From the Liberal Democrat Campaign trail

26 Oct 2023
Clive Jones in the milk aisle of a supermarket, looking unimpressed at the price of a pint of milk.

A huge thank you to the hundreds of residents who have returned our Wokingham Liberal Democrat surveys to me recently, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. 

There are many issues that come up as being a real concern to our friends and neighbours time after time. 

Dumping of raw Sewage 

The dumping of raw sewage in our rivers is still a massive issue for just about everyone that we speak to.  More than two thirds say they are very concerned about the issue with only one in fifty saying they are not concerned.

The rivers and streams across our area are very precious and need our protection.  They are at threat from this Conservative government and Wokingham’s MP has consistently voted to allow sewage dumping to continue. 

Liberal Democrats believe that Water Companies should be stopped from dumping raw sewage and should use their profits to clean up our rivers. 

The cost-of-Living Crisis – the constant increases in the cost of food 

The rising cost of living is affecting almost everyone, directly or indirectly.  The cost of food is an issue for many.  Food prices have risen by 30% in the last 2 years adding hundreds of pounds to our food bills.  Some 90% of respondents say this has affected how they shop for food, with one third saying it has done so significantly.

Energy costs continue to be twice what they were 2 years ago and many of you are concerned that energy costs over the coming winter will be very difficult to cope with. Liberal Democrats were first to, and continue to, call for a proper windfall tax on oil and gas companies with this money being used to give people help with energy bills. 

Higher mortgage costs and energy costs mean that for some households they now have to find an extra £600 per month.  This can be thousands of pounds per household over a year that we can’t spend in other shops and on services from our many traders in Wokingham.  This is directly affecting our local economy and threatening the livelihoods of our friends and neighbours who work in them. 

The NHS 

More than half of the respondents say it is difficult or very difficult to get NHS appointments, with two out of three saying it is getting even harder to do so.   Almost half have difficulty getting an NHS dental appointment and one in 5 are unable even to register with an NHS dentist. More than half have had to pay for private dental treatment.

I met recently with NHS managers at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and know the stresses and strains that their staff operate under.   However, many of you have told me that you are so pleased with the care that you get from our local NHS professionals.  Our doctors, nurses, paramedics, and health care professional are all heroes.   It’s not fair that the government doesn't look after them properly and constantly take them for granted by making them work in conditions that aren't fit for purpose. 

Housing

Our survey also asked what local and national issues were worrying people.  Of the many issues raised, housing was the most common.  People are concerned about both the difficulty of getting on to the property ladder in Wokingham and the effect of Conservative government-imposed building targets which put greenspace at risk whilst still not meeting local needs.  The Liberal Democrats want development for local needs at a sustainable level, but the Conservative government is not listening.

We have been saying for some time that we need more new one-, two- and three-bed homes, more bungalows and more affordable homes in the borough.

Make this John Redwood’s last election as our MP

Finally, we asked some questions in the survey about Wokingham’s current MP. The results were not surprising.

More than 67% said our current MP is not accessible when they need him. Some 77.8% said that the current MP does not represent their views, and 75.6% said that they feel the current MP for Wokingham is not in touch with local issues and needs.

I should say that many people ask me on the doorstep if I think I can win here and replace John Redwood. I have been saying that I wouldn’t be out calling on so many doors if I didn;t think that I could win. What is clear is that the choice here will be between me and John Redwood.

I led the Lib Dems to control of Wokingham Borough Council in May 2022. We now hav 26 Councillors compared with 22 for the Conservatives. There are only 5 Labour Councillors, no Greens, and most supporters of these two parties are promising to lend me their support when the General Election comes along.

Since I last wrote this column I and my team have spoken with many residents across the Wokingham Parliamentary Constituency including people in Hurst, Winnersh, Emmbrook, Finchampstead, Arborfield, Swallowfield and Charvil. Thank you for the warm welcome that you give to us. 

Please do not hesitate to contact either me or one of our Liberal Democrat team if you need our assistance.