Back on the Council in Darker Times
Thank you to everybody who voted for me and my two fellow Lib Dem candidates last week.
Narrowly coming top of the poll was an unexpected surprise. I also polled 6 more than my previous election in 2011. I didn't expect either to happen. Both my Lib Dem colleagues were also elected, which is great news. Kendra and Karen are both already working hard for the community.
However, a successful election is only the means to getting into a position to deliver some much needed justice. Sadly the Lib Dems overall lost three seats, making council influence and collective delivery more difficult.
I didn't expect this 4 year cycle to start on Quarry Lane roundabout. Below is a summary of what has happened up there.
Disaster Capitalism on Teesside
The roundabout issue is likely a small matter of due diligence, corner cutting and lack of appropriate planning. My last time on the council was depicted by finding and outing low level irregularities going on such as s.106 funds being used for othe purposes than intended. The background was the start of austerity and panics over budgets.
This time the picture is much darker. The council is a fraction of what it was in 2015. It is £100M shorter on its revenue side. I feel for the people who still work there, after years of no or small pay rises, out stripped by the cost of living. The background is a government, whose economic mishandling - which I consider largely intentional - is driving people from the economic middle of society to take on two jobs to survive or turn off their heating on cold days. The council has workers at all levels who are affected by this picture just as we are.
Back in 2014 I voted against the Tees Valley Combined Authority. I was reminded of it this week by a colleague who voted for and now regrets their decision. From memory very few councillors voted against the authority with me - maybe only one other. After this week and what I have learnt is that I am pleased I voted against it and I'm vindicated for the comments I made at the time.
The concerns we have around planning require investigation, but the allegations and what I have learnt about the Tees Valley Combined Authority this week are in another league entirely.
There needs to be a independent investigation of the finances of the combined authority, Teesworks, and Teesport, by an independent police force - not Cleveland Police.
This is going to be a tough few years. The economic blueprint of the Tees Valley Combined Authority appears to be disaster capitalism. The siphoning off of public invested money by a handfull of already wealthy individuals, with the much promised jobs never arriving. It appears a large asset strip funded by you and me, the taxpayer, while political business friends hide their riches. Meanwhile, we collectively gradually live on less and less as a very wealthy, very small, elite minority parasite off the overwhelming majority. Meanwhile the local economy goes to ruin as we have less expendable cash, and the local environment is ravaged by profiteering.
This no longer feels like politics, like last time did, when there were ideologies and ideas were exchanged, this feels increasingly like a battle for dignity that we can't afford to lose. I'm still going to run with our ideas of a better society and prosperous growing middle class - but this time I know I have opponents who are scheming for themselves and for the exact opposite.