Horsham Labour Party members regularly comment on both local and national issues with many of our letters and press releases appearing in our local papers.
Below is just a selection of some of our more recent letters:-
Why we think Horsham’s MP Francis Maude should resign.
Dear Letters Editor
With Horsham ranking as one of the safest Conservative seats in the country it is clear that Francis Maude has been able to make a nice living from being its present incumbent, without having to concern himself too much about the representational aspect of his role. My impression of Mr Maude is that he regards his constituency role as largely ceremonial. The occasional visit to a local project provides a nice photo opportunity, his surgeries allow him to nod sympathetically when presented with a constituent’s concerns, but otherwise very few Horsham matters seem to have a sufficient level of importance to distract him from his key function of chief flag waver for the Nasty Party’s most pernicious policies. Letters sent to him expressing concern about the impact of Tory cuts, welfare reform , badger culling, developers destroying our communities, shortage of affordable housing, all matters of concern to local people, have been met with a cursory response extracted from the Central Office’s set of standard replies or no reply at all.
There is, however, one issue that Mr Maude has championed over the years; that is, of course, the call from his constituents for a world class, acute hospital. This campaign has allowed him to harangue the last Labour government, accusing them of depriving our district of this facility, to savagely criticise neighbouring MP Laura Moffat throughout her parliamentary career, and, possibly worst of all, rubbish the hardworking NHS staff and facilities provided by other hospitals that serve our community. What he failed to focus his attention on was a means by which he could assure that this hospital would be delivered. If the truth be known he was probably well aware that the hospital would not be delivered, as it was highly unlikely that the complex set of circumstances that would need to be aligned in order to deliver this hospital would ever be achieved. Maude’s political opportunism led him to pursue this issue to a point where a strong commitment to deliver this hospital was given by him. This was, moreover, his flagship commitment to his constituents. His failure to deliver should, therefore, be seen as a serious breach of the trust that voters keen to see a hospital, put in him. Should he not, as a senior Government figure consider such serious failure to be significant enough to make him consider his position? Having misled the people of Horsham for so long on this point, wouldn’t the honourable thing for Francis Maude to do now be to resign?
Carol Hayton Horsham Labour Party
David Hide Chair Horsham Labour Party remembers Maggie
The death of a public figure inevitably presents an opportunity for reflection. That person’s status as a private individual will also generate a feeling for many of understandable sadness. This occasion should not, however, be an opportunity to rewrite history, as attempted by many of those commenting on Margaret Thatcher in your paper last week.
I recognise Margaret Thatcher’s unique place in political history as the first women prime minister, I do, though, most strongly contest the suggestion that she is Britain’s greatest peace time Prime Minister. That accolade must surely go to Labour’s Clem Attlee who rebuilt Britain after World War 11 and created a welfare state including a National Health Service, free at point of need. His legacy continues to unite our nation, in contrast to the memories of a turbulent and divided country under Mrs Thatcher’s leadership .
My memories of Thatcher’s election victory in 1979 were one of foreboding but little could anyone have predicted the wholesale carnage that she was about to unleash on our manufacturing industries and the contempt she would demonstrate for our public sector and those working within it. I was a secondary school student during the Thatcher period and have clear memories of the impact of under investment in our services. There were not enough text books to go round and those we shared, were battered and held together with sticky tape. Our classrooms were dilapidated and our nutritionally balanced school meals were done away with in favour of canteen systems that churned out fast food in the name of ‘choice’. I lived in the Medway towns at the time where the main employer was the historic naval dockyard which had provided work for huge numbers of local people for generations. We were told, during the Khaki Elections of 1983, ‘Vote Tory and the dockyard will remain open’ The election won, the dockyard closed, 7000 jobs that had been the mainstay of my town were lost along with 3 times the amount in support industries. In my home county of Kent, part of the ‘prosperous’ South East, another major employer also fell foul of Thatcher’s flawed strategy for industry, shortly after the closure of the Dockyard the Kent mines were shut and thousands more jobs were lost.
