Friday, 1 May 2009

What do residents in Bracknell Forest want?

No change, some change, lots of change!

Since the Conservatives gained overall control of the borough council in 1997 there has been little debate about what the borough needs or what its residents want. The absence of an effective opposition has allowed the Conservatives to largely dictate the political agenda and convince the electorate that it has been doing a good job. But has it?

Since 1997 council tax has more than doubled, front-line services have been pared to the bone and the town centre has continued to decline. The council has managed to spend over £6m on an inefficient electronic card scheme, lost £5m to two Icelandic banks, spent over £3m on just planning the proposed new town centre regeneration programme and sold off virtually its entire housing stock for peanuts.

Selling off the housing stock when there is a housing crisis nationally and there are over 4,000 people on the council's own waiting list was reprehensible but the council pushed it through. Similarly when a day centre for the elderly was closed and fortnightly bin collections were introduced, the council simply ignored the opposition.

Perhaps residents have concluded they are powerless to change things and have become resigned to being led by an unrepresentative minority at both national and local level. However, holding those in power to account is vital in such circumstances and if this cannot be achieved through the ballot box because of the inadequacies of our electoral system then other means must be used to force them to justify their actions. The media exposure of MPs expenses and the Government's total disarray over the treatment of Gurkhas shows what can be achieved with just a little more public determination and persistence.

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