How can we have faith in our democratic system when decisions that are taken on our behalf are not ones that we agree with?
Don’t worry, this isn’t a blog about Brexit – although the question is equally pertinent to that area too, especially since a significant portion of society is likely to be dismayed with whatever outcome we see with Brexit. But this blog is actually about politics far closer to home for us in Caerphilly – and the chain of decision making which has led to a much-loved community asset being closed.
I share the concerns of many local residents at Caerphilly Council’s recent decision to close Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre.
This is a blow to the local community which will force people to travel much further than before to access leisure facilities.
It will also have an impact on community cohesion and public health, and the local youth clubs based there will be severely disappointed.
I think I can safely say that nobody in Pontllanfraith and the surrounding area voted in any election to close down the leisure centre. So why did it happen?
There are three levels of decision making that led to this situation.
First of all, the Tory Westminster Government’s ideological obsession with austerity has meant a real-time decrease in funds for the Welsh Government. We in Plaid Cymru have always said that Westminster will never work for Wales and the nine years of cruel cuts they’ve imposed on our country proves our point.
Second of all, the Labour Welsh Government made a decision to cut council budgets. They had to cut somewhere but it’s painfully obvious by now that it was a terrible mistake to take the axe to council budgets to such an extreme extent rather than attempt to make savings elsewhere. We implored Labour to change their minds about this year’s council budget cuts but they ploughed ahead regardless.
Thirdly, there is the process the Labour council followed that concluded with the decision to close the leisure centre. Yes, they have to take hard decisions, but some have speculated that this particular decision was fundamentally unfair, a fait accompli, citing the flawed consultation process that ignored the wishes of the vast majority of respondents as evidence that the council never intended to heed local concerns.
What are local residents to make of the fact that Labour MPs and AMs are openly criticising a Labour council for making the wrong call? Labour itself is clearly part of the problem.
So there we have it, a series of decisions were taken by Tories in England and Labour in Wales, which culminated in the closure of a much-loved local facility.
The only long-term solution for protecting our communities is ending austerity, ending cuts to council budgets and giving local residents more power over their own affairs, which is the agenda I’ll be pushing forward as your regional Plaid Cymru Assembly Member.
It’s time to restore faith in politics and in democracy and to make community welfare the starting point for decision making, rather than an expendable afterthought.