Stand united in the face of more cuts

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PEOPLE in Hartlepool will be aware that there have been local elections, and the result took place on Thursday evening.

People will no doubt be thankful for a respite to the leaflets and knocks on doors from the candidates. Although, I have to say, good elected representatives in Hartlepool and elsewhere make sure they are contactable not just at election time but all year round.

For their part, candidates and their supporters will be pleased for a rest after many hours of campaigning.

They will be spending much of May nursing their sore feet and bruised fingers and knuckles from knocking on so many doors and pushing so many leaflets through letterboxes.

I would like to pass on my congratulations to all those councillors who were elected following those elections.

Particular congratulations must go to those councillors who were newly elected for the first time.

I have to say, speaking from experience, that there is nothing to beat that sense of exhilaration, pride and honour after first being elected to serve your local community.

I recall vividly first being elected as a councillor to the Rift House Ward, something like 10 years ago.

And I will never forget the enormous sense of pride and honour. I’ll particularly remember two things from that election count. First, my wife Tiffiny was pregnant with our daughter Hattie at the time.

She would give birth little over two months later.

I’ll try to be kind and diplomatic about this but it is difficult to be so – Tiff always was huge when carrying our children, and her enormous bump seemed to take up most of the Mill House Sports Hall.

It certainly seemed to get in the way of Tiff acting as scrutineer, as she couldn’t get close enough to the tables to see the votes being counted.

I think that’s me sleeping on the settee for the next few weeks. However. she predicted the result better than I did after viewing the votes, so maybe she did get close enough.

The second thing I remember was the late, great Councillor Bill Iseley, who was making predictions about the results.

I was elected in Rift House in a seat which Labour was not expected to keep at the time, with the narrowest of margins – a majority of only nine votes.

But Bill had called it wrong and marked me on his prediction sheet with a big red cross.

Bill Iseley wasn’t wrong on many things, but I was very glad he was wrong on that one.

I’m sure a lot of people wish he hadn’t been.

The new council, when it takes office in a fortnight’s time, will need to hit the ground running and represent the voters with a greater determination than usual.

The council will have to face ever larger cuts to its budgets. People might think we have been through the difficult point of public spending cuts but, in many respects, it hasn’t even begun yet.

It is estimated that about only about 12 per cent of the Chancellor’s planned cuts to the public sector have yet been implemented, which means that the pain is about to get a huge lot worse.

The talk at Westminster is that the Chancellor is battling with his cabinet colleagues over the priority of spending cuts.

And, of course, with rising unemployment and a return to recession, the Treasury has to find more money to make up for lost tax revenues and rising benefit bills.

Local government, and northern councils at that, will bear even more of a burden than was originally intended.

In the face of such a storm threatening to come our way, I would like to see councillors work together in unity for the good of Hartlepool and putting aside personal and ideological animosities.

I say that more in hope than in judgment, and I am concerned that some wish to criticise our town rather than offer constructive opinions.

But in the face of impending financial, economic and social difficulties, I hope that the council will be a united and effective challenger to the cuts in budgets that are coming our way.