Sometimes the strength of public feeling can have an impact on those in power if we make our voices heard. When Mayor Tom Wootton and his Tory Cabinet made the decision to axe the Bedford River Festival he was swiftly made aware by Borough Councillors and residents that it was a hugely unpopular move, and performed a screeching u-turn to reinstate it.
The proposal to close ticket offices at railway stations also received a backlash from the public, who rightly objected, and reacted accordingly when a consultation was finally held.
Cauldwell Labour Councillor Abu Sultan led a Motion to Full Council objecting to these planned closures which received unanimous support, and we added Bedford Borough Council’s voice to the thousands of individuals, campaign groups, charities and other local authorities who were against it.
Last week the Government finally saw sense and instructed rail operating companies to keep ticket offices open across the rail network.
Now, as we await Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Budget, we hope he heeds the strength of feeling about another issue we took to Full Council last month. Harpur Labour Councillor Colleen Atkins led a Motion to Full Council asking the Government to fund the services needed for Suicide Prevention.
Suicide is the leading cause of death in males under 50 years and females under 35 years in the UK.
However, funding for local suicide prevention will have run out by March 2024, and in many areas has already come to an end, meaning some local suicide prevention activities will have to scale back or stop.
In the September 2023 National Suicide Prevention Strategy, the Government committed to reducing suicide rates in England within the next five years and identified the crucial role that local areas play in achieving this ambition. However, no new money has been attached to the strategy. Without proper funding, the Government will be unable to fulfil its promise to reduce suicide rates.
After 13 years of Tory austerity and the upheaval of COVID, more people than ever are feeling insecure in their employment and housing and are worried about their future. This inevitably takes a toll on their physical and mental wellbeing.
If the Conservative Government can write off millions of pounds squandered on useless PPE during the pandemic, they can find the money that is needed urgently for services for suicide prevention to redress the damage their mismanagement has caused.
The Council unanimously agreed to ask the Chief Executive to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking for ring-fenced suicide prevention funding for local areas to be continued for the lifetime of the five-year strategy, increased in line with inflation.