It is impossible – as was suggested in last week’s Newton News – to conduct local council politics in a parochial vacuum.
Take for instance, public health funding. The government’s NHS Act, will take local public health functions (from routine screening programmes to preparations for a full-blown public health emergency) away from the former Primary Care Trust and will place them under the control of Durham County Council.
At the same time, however, the interim recommendations of the government’s Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation (ACRA) propose new public health funding criteria which will reduce the public health budget in County Durham from £43million to £23million.
Thus the government is going to transfer public health services to the County Council just as it is set almost to halve the funding for County Durham … which means if we are to maintain a decent public health service, we need to campaign for a change of policy at national level.
Similarly, if they are to accomplish anything of benefit to the people of Aycliffe, Councillors need to be aware of other wider issues, on housing, the economy, environmental developments, welfare benefits etc.
Of course, my colleagues in the Labour Party know this well, and have for decades framed local decisions in their wider context. I am different to them only inasmuch as I believe that people have a right to know the wider context for these local decisions, and need to be given the opportunity to express their opinions and join the campaigns about these broader issues – hence my regular letters and reports in the Newton News.
I cannot express how exasperating it is, given the devastating ‘big issues’ at stake, to see, week after week, letters which demand that we eschew what they denigrate as ‘party politics’, and which reduce our local politics to petty ad hominem attacks.
John D Clare
PS It is pointless at this stage writing to the government about the ACRA proposals, but our excellent MP is challenging the government on this at Westminster. It would help his case if dozens-of-letters were sent to email@example.com.
In the meantime, I blog at http://bit.ly/JC-rant; or you can follow me on twitter @johndclare. If you want a response which goes faster than one comment a week, why not join the Aycliffe Labour facebook page at http://on.fb.me/Aycliffe, and follow the issues there.