had 528 responses – 63% of who DID ‘understand’ Jeremy, the concept of ‘selling the family silver’ is very easy to understand.
What people don’t understand is WHY you’re selling it without asking the family first.
So we Lib Dems decided to hold our own ‘engagement process’. We actually walked around, we delivered 23,000 leaflets, we visited not a single town, once – as several of the Conservative councillors say they did – but town after town over and over again and talked to many residents about your NSD. And, you know what? People had never heard of it.
They were appalled, Jeremy! We didn’t get 528 responses– we’ve had over 1500, and rising.
Aren’t you – even a little bit – aware of just how angry most people are?
Or maybe this is the area where YOU ‘don’t understand’!
Now, some of my constituents think your plans ridiculous,
Some of them think they are reprehensible.
But maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe they’re just WRONG.
Couldn’t you all just admit you’re wrong? There are lots of my colleagues opposite, who I know are privately very unhappy about what’s happening and how. Of course you are. You’re friends of democracy – no fans of fairytales. You represent the people of Suffolk with as much passion and dedication as I do.
So why not go for it! Why not summon up the courage of all those thousands of crosses on your ballot papers? People voted for democratic values. For Suffolk values! NOT for Noddy Style Democracy. Suffolk is not Toytown! Playtime is over! So lets consult properly – and LISTEN to the replies. The people of Suffolk aren’t children. They don’t need fairy-tales. You can trust them to make grown-up decisions!