And so we enter our last week as a member of the EU. Putting to one side any personal sense of loss from the weakening of our political and cultural relationship with our closest neighbours, I have two main concerns as we drive into the post Brexit fog. First, that in their desire to be seen to quickly negotiate ‘great’ trade deals with the US and others (but primarily Trump’s US) the government is forced to accept terms that in any other circumstances would be regarded as unacceptable. And second, and in a way related, that despite it’s assurances to uphold all the EU environmental and employment standards we currently adhere to, the government slowly sets about dismantling all those standards that ‘business leaders’ regard as impediments to economic growth, and particularly to the growth of their own profits. My sense is that despite the long term view expressed by the political left in the UK, the EU is our best channel for limiting the power of big business.
I’m beginning to get a real sense of frustration from being a councillor on Dorset Council. I’m becoming acutely aware of the problems faced by many the county’s residents but feel impotent to bring about the necessary changes. Take our rural bus services for example. There been a long standing issue with the Bridport to Yeovil corridor, but the situation has now got worse with the announcement that the number 6 bus service from Bridport to Crewkerne via Beaminster will be withdrawn from 1st May. I can understand the problem from the bus operating company’s perspective (the service is loss making) and that Dorset Council have not got the money to subsidise it, but this doesn’t mitigate the hardship felt by residents who rely on the service.
The way forward is for Dorset Council to adopt a long term strategic public transport policy. I know what I’m going to suggest will make our cabinet members choke and look at me in disbelief, but this policy should make it clear public transport is a public service, that we need to make it easier and cheaper than car travel (if for no other reason that to reduce the carbon emissions from private care ownership), and that our policy sets out a plan to achieve this service even though we can’t afford it! We should then go public with the plan, aim to win the support of residents for it, and then campaign to get national government to change its policies and funding arrangements. Such an approach would demonstrate political leadership – something that I think this council lacks.
I’m feeling similar frustrations with Dorset Council regarding our climate and ecological emergency. I’m experiencing the same lack of political leadership. The approach being adopted by the panel looking into our response to this emergency (which I sit on), or rather the approach we are being instructed to take, is to look at the evidence, the facts, and then to decide what is both possible to achieve and what we can afford to achieve. This on the surface sounds eminently sensible. The problem is that what’s possible to achieve is heavily dependent on current attitudes and practices – both of which may need to change in light of this emergency! And what we can afford is heavily dependent on our current economic models – which may well also need to change. So rather than assessing what’s possible though existing attitudes, practices and economic models we need to first assess what we need to achieve, and then what we need to change in order to bring this about.