Putting Dorset First
Labour Party County Council Election Manifesto 2017
Local government faces its biggest challenge for decades with further swingeing cuts reducing funding. The Tories are removing all direct funding to local government by 2020. The County will be forced to rely entirely on the council tax, a highly regressive form of taxation proportionately hitting low and medium earners most, and on the business rate, already a burden on small businesses. The crisis in funding for adult social care grows daily with services disappearing, handed over to a struggling charitable sector, or privatised. Securing fairer funding for Dorset must be the priority for the new County Council.
We also face the opportunities and uncertainties for Dorset of a post-Brexit Britain. In the current unstable world the Labour Party believes it is even more important to promote the values of inclusion and diversity. We unequivocally condemn discrimination on the basis of age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, race, religion and belief, and we are committed to combating hate crime, to promoting equality and to fostering good relations between all.
The Labour Party pledges:
- To working to make sure Dorset gets the best possible deal out of Brexit – love it or hate it we must protect the people of Dorset
- Defend Dorset’s health services from privatisation and make sure everyone gets good services at hospital and at home
- Campaign for a real living wage, opposing regional pay, ending zero hours contracts and resisting further privatisation of council services
- Promote environmentally sustainable policies at all levels and oppose Fracking
- To increase homes available at affordable rents. Too many people are living in substandard private sector accommodation; we will get tough on bad landlords and drive up standards.
- Mental health care is in crisis. We will expand the support available to schools and young people and provide further support provision of services for adults.
- We will work with the NHS to resist the closure of services and instead work to create health and well-being centres across the County to guarantee that good health advice and treatment is available to all.
- Labour will build new schools and replace of old classrooms to give our children the best learning environment we can. We will work to ensure the highest possible standards for our schools and that teaching and support staff are properly resourced and rewarded. We oppose the re-introduction of grammar schools.
- Developing Dorset’s Economy
This Government’s economic plans are not working – the loss of Britain’s triple A rating being the latest evidence. Tory austerity means that inequalities are growing, yet even more welfare and public spending cuts are planned. The continuing trend of outsourcing public services will result in more job losses and fewer services. These policies will not tackle Dorset’s chronic problems of low wages and too much reliance on part-time and seasonal work. The introduction of the real living wage would make a huge difference and reduce reliance on benefits to subsidise low wages. We need a growth and innovation strategy that supports both private and public sectors. Business needs public services and infrastructure, and people’s wellbeing depends on work and enterprise.
We value the contribution made by those from other countries who come here to work in our health and care services, agriculture and business.
Our economy is constrained by a lack of affordable housing and greater efforts must be placed on building more homes and offering accommodation for key workers. We need to ensure that our young people feel they have a secure future in Dorset rather than have to move elsewhere.
There continues to be an issue with the number of second homes and the distortion this brings to the housing market. Labour would want to ensure that those who want to have a second home here pay an increased Council Tax contribution.
Labour has supported the creation of two new Unitary Authorities to replace the existing nine Local Authorities across Dorset. Whilst this reduction is driven by Tory cuts, unlike them, we are not giving up on Economic Development. Labour is totally committed to attracting private and public investment to bring well paid jobs and attract skilled people across the whole County. The Tories, who have run Dorset for years are content with low paid work and insecure jobs but Labour is not. We will work with the Local Enterprise Partnership and others to attract new businesses to Dorset. Only a creative and pro-active partnership can attract more employment and we will ensure that land is set aside not just for housing and offices but also to ensure we maintain and enhance our manufacturing base.
Labour recognises that many of the new jobs in our economy may be in smaller companies. We will ensure that there is professional business advice available to those starting their own company and will encourage and support co-operative and social enterprises to flourish and the provision of super-fast broadband everywhere in the County.
We will help promote a prosperous and sustainable tourist industry. This is not just about beaches and picturesque countryside but also about the arts and culture. This will benefit not only tourists but also enrich the lives of our communities, improving health and wellbeing. We will support organisations bringing theatre, music and art into schools and venues that are able to provide space for cultural activities.
- Defending Health & Social Care
Dorset faces further upheaval in an already underfunded NHS. The Clinical Commissioning Group is proposing to close community hospitals and reduce bed in those that remain. These plans will also reduce accident and emergency services at Poole Hospital. There is an urgent need for a more joined up approach rather than having unnecessary organisational barriers that do not improve patient care.
- Ensure everyone has access to free medical care and understands what they are entitled to receive, and that the needs of mentally ill and disabled people are not neglected
- Oppose the closure of community hospitals and the reduction of beds
- Support “hospital at home” and early discharge home from acute hospital provided there is full funding for sufficient skilled nursing and social care staff providing adequate levels of care
- Improve and sustain mental health services
A Labour administration will increase, not cut, investment in the services that help our older and more vulnerable residents to continue living in their own homes. We will work with the NHS, voluntary organisations and housing providers to ensure that everyone who wishes to continue living in their own home can do so.
Under this Government Social Services are being starved of funds but it simply isn’t fair to make Dorset’s most frail and vulnerable bear the brunt of the cost of Tory economic failure. Apart from the impact on individuals who need support the current system is placing huge strain on families and friends who seek to navigate an increasingly complicated system in order to identify the best sources of care.
Public Health, on issues like pollution and obesity, is the responsibility of the County Council. Labour will develop a coherent policy on public health, in consultation with the NHS and others, that would make the people of Dorset healthier and reduce the financial burden on the NHS.
