Most MPs fight for their constituents', says Clive Jones, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Wokingham. 'Our current MP, Sir John Redwood, prefers to defend the government's constant underfunding of Wokingham.'
Mr Jones was responding to Sir John's press release, covered in last week's Wokingham Today in which he suggested the council had plenty of funding. Mr Jones is scathing about Sir John's comments.
'Sir John, like the recent Institute of Fiscal Studies report, mixes up the total wealth of individuals in the borough with the money available to the council to pay for services. The report suggests that the council should raise more money locally and get even less government support than it does now. It seems that Sir John endorses that position. In other words, Sir John favours a big increase in council tax. The Lib Dems do not, and in any case, it isn’t possible, because the government has capped council tax increases at well below inflation.
I find Sir John’s attitude really hard to swallow. For the 20 years that the Conservatives were running the council, they repeatedly pointed out - correctly - that Wokingham received less core funding, per head of population, than any other unitary council in England, and often talked about the squeeze that this put on council services. But suddenly, now the Lib Dems are in charge, both Sir John and the Conservative Leader of the Opposition, Pauline Jorgensen, are making out that council funding is all fine. This is the worst sort of party politics – trying to shift the blame for systematic underfunding of the council over many years away from the Conservatives nationally to the Liberal Democrats, who have only recently taken over the council. It seems both Sir John and Pauline Jorgensen care more about defending their party in government than ensuring the council can deliver services for residents.
The only thing that has changed between when the Conservatives ran the council and now is the severity of the financial challenge. In the course of 2022, inflation doubled, demand for services rose dramatically, partly in response to the cost-of-living crisis, and interest rates went up thanks to the disastrous Truss/Kwarteng minibudget, which Sir John enthusiastically supported.'
Mr Jones added: 'Redwood also launches an attack on the council as "anti-car", a claim that doesn't hold water. He ignores the fact that by making alternatives to the car more attractive, such as public transport or active travel, the council is helping to reduce congestion; every journey not undertaken by car reduces the number of vehicles competing for road space and reduces congestion.
Redwood ends his press release with a claim that the council refuses to engage with him. In truth, the council has regularly sought to get the support of local MPs to lobby government. It has successfully engaged with Theresa May, and she has written to government on the council's behalf. Unfortunately, Sir John has never been prepared to engage with the Lib Dem Leadership of the Council.
Mr Jones concluded: 'Sir John has never shown much interest in Wokingham for many years. He now decides to attack its council rather than support its residents in these difficult times. It's hard not to see this as politically motivated. He clearly doesn't like the fact that the council is not now run by his own party and seems intent on undermining it rather than helping the borough.
People expect - and deserve - better from their MP’.