Friday, 16 December 2011

Looking ahead to 2012

There are already people looking ahead to 2012.  Personally I am not wishing away the last 2 weeks of the year - a time I plan to spend largely with family and friends and doing a bit of council business (no more formal meetings though!).  But we'll all need that respite I suspect based on what the pundits are already starting to say about next year.

Economically I think we can safely say 2012 will see more rises in costs while wages will continue to stagnate.  And that is assuming no doomsday scenario.  Reading is riding out the storm better than many places but I don't know anyone who has had a pay rise in line with inflation, and we only need to look at the fact that the sales have started 2 weeks before Christmas to know how that's affecting spending

For local government a fairly balanced view is here - it doesn't mention that councils are taking a 28% spending cut over the 4 years of Osborne's spending review while the average cut to central government is 8% but it sums up that councils are having to make some very unpalatable decisions.

Locally in Reading we as a council are no exception.  We'll use the consultation feedback we've had through "we need to talk" and we are looking at some relatively radical things but it's not going to be easy.

Politically I predict that Labour will return to being ahead in the national polls but by less than you would expect given the appalling nature of the government's policies.  We will need to show that we have an alternative and are on people's side.  The libdems will continue to be an irrelevance and the Tories will continue to triangulate and divide people in an attempt to boost their poll ratings.

Locally I fully expect all the Libdem council seats up for election to be lost.  Labour will take back overall control of the council with some excellent new councillors elected.  The Conservatives will end up net down on seats even if they take Tilehurst from the Libdems, with a number of sitting councillors vulnerable.

There will be a new Conservative leader in January, which is no secret.  I am not going to guess who will take on that role, all I can say is they will have their work cut out.  Rumours and counter rumours have been flying though - with perhaps the oddest and most convoluted one being that Cllr Tim Harris will become leader with Cllr Willis as deputy followed by Cllr Harris resigning his Church ward seat to stand in a North of the river ward (possibly with Cllr Ballsdon moving to Mapledurham while Cllr Pugh retires).  Suffice to say whatever happens I doubt it will be that, although given the current state of the local Conservatives it would take a lot to surprise me.  It's sad to an extent as there is a lot of cross party work that needs doing, whether it is setting up the scrutiny of the local Health service or ensuring that local residents are properly represented in Conservative-held wards.  Of course there's an easy solution to the latter that residents can make happen in May.

Meanwhile in the Labour group we are focused on delivering change that will help us to deal with the chaos of government policy and give better services to residents.  After all that's why we got involved in politics in the first place.