- Supporting Children and Young People
The policies of the previous Tory/LibDem coalition government and of the current Tory government have done great damage to our schools and further education colleges. The introduction of academies and free schools, which are not obliged to follow the national curriculum or employ trained teachers, has proved an expensive distraction from the task of raising the quality of teaching and pastoral care, and enriching children’s learning.
Vocational education remains the poor relation and further education colleges have suffered damaging cuts to their funding. Too many of the most vulnerable children, such as those with special educational needs and those entitled to free school meals, do not do as well as they should in our schools.
The result of the increased funding pressures and emphasis on exam results is increasing stress for both teachers and pupils, with damaging consequences for some of them in terms their mental health.
Labour will provide a good local school for every child. We oppose the government’s proposal to re-introduce grammar schools. It must be remembered that every comprehensive that converts to a grammar school and every newly created grammar school impacts on schools elsewhere. Research shows that grammar schools do no better in terms of pupil attainment than those without, and that grammars disproportionately provide for children from the most affluent homes.
There is a lack of accountability in Academy schools and we need much greater transparency. Academies are letting our children down! No school in Dorset should be allowed to be judged as failing.
We will look at every aspect of schooling from nursery provision, breakfast clubs to longer school days and additional support for parents who are working. Labour will put greater emphasis on protecting all Dorset’s children. We will work tirelessly to ensure that children who are or have been in our care are not disadvantaged in later life.
Labour is very opposed the closure of council-run youth centres which we believe adversely impacted on local communities. We advocate the extension of youth provision to areas where there is an evident need. Under Labour, Dorset County Council would do much more to improve youth provision, and we commit to reopen our youth centres
- Improving Transport
Our transport policy is based on developing the existing public transport network, and improving walking and cycling routes. We will develop Green travel plans for the public and private employers across Dorset including increased use of public transport, greater car sharing, and encouraging the development of work hubs and home working. We also support the existing bus pass scheme which reduces car usage and combats isolation amongst older people. We believe our bus services should be transferred to public ownership and we would reinstate those bus devices closed by the Tories.
Congestion has reached a new high, air pollution is already at a worrying level, and our roads are becoming less safe. More needs to be done to make public transport an attractive option, and to promote walking and cycling.
- Lobby government, Network Rail and train companies for increased capacity on trains serving Dorset and increased reliability including dealing with disruption caused by flooding
- Demand increased financial support for essential but “uneconomic” bus and train routes as well as securing lines like the one between Swanage and Wareham
- Reduce traffic speeds to improve safety, reduce emissions and noise
- Seek funding to deal with the backlog of road and footway maintenance to improve safety for all road users
- Work with all organisations to improve transport planning throughout Dorset
- Make it a priority to secure effective park and ride schemes
- Our aim is to reduce congestion and pollution by developing and improving walking and cycling routes. Far too little is being done to facilitate alternatives to using private motor vehicles.
- Improve bus services not just in urban centres, but also across the whole County ensuring that rural communities do not become isolated and that fares are affordable.
- Caring for our Environment
Our historic market and coastal towns, and our varied countryside are all beyond price. Labour will not put our environment at risk and we will work harder and smarter to use renewable energy and fuel efficiency. Labour will resist all attempts to introduce fracking and seek to make our county ‘Frack-Free Dorset’.
Labour will campaign for environmentally sustainable policies at all levels and to promote biodiversity within our natural environment.
- Introduce carbon budgeting with the environmental impact of every decision being addressed
- Support renewable energy initiatives using wind, biomass, and water, across the county, encouraging community ownership, and community and co-operative energy procurement to reduce household costs
- Develop policies to reduce litter and fly-tipping and establish local resource recovery parks which re-use and repair waste material and create green jobs
- Use waste to create energy and to make re-usable products that benefit our community
- We will ensure that all public footpaths and rights of way are kept open and create an improved network of cycle-ways to enable more sustainable travel around the county.
- We will place great emphasis on protecting our rich heritage of buildings in town and village communities.
- Keeping Dorset Safe
Labour supports community policing and we will continue to oppose Tory cuts to the number of police stations, police officers and PCSOs in Dorset. While the Tories continue to cut local Police on the beat, Labour will continue to invest in more CCTV and other crime prevention initiatives.
Labour will work to ensure that the Police and Crime Commissioner is held to account regarding the priorities for Policing and Community Safety. The aim is to reinforce mutual trust and confidence between the police, the public and the many other services and voluntary organisations that deliver public safety.
- Restore effective local policing by demanding a commitment that the Police serve all communities, with an increased visible presence and with the policing skills needed for today’s complex challenges like online fraud and domestic violence.
- Strongly oppose any attempt to increase privatisation of policing and justice services.
- Bring more direct accountability through improved policy input from community representatives, ultimately holding the Chief Constable to account for operational policing.
- Stop the cuts to our Fire and Rescue services.
We will work to ensure that the people of Dorset are protected in case of fire or other emergencies with a speedy response to calls from the public. Alongside the vital role of fire fighting, it is essential that service works to prevent fires through its programme of fire education within schools and the community, including the promotion of sprinklers in new homes and public buildings. This needs adequate funding, continued support for training for all personnel collaboration with other emergency services.
- Where next for Dorset?
It is still not clear whether the suggested reorganisation of Local Government will go ahead. What is clear is that Councils will lose all of the revenue they receive from Government by 2020. Under a Tory administration this is will mean an increase in Council Tax and further cuts to local services. Labour will strongly challenge this approach.
The lack of any effective scrutiny and the absence of real transparency is shocking. Whatever the final outcome of the May 2017 County Council elections that is something which must change, Labour will fight to make that change!