My other memories of those years include hospitals and schools on the point of collapse, the mentally ill thrown out of safe environments on to our streets in the name of ‘Care in the Community’, gays and lesbians were stigmatised in legislation. Our public utilities were sold off at knock-down prices, the legacy of that strategy sees us all paying over the odds for gas and electric today with as a recent Guardian article stating ‘ Big six energy firms accused of cold – blooded profiteering’ We have a telephone system without customer service and an overcrowded and fractured rail network delivering profits to shareholders and increased tickets prices to passengers.
I am sure there are others who will have memories of how people’s lives and communities were wrecked by worklessness as major employers were lost and nothing put in their place. There will be many people who have memories of difficult times that are hard to forget. There is one particular policy that has a pernicious impact that lives on in Horsham and in every part of the South East; the ‘right to buy’ which is perhaps Margaret Thatcher’s worst example of short-termism. Council tenants had for a long time been able to purchase their council house but through incentivisation Thatcher encouraged far greater sales of council housing and as a result of this policy, we lost in the region of 2 million council houses. Thatcher’s greatest crime was not allowing council’s to reinvest in new social housing and as a result we now are experiencing a housing crisis similar in scale to that experienced by the post war Labour Government in 1945. In a mixed economy affordable housing will always be required and this is something Thatcher failed to either recognise or understand. The direct result of her policy is that millions of families are now inappropriately housed with no hope of a decent home, while at the same time welfare payments on an unprecedented scale, are going into the pockets of private landlords who are charging exorbitant rents.
Some of your correspondents may find it hard to understand why others do not share their rose tinted view of the Thatcher years. Perhaps the examples given above will help to explain why rather than being our greatest PM, history written from many people’s perspective will remember her as the most short sighted and divisive leader our nation has endured.
As appeared in the West Sussex County Times 18 April 2013
Published before Robert Nye did the honourable thing and resigned
So, Robert Nye, Leader of Horsham District Council, sees the demolition of a leisure centre as ‘a golden opportunity’ to improve leisure facilities across the district. Where is the sense in this? Surely a far better option would be to undertake the required maintenance and gold plate our existing leisure centre to safeguard its future use? The Tory’s cavalier approach to our Leisure Centre once more demonstrates that this is a feral council and it is being run by councillors to satisfy their own interests and not those of the electorate.
Time and again the Council pushes ahead with unpopular policies that support their agenda and not the needs and wishes of local residents. Three such recent examples include the Council’s approach to the Old Town Hall, sustainable development within Horsham and across our district and now our local leisure centre.
1. Horsham residents expressed a wish to retain the Old Town Hall as a community facility, instead our council wanted to sell off our historic community hub to yet another chain restaurant.
2. Horsham- wide consultation repeatedly evidences that we want sustainable development to deliver the affordable homes that we need, and instead our council does deals with developers that deliver massive profits for house builders and very little for those currently living in inappropriate accommodation.
3. No consultation took place on the proposed demolition of the Broadbridge Heath Leisure centre, a new low even for this naturally open and transparent adverse council, then in the week when Horsham residents rise up as one to state their opposition to its demolition, the leader of the pack smugly announces that he has spotted another golden opportunity.
When will our Tory Councillors learn that what Horsham residents want in exchange for their council tax is a range of council services that will benefit our community and not simply a focus on business opportunities that benefit private companies. Where the Lib Dems have consistently failed to oppose the worst excesses of this rogue council from within the council chamber we hope that at long last the Tories will hear the storm of opposition that is now rising across the district and rethink its position on our local leisure centre.
David Hide Chair Horsham Labour Party
In support of public sector workers
It will surely come as no surprise to your readers that in the event that public sector workers go on strike on the 30th November, members of Horsham Labour Party will both support and applaud their decision to do so.
We want to see a negotiated outcome so that health care professionals, teachers and council workers no longer see the necessity to strike, however what profession would not stand up against such a swingeing attack on its terms and conditions? Public sector workers paying more for less, and with the prospect of a later retirement date, surely have the right to negotiate with their employers, without the threat of having the latest offer removed if they do go on strike? It is also very unhelpful to suggest that a fresh set of anti trade union legislation may be introduced by the Tories (and Lib Dems) as a result of strike action. Why is it Tories can only support strike action that takes place by workers who are locked into a battle to overthrow dictators? Surely having the option of striking is a mark of a democratic society?
