As the chimes ringing in the New Year faded away, the first news reports of 2018 were forecasting little happiness ahead for the many people who rely on public transport and public services.
Rail commuters returning to work on 2nd January were confronted with an average fare increase of 3.4 per cent, taking the increase since 2010 to 32 per cent, twice the rate of the increase in average wages. And to add insult to injury, in the first week back to work, there was no let up in the misery of delays and cancellations that have plagued the daily commute over recent years.
On 3rd January, there was more bad news for the sick as the NHS announced that all non-emergency operations were cancelled. This came hard on the heels of reports of issues with ambulance services, including our local South East Coast Ambulance Service Trust, resulting in the sick and accident victims experiencing horrific delays before they could access treatment.
On 4th January, the WSCT reported that Labour county councillors had submitted a motion calling on the Government to urgently carry out a review of the new school Funding Formula. This was supported by all parties due to the extreme concern about the lack of adequate funding for our local schools for 2018/2019.
And on the first shopping weekend of the year, no one can have failed to be concerned about the clear evidence in Horsham town centre of increasing levels of homelessness. Evidence of a growing housing crisis that neither the Government nor our local council has any interest in resolving, despite reports of working people being increasingly priced out of the private rented sector and onto the streets.
A complaint, recently escalated by the Labour Party, about the failure of Horsham District Council to ensure that sufficient affordable homes were built to address local need, was treated with the same indifference by the government Minister as that shown by the Conservative Leader of Horsham Council. Each party blamed the other for the failures of the planning process and, in so doing, brushed aside any responsibility for the greatest issue affecting our community.
And what has been the response of our local MP to this catastrophic state of affairs? In his first WSCT column of the year, in which he set out his challenges and priorities for 2018, Jeremy Quin made no mention of any of the issues that are causing misery for so many, other than to say that, ‘in the year ahead it is on schools, the NHS, housing and the environment and productivity that the government will be focused’.
Horsham Labour Party would like to suggest to Jeremy that, as the Government has spent the past eight years driving all these key areas of state responsibility to the brink, this commitment by the Government to now focus on them is significantly overdue.
Last year, we had an unexpected opportunity to give our view of the Government’s performance. It is clear from the result of June’s election that, despite the positive spin that Jeremy has tried to put on the Government’s record, and his repetition of the Tory mantra for each area of policy, we, the public, are not satisfied and we are right not to be.
We note his view of the challenges and priorities for the year ahead but have no confidence, based on the Government’s current form, that things will get any better.
Labour’s priority for 2018 is, therefore, to build on our manifesto commitment to end the Tories’ failed austerity agenda, to invest in the services that so many depend on and which have been driven into the ground by this Government and to move ever closer to a change to something better.
Horsham Labour Party, Clarence Road, Horsham