These are challenging times for many of us. Household bills keep rising while many people are facing a pay freeze. Those who have a job worry about keeping it; those who haven’t despair of finding one. A year ago there were no food banks in Derbyshire. Now there are twelve. The help they provide, often to working families, prevents children going to bed hungry. Things are especially tough for young people, with over 1 million unemployed.
Making matters worse, we have a government that persists with an economic plan that isn’t working. Public services are under attack and the deepest cuts of all are falling on local councils. 28% will have been cut from Derbyshire County Council’s budget by 2015.
The county council provides a vast range of services that we all rely on. But faced with cuts on this scale, some really tough decisions will have to be made.
Should cuts be made across the board so that we end up doing less of everything? Or should we agree some priorities and focus the money we do have on them? These are the questions that Labour councillors are grappling with in advance of the county council elections next May.
The council exists to serve the needs of the people of Derbyshire – stating the obvious perhaps, but sometimes this basic truth gets forgotten in the challenge to balance the budget. So Labour’s approach will be to identify the most urgent needs and focus our resources on tackling them. The county council is the largest organisation in Derbyshire and should use its powerful position to shield people from the current economic storms.
First and foremost we need to revitalise the Derbyshire economy, creating well-paid, high-skill jobs. We still retain a skills base in manufacturing and engineering; we should extend this into new areas such as green technology. We must work with business and industry to offer genuine apprenticeships and better work-place training for young people. This generation faces the dismal prospect of doing less well in life than their parents and grandparents. We must act now to avoid a lost generation.
Labour Group Leader