A Lobbying Council
Where a Conservative Council will always get a better deal for Kingston
We had a Lib-Dem run Council for twelve years and a Lib Dem MP in the Cabinet and yet still Kingston did not get the fair crack of the whip with Government. All too often the Lib Dems would stand on the sidelines and just 'fight' the Government or campaign against them. It was no surprise they were not disposed to do something for us. It is also the case that all that shouting never got Kingston what we needed. Lib Dems complaining about police numbers never made a difference - it was a Conservative Council that increased them. Lib Dems always campaigning about Kingston hospital never got them funding - it was a Conservative MP who got them the investment in A&E. How many decades have Lib Dems been campaigning to move Surbiton station from 6 to zone 5?
I once said, "Don't upset the people in power". I was quoted out of context but today, looking back four years on what we have achieved as a Council, I am content that we have demonstrated that working with Government, instead of constantly having a tantrum at them, is what delivers for our community in Kingston. As a child, I learned that if I wanted sweets then screaming at my Mother in the sweet shop usually resulted in something less satisfactory than sweets.
Back in 2016, we had to work really hard when Government gave us a budget settlement below what we anticipated. The consequences would have been increasing the council tax. We lobbied Ministers in both the Treasury and the department for communities and we were successful. We made our case and for the first time in the history of local government, the Government reopened the budget and gave us more money. This meant we could freeze Council Tax that year.
In 2014 we started a campaign with Citizens UK to get more Councils to house Syrian refugees and the Government to offer more support. We succeeded. The Government embraced this difficult issue and made more funding available as well as increased the number of Syrian vulnerable persons who could come to the UK.
In 2014 we also started a campaign for the devolution of business rates to Councils and in Autumn 2015 the Chancellor announced he was supporting our campaign and implemented it this year. This year alone we got enough extra business rates that meant we did not need to implement a 2% increase in Council Tax.
This past two years we have worked hard with Zac Goldsmith MP and the former Conservative MP, James Berry, on the issue of increasing overspends in special education need and disability. This week we were successful. The Government recognised our problem and advanced £3m to help us manage the issue.
I am not saying we always have the answers but it does show what can be achieved when you have a Council working with Government to solve problems, not yelling at them for political advantage. But it does not just work because we are of the same party. We will always have disagreements but we also work well with the Labour Mayor of London and published a strategy with him on the future for infrastructure and growth in Kingston. Given we can work with both Labour and Conservatives maybe it is something about the Lib Dems?
Long may it be that a Conservative Council seeks to work with whoever can help make Kingston a better place to live and just maybe "not upsetting the people in power" is a way to get what you want.