Monthly column: Are we going in the wrong direction…?

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Bedford Borough Hall Bedford Borough council signage and entrance
Image: Bedford Independent

The last 14 years were good for Bedford Borough despite the pandemic.

Despite the Conservatives in Westminster cutting local government to the bone we were able to deliver so much as a Borough, working together, because we had a will to change things for the better:

  • More than 10 new schools were built (and funding won for a new special school in Kempston)
  • Temporary classrooms became a thing of the past, with dozens of permanent classrooms built
  • A Town Deal was won, with £22m already delivering a skills hub at Bedford College and much more to come
  • We delivered a nationally recognised High Street Heritage Action Zone, High Street investment and Townscape Heritage Initiative (remember Millennium Kebabs appearing in The S*n?)
  • Every library and children’s centre was kept open despite hundreds closing nationally
  • The rough sleeping count was down to just 2 and investment in temporary accommodation was started
  • The western bypass was delivered
  • The Allhallows block purchased and the bus station and Allhallows area completely revamped and restored
  • We invested in the Great Ouse Embankment and riverside
  • The Riverside Bedford development happened and the new town centre cinema arrived
  • There was complete refurbishment and relaunch of “The Higgins”
  • The first Covid Community Hub was created here
  • We blazed a trail being the first local council in the country to install our own average speed cameras
  • We funded the Wixams Railway Station – now well on its way
  • Play areas were refreshed
  • Care homes were refurbished
  • We delivered Elstow Solar farm, the Archimedes Screw and many more renewable energy projects (investing and saving money at the same time!)
  • And invested millions in renewing roads and pavements

But why am I mentioning all of the above now?

Well, I have previously written that I would like to use these columns to shine a light on what is going on in Borough Hall…

And all of these seemed to be forgotten by the Conservative administration in their recent column or at the last Council meeting on Wednesday, 20 March.

But maybe the Conservative Administration want you to forget what the Liberal Democrats – supported by Labour and Independent Councillors – delivered.

At this council meeting the Conservatives confirmed that they are going down the wrong path and adopting a buy-now-pay-later approach with your money.

  • Borrowing is going up. We’ll be spending more on interest payments
  • Reserves are going down – spending £2.5m of reserves that we had built up from a really low point when we took over from the last time the Conservatives were in charge
  • A record council tax rise
  • Fees and charges for residents are up an inflation-busting 7.5%
  • Homelessness is up and rough sleeping has skyrocketed – from 2 to 18 on the official independent national snapshot.

In fact in the very same council meeting the Liberal Democrats were attacked by the Conservatives for not raising council tax enough.

Elected with less than a third of the vote, with a majority of just 145 over the Liberal Democrats, and with a minority one-party administration (the first in this council’s history), the Conservative Mayor said he is “changing things” (his words).

Well, it looks to me as if he is changing things for the worse!

This is a monthly guest column provided by Cllr Henry Vann,
leader of the Bedford Borough Liberal Democrat Group.
It is published unedited and does not reflect the
views of the Bedford Independent.