Thursday, 6 April 2017

UKIP Vs Labour: Birchwood Ward Lincs Council Council Election 2017 Leaflet Analysis

Local elections are pretty much a month away and thoughts are now turning to which council candidates to back in the race to improving the lives of constituents across Lincolnshire and England and Wales as a whole. In Lincoln, the local election is for a place on Lincolnshire County Council, currently controlled by the Conservatives. My ward, Birchwood has had Rosanne (Rosie) Kirk as County Councillor since 2013 yet there are a number of candidates vying to replace her. I've only received campaign material from Rosie and from the UKIP candidate, Kevin Harrington and I thought I'd share a few observations with you and give you some insight into my selection process.


Rosie is Vice-Chair of the Adult Social Care committee on Lincolnshire County Council and holds the Social Inclusion and Community Cohesion portfolio on the City of Lincoln Council. Rosie's made the most of that position to help constituents in Birchwood, most notably setting up the Birchwood Youth Theatre in 2013 for children aged between 8 and 16. Every child should have access to a platform to express themselves creatively and BYT allows working class kids especially the opportunity to hone their talent, meet new friends and develop their linguistic skills too. Attending the BYT will undoubtedly help when it comes to passing English Literature and Language tests. I am 100% behind the BYT and hope that any future county councillor will continue to support the organisation.

As a County Councillor, Rosie has helped address key concerns of Birchwood residents:
  • Rosie helped to protect Birchwood Library, which I used very regularly as a junior school and secondary school student. Books on religious practices helped me achieve an A* in GCSE Religious Studies and access to key source materials for my Year 9 History project on the First World War was vital, allowing me to score 100%. Every child in Birchwood should continue to have access to materials should they need them.
  • Rosie voiced concern over the Serco contract (Finance and HR services were outsourced to Serco by Lincs County Council in April 2015 on a 5 year contract worth £70m). Serco has had a track record of making mistakes in calculating pay and benefits of school staff, with a recent example of an employee at Lincoln Monk's Road Primary School nearly being paid £1.5m. Serco blamed "human error" but with Serco employees making mistakes on a regular basis, it does beg the question of whether the £70m would have been better spent retaining HR and Payroll employees inhouse.
  • Streetlighting has been switched off on my street (Regent Avenue) and I do feel unsafe when I'm walking round at night alone returning from meetings. Residents have voiced similar concerns. Rosie has taken notice of those concerns and is campaigning hard to try and get them switched back on in Birchwood. Labour councillors have already managed to get the time the streetlights are switched off moved up from 10pm to 12am.
  • Rosie's campaigning to get the Whisby waste recycling centre re-opened. Reducing the number of waste disposal facilities in Lincoln has led to greater fly-tipping, especially in terms of white goods and mattresses which is completely unacceptable. Waiting times at Great North Terrace have increased too. Any county councillor for Birchwood needs to address the issue of waste over the next 4 years.
  • Council cuts to Adult Social Care concern me greatly; the budget released for 2017-18 shows a reduction planned of £4.083m, which will be achieved through "increasing user contributions" (£1.663m) and efficiencies identified in joint commissioning of services (£1.685m saved). The Conservative Government has identified a need to increase funding for Adult Social Care so I hope that Lincs County Council will reconsider the reduction amount and ensure that disabled and elderly Birchwood residents are fully supported and can stay in their homes wherever possible. Rosie and Labour want to see extra funding made available for care staff to help people recuperate from hospital treatment in their own homes.
  • Rosie opposes the current Sustainability and Transformation Plan for Lincolnshire which could put unnecessary strain on medical and nursing services at Lincoln County Hospital caused by the closure of Grantham Hospital's A&E and maternity services at Boston Pilgrim Hospital.
  •  Rosie continues to support Birchwood Children's Centre, which offers training on first aid for parents in addition to crèche facilities and "Carers Connect", which allows carers in Birchwood to access free support without having to book an appointment.
  • Rosie's also campaigned hard with Labour councillors on the City of Lincoln and County council to keep Lincoln South Fire Station fully staffed 24/7, stopping the Conservatives from implementing their dangerous austerity measure.
  • Rosie's also passionate about improving road safety in Birchwood and this has meant tackling speeding by monitoring speeds of vehicles on Woodfield Avenue (literally next door to my street) and highlighting potholes on Birchwood's roads that need repairing. I'd like to see any future councillor continue this great work.