We recognise that many workers in the private sector have less generous or no pensions at all, but the argument here must be one of levelling up not reducing down to the lowest common denominator. The reality is that more and more working people struggle to make ends meet and, as a result of spiralling costs and low pay, they face a life of poverty in work and an even more dire situation in retirement. Surely our politicians should see the current economic crisis as an opportunity to rebalance our economy based around the principal of the Fair Society. Casino style gambling on the money markets should not be valued above all else and we must find a way of narrowing the gap between the haves and have nots,
Horsham Labour Party hope to see a negotiated settlement to the current dispute but in the event of strike action many of our members will be visiting the picket lines and attending strike day rallies across the County.
David Hide Chair Horsham Labour Party
Campaign to retain Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre
Published before the Lib Dems and Tories voted in favour of removing the Leisure centre from the tendering process
After reading last week’s head line in the WSCT. Leisure centre set to be demolished, I was astonished by the comments from the Tory cabinet member for ,arts, heritage and leisure, Jonathan Chowen that he felt very comfortable with the findings and conclusions of the report into the future of our leisure centre. Does he still feel that way after the deluge of protests from users of the centre and local residents? I hope not!
Steve King, top sporting coach for Sussex, was spot on with his ironic comment “Fantastic. The only indoor facility within 50 miles and its going.” It is nonsense to suggest that we don’t need these facilities as the chief executive himself stated at an Agent’s meeting prior to the last General Election that he uses the leisure facilities at Christ’s hospital, as the council run ones get so busy!
So a consultant’s report deemed the centre “ surplus to requirements” did the council consider consulting local residents and users of the facility to get their views? David Cameron’s Big Society is being smashed apart here in Horsham, as the Tory run council dream up yet another mad cap idea to reduce the social fabric of our district. When will our MP, Minister in charge of the Big Society step in and call time on his colleagues’ excesses?
We learn that the centre faces a repair bill of up to £1.5 million. Has there been a planned maintenance programme over the years or have the Tories deliberately followed a policy of neglect and allowed the centre to be run down? All buildings of this kind need repairs and upkeep, so what next, the Capitol or the Pavilions in the Park?
I stood as the Labour Party Candidate in Broadbridge Heath in the recent local elections. I spent many hours knocking on doors and talking to the local residents.
Some residents felt the village needed additional regeneration. The leisure centre which supports many clubs is a great asset for both Broadbridge Heath and Horsham as a whole and it’s demolition will downgrade the area, at a time when the village is set to double in size following recent planning application approvals.
I sincerely hope the newly elected Lib Dem Councillor for Broadbridge Heath can persuade his colleagues to join with Horshaml Labour Party in condemning this proposal and support our campaign to retain this most popular of community assets. Surely now must be the time for the Lib Dems to reflect on their role in inflicting such damage to the services provided by our local councils and provide real opposition in the council chamber.
Ray Chapman Secretary Horsham Labour Party and Broadbridge Heath candidate in the recent local elections
Fairness for the UK farm worker and grower.
Published ahead of the vote in Parliament where Lib Dem and Tory MPs voted in favour of bringing forward legislation to abolish wage protection for rural workers
Our Con-Dem Government says its committed to fairness; it says that in tackling the deficit, we’re all in this together; it tells us they will fix the economy.
But their decision to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board tells you all you need to know that these statements are simply not true.
Why the Agricultural Wages Board? In fact, what is the AWB? It is a small body which costs the Government no money, that sets fair wages and terms and conditions for in the region of 140 000 agricultural workers within England, including many hundreds working within the rural economies of Horsham and Arundel and Southdown constituencies.
This is an unjustifiable attack on some of the lowest paid workers who work tirelessly come ran come sunshine to bring food to our tables and plants to our gardens. Successive post War governments of all political shades have worked through the AWB to set minimum pay levels and terms and conditions, even Margaret Thatcher left the AWB in place!
At the heart of Britain’s biggest manufacturing industry – the food production sector – farming needs more skilled workers. Instead, the Government is encouraging employers to join a race to the bottom on pay that will see skilled workers turn their back on this industry. Here in Horsham we are proud of being a Fair Trade town, committed to providing decent incomes for farmers overseas, and I would appeal to the many local Fair Trade supporters to apply the same set of values to protect those working within UK agriculture.
