The election results - who cares?

Speaker's Corner columnists -  Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
Speaker's Corner columnists - Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
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Beki Sellick, Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Peterborough

LibDems were the biggest winners in last week’s elections, gaining 75 seats net (only 2 fewer than Labour), so we now lead 4 more Councils: better than either Labour (no net gain) or the Conservatives (net loss of two). South Cambridgeshire swung LibDem bigtime, we now lead, having won 16 more seats while the Conservatives lost 15.

But does anyone even know, let alone care?

In Peterborough, LibDems won a seat from Labour, with Christian Hogg’s victory in Fletton & Stanground.

And our hard-working councillors were re-elected. The Conservatives also gained 1 seat overall, giving them an absolute majority; otherwise no change in the leadership of our City Council. Our unfair electoral system strengthened the Conservative position, despite having a smaller share of the Peterborough vote than in 2016; and Labour’s vote share increased, but they were down one.

So what? Who cares?

Campaigning in Walton for Councillor Asif Shaheed, (pictured celebrating his increased majority), a resident told me, “I’ve no problems, never needed a Councillor, but voting’s not just about me, I care.”

LibDems want to enable local councillors and residents to care about local problems: creating area committees with enough money to improve communities, caring for issues like fly-tipping, speeding, parking, litter, anti-social behaviour. It’s easier to care if you can get together and make a difference.

Some issues are bigger than local. LibDems want a safer, fairer, greener, cleaner and more prosperous Peterborough. More decent homes (both public and private sector, to buy or rent) and improved infrastructure (less traffic; easier walking, cycling and public transport; better air quality; reduced carbon footprint) are needed city-wide. LibDems want to scrap Peterborough Council’s Conservative cabinet with power to make decisions behind closed doors. We want key decisions made in public committees, so we’re all allowed to care.

Of course, caring doesn’t just mean listening and enabling: caring needs money too. National Tory governments have cut Peterborough’s grant by 78%: local Conservatives respond with “Stand up for Peterborough” but is it caring to demand more at the expense of other councils? Do we care enough to question UK-wide priorities like the value for money of £40 billion spent on a bad Brexit, rather than on investing and supporting local councils, let alone the NHS?

Not caring can have huge impacts. Windrush tales of grandmothers who’ve worked all their lives here, never had passports for holidays; suddenly being imprisoned and deported because officials were made to shed the paperwork from 50 years ago when their parents were invited into this country. Some care, some don’t.

Can EU citizens trust our government to care for them? Can we? Caring can be hard, attracting negative social media, sometimes from people who want to be carefree, with over-simplified short-term self-interests. We care in different ways: personal, political. The majority of carers in Peterborough care for someone more than 100 hours a week; 80% feel lonely or isolated. LibDem party membership has risen to record levels www.libdems.org.uk/why_join . In Glasgow last weekend 80,000 people demonstrated: caring more that Scotland should leave the UK rather than suffer outside the EU.

We carry on caring: we believe it’s worth trying to make a fairer, freer and more open society. And we keep meeting people who have benefited from the care of their local Councillor when they needed it.