The Inside the Council column with Councillor Susan Press

By the time you read this column, Theresa May may or may not be Prime Minister.

Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 2:42 pm
Brexit: Issues in this area will not be dealt with via this vote.

The crucial vote in Parliament will either have taken place on Tuesday or been delayed while she seeks more concessions from Brussels.

One thing is certain – Brexit and its ramifications will continue to divide our country and no-one knows exactly what will happen in the coming weeks and months.

The tragedy is that none of it was really necessary.

When re-elected Prime Minister in 2015 David Cameron only promised a referendum to pacify his many Euro-sceptic MPs and my guess is it never actually occurred to him the result would be anything other than remain and the status quo.

Such complacency and arrogance proved fatal at a time when millions of people felt ignored, abandoned and left out of decision-making by the political establishment.

For many of them voting Leave was a way of expressing that anger and Calderdale was one of many places in the North where the majority did. But Mrs May’s deal is unlikely to satisfy anyone.

Whether a second referendum would deliver the same result is arguable but given the misleading nature of the Brexit campaign I would be in favour of another vote.

However, the only real way of healing the deep divisions caused by the whole debacle is a change of political direction.

Whether we stay in or leave the EU, the Conservative Government (whatever it says) continues to hammer local government with austerity measures and less and less money to help us provide key services.

Since 2010 Calderdale has lost over £100million in central government funding and by 2020 we will not be getting any Whitehall funding at all.

In the meantime Labour-led Calderdale will continue to do its best to protect all residents – particularly the most vulnerable – by defending core services.

But in the next two years the choices will get more and more difficult and our options less and less.

Last week at Cabinet I was pleased to launch our Anti-Poverty Action Plan working in partnership with the community and voluntary sector to do what we can across the council to help the most vulnerable.

As a volunteer at Todmorden Food Bank for over five years, and as all councillors do, I come across cases of terrible hardship every week and often we are able to help people find a way through the maze of Universal Credit, homelessness and other crises that simply shouldn’t be happening in a civilised society.

Todmorden is a town where people help each other and it is heartening to see the community groups and individuals locally who are providing food, warmth and shelter over the Christmas period to those who need it.

However, the fundamental change we need does not hinge on Brexit but a General Election and Labour Government committed to ending the misery of austerity which caused the Leave vote to happen in the first place.

Let’s hope that happens in 2019.