Politicians leave me disappointed

I'VE always taken a relatively benevolent view about politicians - believing that while they might disagree about the best way of doing the best for voters, that they were on the whole interested in doing their best for the society they represent.

I'VE always taken a relatively benevolent view about politicians - believing that while they might disagree about the best way of doing the best for voters, that they were on the whole interested in doing their best for the society they represent.

But I'm finding the experience of the last few weeks in Suffolk has been testing that belief to the limit - and the latest cuts being imposed by the county council really has left me questioning whether politicians are interested in anything other than covering their own back.

Take social care. The Age Concern ACCESS service has been one of Suffolk's biggest care success stories of the last 20 years.

It's being cut now because the county council has withdrawn its support as part of its cuts to social services.

It has explained the mechanics of why it has done this - but at no time has it tried to justify the cuts morally. It hasn't explained why it decided to go ahead with deep cuts affecting the most vulnerable people while it is installing flash new signs which light up to tell us there's a perfectly obvious hump back bridge a few metres away.

It hasn't explained why it cut social services while spending £100,000 a year on yet more new furniture for Endeavour House.

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It hasn't explained why it cut social services while approving a budget of up to £2 million for spending on consultants which may or may not be linked to the reorganisation of local government.

The ruling Conservative group at Endeavour House has merely passed the buck on to the Labour government.

This week Conservative council cabinet member Graham Newman wrote in a letter to the Star: “The county council has been forced by the government into making decisions about service reductions against its better judgement.”

Meanwhile Labour has been doing its own buck passing on a grand scale.

Labour MP Chris Mole wrote to Brian Ward, who is losing the support he has relied on since his wife was diagnosed with dementia, saying: “The choice of service priorities is theirs (the county council's) within a budget of their own making.

“The government grant to the county council has increased in real terms every year since 1997, so the responsibility, I am afraid, is all theirs.”

I have no doubt that both these politicians sincerely believe what they are saying, but the fact is they cannot both be right.

And while they are arguing like cats in a sack the vulnerable people that they really should be helping to care for feel as if they are being cast adrift.

It is all very well to say they are organising cheaper alternatives - but if you are caring for a loved one with dementia you don't want a cheap alternative!

Back in the 1940s US President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk saying: “The Buck Stops Here.”

If Suffolk's politicians were to have any sign on their desk it would be: “Stuff the voters - they're a sideshow when we're having a good argument!”

THERE'S been a bit of discussion in the letter pages of the Star recently about the value of council meetings, especially of some of the later items on the agenda which may not be covered in news articles.

The fact is that council meetings' agendas are always known in advance and the actual facts which will emerge during them are already in the public domain long before the meeting starts.

In a council like that in Ipswich, the final result of the debate is known - given that all councillors are whipped to tow the party line.

That means that the only reason to stay for every minute of a council meeting is to councillors' individual views (ie those given to them by the party whip) on every item.

The councillors might be under the impression that their words will have a similar effect on the citizens of Ipswich as Churchill's had on the people of Britain during the war.

I'm sorry to disappoint them but there aren't any Churchillian orators left in the council chamber, even if they do have the occasional entertaining spat.

The readers of this newspaper are interested in the decisions the council comes to and the effect they have on the life of the ordinary voters. They are not interested in how the decision was made, how many councillors there are on a committee, or in what the committee is called.

If you go down the pub, you'll find that what is worrying people is the state of their services - not whether some service panels still exist.

Many councillors recognise this - it those who don't who bang on and on about the minutiae of borough life. And make no real impact on the council hierarchy.