Politics is too often focused on the short term, with the aim being to win the next election rather than finding long-term solutions to challenging problems. The Liberal Democrats are determined to make Wokingham a great place to live, now and in the future.
Despite the huge financial challenges caused by growing demand for services, years of reducing income in real terms, and high interest rates, the Lib Dems are committed to building a thriving, greener future for Wokingham. In the short term we will protect the most vulnerable in our community by prioritising essential services for those who need them the most. Longer term, our approach is to work with community groups, neighbouring local authorities, businesses and services to completely rethink how we deliver cost-effective, quality services and improve our financial situation.
Let me give you some examples.
Often, schools have had too few places available to meet local demand, leading to long-distance travel for many children. As well as being inconvenient for families, this puts great pressure on the council's home-to-school transport budget. To solve this, we are negotiating for extra school places by committing money to help schools run by academy trusts, to expand. This investment will bring longer-term savings in the home-to-school transport budget. Children, the council’s finances and the environment will all benefit.
The costs of adult social care are set to increase following the government's plan to introduce a cost-cap for users. Councils will be required to pick up the bill. To prepare, we have acquired a private care home in the borough and are planning the construction of a new one. With this approach, we not only ensure that great quality care is available for all residents who need it, we also safeguard the council - and the council tax payer - against future costs.
We are also committed to doing what we can to address the climate emergency, the effects of which we are already experiencing. We have a responsibility to act now for the benefit of our children and grandchildren. We are making public transport, cycling and walking more attractive options. This will reduce emissions and improve health, thereby saving money in the future. This strategy will also tackle congestion more effectively than building expensive new roads.
We are making the homes of the future more energy efficient, offering residents free advice on making their homes more energy efficient, and we are investing in renewable energy through new solar farms. These actions will reduce household and council utility bills, generate additional income to pay for vital services, and help to meet our carbon neutral goals.
The Lib Dem long-term approach of working together as a community and looking forward, will ensure that all residents get the help they need, while creating the thriving, greener future for Wokingham that we all deserve.
Stephen Conway - leader of WBC