Cllr Wendy Thompson is the Leader of the Conservative Group on Wolverhampton City Council.
Wolverhampton faces all-out elections in May next year. So what you may ask? Ordinarily, all-outs are nothing special. However, here in the Black Country’s only city, because of boundary changes, it represents a near once in a generation opportunity to break, in one fell swoop, Labour’s grip on the levers of power.
Normally, the city elects by thirds, and with Labour’s solid majority in place, it would take years of nothing but smooth sailing, without the ebbs and flows of national politics bleeding over, and yes, local challenges, to whittle away control from Labour.
We have a golden opportunity to take control and end the years of misrule that the residents of Wolverhampton have had to endure.
Much of the criticism I wrote of the administration on this site last year, sadly, still holds true:
Perhaps worst of all for residents though is that as sure as spring follows winter, Labour, despite our attempts to stop them, puts up council tax as much as possible without fail. And in the latest cabinet reports, it’s reported that the Council is to post an underspend of over £2 million on top of the £4 million bunged into reserves earlier in the year, which would have more than covered the extra cash raised from Labour’s latest squeeze.
Residents are being let down by Wolverhampton and, as such, we will be doing all we can to take control of the Council in one go and do better for our poorly treated citizens (or ‘customers’ as the Council insists on calling them).
Preparation has already begun for the monumental task ahead and whilst this years’ manifesto formulation is in its infancy, we know the challenges the city faces and are fizzing with ideas to solve them.
As believers in low tax, we think that now more than ever the Council should be doing all it can to reduce the ask on hard-pressed Council Taxpayers. We know that there are savings the Council can make to limit or even freeze council tax increases. We also want to scrap the garden tax and stop charging people to have their garden waste collected – at a time when we want to boost recycling why are we penalising people for doing the right thing?
By far the best thing we can do to help many households (and the Council Tax base through the associated reduced council tax discounts) is to help more people into work and off out of work benefits. Wolverhampton has a chronic unemployment problem regularly being in the top ten nationally for out of work claimants. Whilst the Labour Council has slowly adopted two of our ideas to counter unemployment for those at the beginning and towards the end of their careers, we want to go further. Wolverhampton has a proud entrepreneurial spirit, and we want to see additional support for those who have a vision to turn ideas into reality.
One of the city’s most sacred resources are its green spaces – with just 11 per cent Green Belt, one of the lowest in the West Midlands – we owe it not just to current residents but to future ones too to see as much as of it as possible protected from development. We want to find and bring forward the brownfield sites out there so that the greenbelt fields can be removed from the draft Black Country Plan – fortunately for us and Wolverhampton, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is already working on doing just that.
For too long Wolverhampton has been let down by Labour with the current administration seemingly content to manage decline and showing more concern for holding on to their Cabinet positions. Whilst the world has moved on, in Wolverhampton Labour want to refight past battles rather than look to the future, whether that is ending the unemployment crisis that has dogged the city since de-industrialisation or complaining about a lack of resource. Our city lags our Black Country siblings with the key difference being that in the two more successful ones it is Conservatives in charge.
So come May when all seats are up for election, we will be ready. With support from our two excellent local Conservative MPs Stuart Anderson and Jane Stevenson, the indominatable Andy Street, and the hundreds of Conservative Supporters across the city, we will be doing all we can to take control and deliver the positive change that Wolverhampton has so sadly been missing all these years.