This is the text of a letter from Judith Bunting as published in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday 28th April:
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I write, in some surprise, to thank Jonny Roberts for his acknowledgement in these pages last week of the Liberal Democrat position at the vanguard of local campaigning against the Council cuts, along with members of the Green Party and other community groups.
Regarding his comments about government, what is surely clear to everyone by now is how Liberal Democrat ministers, between 2010 and 2015, worked to hold back the tidal wave of ideological Conservative cuts. With respect to the manifesto pledges of 2015, that he brings up, every party was still looking to reduce the deficit at that time, and it is ingenuous to suggest otherwise. You might recall Ed Miliband declaring proudly that, ‘The first line of Labour’s first Budget will be: “This Budget cuts the deficit every year.”’
The big difference between the main parties is, of course, that Conservatives have an ideological mistrust of public services and now seek to cut them back far beyond any economic need. Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, in government and in Council, understand the critical value of pubic services look outside the limits of borrow and cut to raise the cash to fund them.
In government, Vince Cable established Local Enterprise partnerships, introduced City Deals and Growth Deals around the UK, and set up the Business Bank which is still going strong. When in control of local authorities, Liberal Democrats take a similarly ambitious and imaginative approach. In nearby Eastleigh, for instance, where the Council has been Lib Dem Controlled for more than 20 years, they have developed a £150m asset management which has so far enabled 13 years of real term cuts in council tax and no front line service cuts. Oh for such a coherent plan in West Berkshire.
Had our MP and our Council put any form of economic plan or strategy for economic development in West Berkshire in place, we would not be in crisis now. Since 2013 Local Authorities have had the power to keep up to half of any business rate growth in their area. The response of West Berkshire Council and our MP to this opportunity has been to lose Bayer to Reading, lose Hitachi, lose Amec and force numerous local traders out of business.
The Liberal Democrat message is that the Tories in Westminster and in West Berkshire favour ideology over protecting vulnerable individuals and communities. I am proud to be in the vanguard of any protest which protects our communities, our children, our libraries and all our public services.
Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats