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Major aspirations for Wiltshire, yet the Tory Administration falls short on implementation

May 19, 2011 10:11 AM

Liberal Democrats on Wiltshire Council today backed the aspirations of the Wiltshire Community Plan, but called for practical solutions, not just talk.

Lib Dem Group Leader Jon Hubbard criticised the report for lacking real answers "I endorse the vision of this plan, and frankly, there are few who wouldn't. It promises better healthcare, lower crime, better community, employment opportunities, and many more great things that we need to see happen in Wiltshire. But no matter how many times I read it through, I fail to see the concrete actions that will make these promises reality."

Excerpts from Jon's speech to Council give a flavour of the problems the Plan is peppered with:

"I read sections of tackling the causes and effects of climate change, yet read council reports that talk about cutting back on investment in climate friendly housing."

"I read sections about providing a safer and more integrated transport system, yet find myself having to explain to residents why more bus routes are being cut as a result of reductions in investment by the council - all the harder to explain at the moment as residents try to balance increases in parking charges that we were told were to pay to keep the buses."

"It's time for this administration to do more than just talk the talk. It's time to deliver."

"Be assured, where you do deliver we will support, encourage and congratulate."

"But where you fall short we will challenge, we will ask why, and, on behalf of the whole of our county, we will demand better."

More information: The Wiltshire Community Plan 2011-2026 sets out the Council's 15 year vision and priorities for the county, and is a statutory requirement for local authorities. It is available on the Council website here (http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/communityandliving/communityplan/communityplanfaq.htm)


Jon Hubbard's Speech to Council on the Wiltshire Community Plan

Chairman

May I start by welcoming this Community Plan and the aspirations that it demonstrates that the Council and our partner organisations on the Wiltshire Assembly have for Wiltshire.

It speaks much of what is best about our county. It identifies some of the inherent beauties of our landscape, of the diversity of our market towns and villages and of the resilience of our communities.

It also sets out some great ambitions for the county. It talks of Wiltshire's health and wellbeing, of crime and community safety, the environment, of employment opportunities and how some of the challenges of deprivation and changes to the military need to recognised.

What it doesn't do, and rightly so, is offer solutions to these problems. instead it talks about what we want to achieve. I welcome this document and support it.

However, it is missing something. What it is missing is an Action Plan from this council talking about how we will deliver on the demand set out in the community plan.

We do know we are looking to bring more broadband into the county, ambitions to get 85% online are welcome, and if the additional government funding comes onboard and we can beat that then all the better. Be assured of our support in delivering this important service for both our residents and business communities.

I know that the Leader and her colleagues, together with Officers, have been working very hard with the MOD to try and secure the future of our garrison towns and to bring more, not less, military funding into the county. I applaud this and again assure you of the support of this side of the chamber in any plans for investment in our communities.

But then I begin to struggle.

I read sections on the lack of affordable housing, the need is very clear, and only today we learn of the thousands of empty properties across the county, and a rapidly growing housing waiting list, yet the provision to address the housing issue seems to fall well short. I read sections of tackling the causes and effects of climate change, yet read council reports that talk about cutting back on investment in climate friendly housing.

I read sections about providing a safer and more integrated transport system, yet find myself having to explain to residents why more bus routes are being cut as a result of reductions in investment by the council - all the harder to explain at the moment as residents try to balance increases in parking charges that we were told were to pay to keep the buses.

I read sections about promoting greater public understanding and building the trust of local communities, yet live in a community where the public have made their feelings clear about a local issue and have been ignored by the majority of their councillors, told they are wrong by the chairman of their Area Board that any outcome of a local poll would be ignored.

I read sections about encouraging and supporting people to take more responsibility for their health and fitness, yet sit in a council that prioritised mobile phones for non-essential users and councillors over reinstating free swimming for under 16's and over 60's.

I read sections that talk of supporting young people and better preparing them for the workforce, but sit in a council that chooses to prioritise spending it's money on self promotion rather than invest in providing apprenticeships to those seeking work.

I read sections that speak about better dealing with crime and community safety, but sit in a council that refused to support the work of our Special Constables by giving relief on the Wiltshire Council element of their council tax for new recruits because they would rather fund spin doctors who can't even get the phone number right in the phone directory.

I read a great document produced by the Wiltshire Assembly that demonstrates the ambitions of our partner organisations. The challenge for this council over the coming years will be to deliver on the aspirations of our colleagues from across the county. This side of the chamber will enthusiastically support these ambitions and aspirations, the Wiltshire Assembly should be praised and congratulated on their hard work.

We will now look to the administration to deliver on the content. It's time for this administration to do more than just talk the talk. It's time to deliver. Be assured, where you do deliver we will support, encourage and congratulate. But where you fall short we will challenge, we will ask why, and, on behalf of the whole of our county, we will demand better.

I would ask the cabinet member to consider how the plan can be flexible and adaptable to meet the changing needs of the county. There are inevitably to be new challenges and demands on us when the localism bill appears in it's final form. Can you reassure me that the plan will allow enough flexibility to adapt to meet whatever demands central government choose to challenge us with?