Julian’s March Column in the York Press
March 14, 2014
Last Saturday saw thousands of Trade Union Congress members and supporters from across the country march through the city centre in protest against the Government’s austerity programme. Whilst I do not agree with their views – having inherited the worst set of public accounts in our post-war history I believe the Government has done well to turn the economy around – I do support their democratic right to protest. However, what I do believe was profoundly wrong was the Council’s decision to lift the ban on cars using Lendal Bridge in order to facilitate the TUC’s agenda. To my mind this represented yet another cynical and politically motivated decision which reflects badly on York City Council and their judgement on this issue. Why should TUC members, who are affiliated to the Labour Party, receive special treatment over and above the people of York who pay every single day to use our public services?
Although the events on Saturday were deeply frustrating, they were not altogether surprising. The trialled closure of Lendal Bridge has been a fiasco from start to finish, as was made clear by this newspaper, which recently published a series of embarrassing leaked emails demonstrating how poorly the whole saga has been handled. The Council has clearly lost a great deal of public trust as a result of their failure to adequately explain how they intend to measure the “success” of the trailed closure. Other issues surrounding poor signage, 42,000 penalty charges (a quarter of which are contested), and a lack of notification and consultation about the changes have done nothing to improve confidence in the Council’s handling of the trial. The last six months has demonstrated to everyone that the closure simply has not worked and I am pleased that my colleagues in the Council have made a clear commitment to reopening Lendal Bridge if they are elected to power next year.
Whilst the bridge does not fall within my constituency, the closure has resulted in many of my constituent’s daily commute being plunged into disarray. Not only has it made getting into the city centre a herculean task, it has also resulted in a wider domino effect on the transport infrastructure in other parts of York. The northern ring road has seen unprecedented levels of congestion in recent months which many believe to be a direct result of the closure. When taken alongside the wholly unnecessary roll out of a blanket 20mph speed limit throughout the city, many residents are rightly questioning whether there is an ‘anti-car agenda’ within the Council’s Leadership? For many people, this view is confirmed by the fact that some of the Council’s key decision makers are not car drivers themselves.
As keen political observers will already be aware, the Chancellor’s annual budget is due to be delivered next week. We already know that personal tax allowance will rise to £10,000, up from £6,475 when the Government came to power, saving the average taxpayer over £700 a year. Corporation tax will also fall this year to 21%, down from 28% in 2010, before dropping to 20% next year, which will be one of the lowest rates in the Western world, below even that of Luxemburg. By allowing British businesses benefit from their hard work and keep more of their profits, they will be in a stronger position to reinvest and employ more staff, which will further strengthen our economic recovery.
Very few people know what the Chancellor has got locked up inside his battered little red box. Personally, I am hoping for an overhaul of business rates, which remain far too high in York. It is also vital that we do more for pensioners and savers, whilst keeping interest rates low to assist families with mortgages or young people who want to get a foot on the property ladder. With the Bank of England forecasting economic growth of over 3% this year and with more people in work than ever before, my hope remains that the best is yet to come.