How can our local MP Francis Maude look for photo opportunities by attending local Fair Trade events and then vote to end similar protection for those much closer to home? And before someone shouts that the country can’t afford to provide wage protection, let me reassure you, we are not talking about paying farm workers a king’s ransom. I guess you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of farm workers within West Sussex who earn in a year, the amount of money MPs were able to claim in expenses just on their second homes in the last parliament.
On 9th February a rally and lobby is planned in support of the AWB and UK farming, where I hoped to discuss my concerns with our MP, in the meantime I would encourage all fair (trade) minded individuals to write to their local MP, voicing support for the retention of the AWB, UK farming and growing .
It comes to something when you need to campaign for Fair Trade in your own backyard. (Enough said about fairness and our Con-Dem Government I think)
Chair Horsham Labour Party
Circus by Name Circus by Nature
In support of multiculturalism
With his column the infamous councillor’s ‘point of view’ demonstrates that he is Circus by name and circus by nature. His weekly offerings, like the bizarre entertainment form that bears the same name, may seem to some readers to be amusing in their naivety, but they often barely conceal aspects that are offensive to many more. His contribution is, like a traditional circus, a faded, old anachronism that should be consigned to the dustbin marked bad taste. I really can’t understand why WSCT persists with the Circus column. The limited entertainment value can certainly not make up for the appalling, narrow- minded, tripe such as that churned out last week.
The concept of multiculturalism in the UK has nothing to do with Osama Bin Laden or home grown terrorism. It is to do with an invitation, extended by this country to people from a range of other countries and cultures, to contribute their skills and strong work ethic to our economy at times when we have been deficient in those areas. Would it not be a massive display of bad manners to offer this unconditional invitation and then require the invitees to behave in a way that would make them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome? Has that requirement ever been imposed on the many British citizens who live, work and holiday beyond our own frontiers, often manifesting the worst aspects of the British character? I think not.
Philip Circus’s words do nothing to promote a sense of unity amongst our communities. Many progressive councils’ have taken the decisions to ban the old fashioned circus from their area of administration, recognising it has no place in an enlightened, modern society. Perhaps the newly re-elected Conservative group now representing an increasingly diverse community in Horsham, should demonstrate some progressive credentials and disassociate themselves completely from Philip Circus and his reactionary views.
Carol Hayton Horsham Labour Party
The return of the Tory Nightmare, there is no such thing as (the Big) Society
In his response to my criticism of the Tories shambolic management of Horsham District Council last week, (WSCT letters page 10th March) Jim Rae began his letter by confessing that he is a Conservative. Something I am sure that the readers of your letters page and observers of local elections over the years will certainly already have gathered. He goes on to mention that he will definitely be voting Conservative on May 5 because he thinks the Conservatives are doing a wonderful job! Well he would say that wouldn’t he, he is a Conservative, clearly an affliction that badly affects judgement.
I can reassure him that, contrary to his diagnosis, I am not suffering from any form of amnesia. On the contrary, I remember very well what we endured when the Conservatives were last in government. A time when only those that could buy a decent home had any chance of having a decent home as local authority housing stock was left to decay. A time when only the children of those that could pay for a good school could expect to attend one, when state school students endured leaking roofs and lessons in freezing port-a-cabins, with tatty text books shared between two or three pupils. When only those who could pay for good health care could be sure of getting timely treatment or even a hospital bed without endless and painful waits.
Perhaps Mr Rae was fortunate enough and affluent enough to be able to pay for a decent quality of life in those days, but many people were not and suffered the terrible consequences of public services that lacked investment, local industries that were allowed to decline and communities that fell apart through lack of employment opportunities and any sense of a positive future.
I wish I could experience selective amnesia, as Mr Rae clearly chooses to do, but sadly I am unable to and when I see the slashing of services that are vital to those most in need alongside inept financial management of tax payers money, I think it is only right to raise concerns . Particularly when the prospects for the future under the Big Society suggest something well beyond the previous Tory nightmare, that is to say a society where services and a secure future are only available to those who are able to provide them for themselves.
Carol Hayton Horsham Labour Party