Fri 3 May 2019
By Lisa Robillard Webb
You may be reading this article pre, post or during the Local Elections, the results of which will influence all of our lives. We will have a decision on who will be representing us in Teignbridge District Council and in our town/parish councils. Maybe we will still be in the grip of Tory strangulation of services or perhaps we will have a few people offering a different voice – believing that communities cannot progress under an ideological choice of austerity. It is a choice and it is unnecessary – morally and practically. Roosevelt and Attlee showed that societies need a vision based on a belief that all people count and that investment in the structures that keep us healthy, purposeful and hopeful are a measure of our success as a nation.
If you have any involvement in Education, you will be acutely aware of the dreadful model imposed on our children, staff and schools. Many of us are opposing the cuts that are set to hit our local community college, South Dartmoor. Our local schools are expected to compete with each other in league tables based on increasingly stringent and data driven inspections with increasingly hopeless budgets. Like the Emperor in his new clothes, the Tories say that more money than ever is going into education, but when our local pupils are worth less than almost £300 than other UK pupils, we can see how Devon schools struggle to thrive.
Money is of course vital to educating our children but more than that is the incongruent message we feel. I am not convinced that the people making these financial decisions have their hearts in educating our nation. Education doesn’t just generate a productive generation it also helps us to cope us with what it means to be human and it brings us together. Sport, music, art, dance, books, debate are only some of the subjects that help insulate ourselves from the vagaries of life and give us moments of purpose and joy. Some of these subjects are at the frontline of the cuts.
In November 2018, a UN rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights delivered a searing verdict on ‘austerity’ policies and their impact particularly on the poor and women. The “toxic brand” of Universal Credit was deemed punitive instead of supportive; for example, lone parents, of whom 90% are women, can lose up to £2,000 a year. The rapporteur stated that the social security reforms had been driven by a goal of radical social engineering. Who would choose this? Even if morally wrong, austerity simply does not work. The national debt is larger than ever and the lack of investment in our future is becoming starkly apparent.
I’ve learnt that there are infinite political points to be made, but sometimes they become a smoke-screen for what really matters. Your representatives should be driven by a better life for all through well-structured and adequately funded communities. The Labour Party has a national and local manifesto driven by an investment programme to build our future economy and place greater emphasis on the importance of robust public services. I work alongside many Labour colleagues who are committed to bringing that vision to our local communities. We wish to build a better vision for our area and we do not wish to collude with the idea that austerity is acceptable, we will fight it, on your behalf, at every turn.
Lisa Robillard Webb - email@example.com
Other columns by Lisa Robillard Webb
High Streets – At the centre of our communities - Thu 24 Jan 2019
The Shame of UK’s Indefinite Detention - Thu 8 Nov 2018