A local shock from local people


By Joe Mellor, In house reporter 


All politics is local. The phrase coined by the former speaker of the US House, Tip O’Neill couldn’t be more pertinent in the current economic environment.

The best laid out macroeconomic policies can veer off course when your voter’s car hits a pothole on the way to work. They won’t care about the deficit if the garage is charging me £350 for repairs.

In a recent ICM poll, two-thirds of respondents said they were not happy with the state of our roads. The UK has more than 194,000 potholes which are easily remedied.

According to West Sussex County Council it costs between £50 and £75 to fix one pothole. Even at the top end that’s only £14.5 million, surely worth the money to keep transport users happy and a lot cheaper than building a high speed rail link.

But the local shock, which has radiated into Westminster, is that in general – potholes aside – people are happy with their local services.

Even the Conservatives didn’t expect that.

Surely people are not getting an improved service after Osborne has guillotined each government department?

It turns out people are, or at least think they are.

The majority of voters say the quality of public services has been maintained or improved – despite government cuts since 2008, according to the ICM poll commissioned by the BBC.

Overall, six out of ten people think public services have maintained or improved their quality.

Local government minister Brandon Lewis said: “This survey shows that in many areas such as rubbish collections, schools and libraries, services and value for money are improving, illustrating how councils can both deliver sensible savings and protect the frontline.”

Cameron has blasted the BBC for its negative coverage of the cuts, but in fact it could have worked in his favour.

The BBC’s coverage of the cuts has largely used the same reporting methods the Daily Mail is regularly lambasted for, and the perception of crime/immigration/cuts in reality may not be as bad as they seem.

Perhaps the people questioned were expecting some sort of public services Armageddon, where 375 people had to cram on the number 37 bus to town because there’s not another one until Tuesday week.

It’s the equivalent of thinking you have cancer, but instead being told by the doctor you have an infected cyst. Not nice, but you’re over the moon with the news.

The survey results were not all positive.

Almost a third (32 per cent) of people who had actually accessed these services said care for the elderly had deteriorated.

Instead of expecting 15 minutes of fame, they can now only guarantee 15 minutes of care.

However, they also said meals on wheels have improved. The geriatrics might be lonely, but at least they have had a nutritious lunch.

The poll also said that hospitals are worse than five years ago, which explains the 50,000 people who protested at austerity cuts and NHS changes during the Conservative party conference in Manchester last month.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, during the protest said: “Austerity is having a devastating effect on our communities and services, with 21,000 NHS jobs lost over the last three months alone.”

Additionally, the shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn said “the number of people in England falling behind with council tax payments because they have lost benefit could be more than 450,000.”

A local tax for local people, who are struggling to make ends meet.

If politics matters the most at a micro level, then voters want to see local improvements over anything else.

A hole in the ground is more important than the deficit gap.


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