Brentwood Conservatives released their manifesto yesterday. A manifesto setting out the actions they will take if elected. I thought it was worth a read and recording some thoughts that I have.
My review the document can be broadly split into five headings.
1 - Deafening silence on certain matters
Nothing on bin collections. The golden rule of local politics, if your manifesto is not explicitly clear that you will maintain weekly black bin collections then you are planning to cut weekly bin collections. The conservatives are savvy political operators and know this. The only logical explanation for silence on this matter is that there are unpopular savings plans being hatched. If a Conservative candidate or campaigner knocks on your door perhaps question them on this matter.
2 - You've had over a decade in power what is suddenly going to change to enable you to tackle:
Fly Tipping. The Conservatives manifesto has some promises on this. This is a serious issue. My feelings just from travelling around is that the issue seems to be growing and has been growing for sometime. What is going to change on May 6th that means the Conservatives should get another go at this?
Car Parking: The Conservatives state: "Deliver a parking strategy that increases capacity and maintains affordability," and "Resolve the pavement parking issue in Brentwood High Street." Ok fair enough. If you have just moved into the Borough and had no idea who had been in control for the last decade plus you'd think great. But set in the context of Conservatives in power at local, county and national level for the majority of this century you do begin to wonder why the May local elections will mark such a change and lead to some proactivity in this area.
The manifesto sets out a policy of Brown Field sites first for future housing. You'll find no disagreement from the Lib Dems on that. But why bring this forward now after so much green belt has been developed already?
3 - What do you actually mean?
The manifesto states. "Ensure Community Safety as lockdown restrictions ease working in partnership with Essex Police." Sorry that's just words not an actual policy. Can someone find out if the police have been informed?
I have a similar response to: "Form an Environmental Business Alliance, that enables businesses to play a proactive role in carbon offsetting and local environmental initiatives".
4 - Can we actually trust you on this one?
"Never compromise Brentwood's sovereignty by merging with another council." Putting aside the rather Brexit chagrin use of the word 'sovereignty' Brentwood Borough Council is an active member of the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA) and has been working in conjunction with a number of South Essex local authorities. This in and of itself is clearly not a problem but after the election, there does need to be a full clarification on the role of ASELA and its role going into the future. Noting that there are local elections happening throughout Essex the make and role of ASELA might naturally change but if it continues to exist, as a public body it needs to be explicit in its role and future intentions.
5 - As Lib Dems we like bits
Some parts are good. We like some of the environmental statements, active travel, helping people with their physical and mental health is sound and very necessary. Unfortunately (for Conservatives), these are key components of our manifesto. It is for you to decide who gets the chance to take their manifesto forward after the elections. I hope that you consider your local Lib Dem candidate, they will work for you and representing your interests.
Gary MacDonnell is Chair of Brentwood Liberal Democrats and our candidate for the 2021 Borough Council election for Shenfield Ward. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org