Kevin grew up in a working class family before going into the Army at 16. He achieved the rank of Major and decided to retire after 34 years service, moving to Lincoln with his family. He wants to make the UK "great again" and believes that UKIP can do this because they won't be forced into making austerity cuts or overspend. Kevin's campaign leaflet states that UKIP are "more than a one issue Party"- i.e. they do more than just "bang on" about immigration.
  • Kevin believes council tax should be "as low as possible" but admits that public services need enough funding to be able to function appropriately. I don't know whether this means UKIP would continue supporting the Adult Social Care precept or not.
  • Kevin mentions immigration as being a drain on local public services but local government officials have no control over immigration policy and as UKIP have no MPs, this isn't going to change any time soon.
  • Kevin argues that "Green spaces should be protected"; in Birchwood, this includes the play area on Jasmine Green and Hartsholme Country Park. However what form of protection UKIP wants for such areas hasn't been disclosed in the leaflet. Would it include funding for park rangers who can provide education services for young Birchwood residents so they become actively involved in conservation efforts or does it simply mean that the green spaces won't be built on?
  • Local homes (social housing wise) do tend to go to Yellowbellies. I've not heard of cases where Birchwood residents have been denied housing on the basis of nationality and this should continue to be the case. Instead of moaning about access, UKIP could support a social housing programme which would include accommodation for veterans.
  • The suggestion that council executives should be fired rather than frontline Housing Advisors and Customer Service personnel would be broadly popular but there would need to be a personnel review to see whether this would be feasible. Considering pay freezes for executives would be a more practical and realistic offer to Birchwood residents.
  • Kevin reiterates UKIP national party policy which argues for the scrapping of the Foreign Aid Budget. As this is national policy and UKIP have no MPs, it can't be implemented at a local level. UKIP can argue that local government funding has been reduced as a result of maintaining spending commitments such as the Foreign Aid Budget or HS2 but there's not a lot a UKIP councillor or controlled council can do about it, other than perhaps lobby central government for more funding. It is unacceptable that Lincolnshire as a whole only receives £88 per head and the Conservative led council should be lobbying more fervently for extra funding. At the moment, the council looks ineffective in the eyes of many residents. Therefore I do want to see more devolved powers handed to Lincolnshire but any proposal does need to be properly costed. Lincolnshire councils overwhelmingly rejected devolution because they didn't want an elected mayor which meant losing out on funding. Labour are committed to looking into all available options to try and increase powers at the local level.
  • Kevin talks about the need to fight for, protect and promote "our British culture and way of life". Openness, tolerance and a spirit of inclusion are vital components of modern British culture and I'm not sure that UKIP and Keith fully endorse this, given their pledge to "ensure our society is based on our Christian values and laws". Christian values include being tolerant and compassionate towards other faith groups and accepting the separation of church and state. This means respecting decisions that have been made at Parliamentary level, enshrined in our Human Rights Act 1988 and Equality Act 2010. I will never vote for any candidate who doesn't accept the need to abide by and raise awareness of provisions contained within the Equality Act.
  • I'm not particularly bothered whether a candidate challenges political correctness or not. I want to see a strategy that helps all residents in Birchwood, not just those who were born in Lincoln, Lincolnshire or the UK. A councillor is expected to be a community role model so one who may be unable to treat trans and non-binary people with the respect they deserve by using their preferred pronouns or listening to their concerns in the same way they would a cis person would not get my vote.

After reading all the leaflets and electoral information I've received from both Labour and UKIP, my choice is pretty much crystal clear. I'm going to vote for the person who has a clear set of proposals to help improve the lives of Birchwood residents and who wants to listen to and understand their specific concerns. That means I'm going to vote for the person who cares deeply about facilitating creative arts access for working class kids, who understands that residents feel safer when streetlights are turned on all night and who wants to fund extra care workers to help people in hospital to be discharged so they can recuperate in the comfort of their own home after treatment. I'm voting for the person who recognises that waste disposal facilities and fully retained fire stations matter and that the library can still be a vital resource for budding historians and authors alike. I'm voting for the person who respects residents regardless of their nationality. On May 4th, I'll be voting for Rosie Kirk.