Earlier this week Radio 4 was discussing a survey which revealed that 87% of MPs from all political parties faced some sort of abuse during the recent general election, much of which via social media. This is clearly very saddening, particularly coming after the horrific murder last year of the Labour MP, Jo Cox. Whilst robust debate is of course an essential part of our democracy, and I am under no illusions about the fact that many people do not have a positive view of all politicians, it is important that we always treat one another with respect, whatever our political differences.
At the end of the day, all of us – or at least the vast majority of us - who enter politics, do so because we want to make a positive difference to our local community and our country more widely. Fortunately I myself have so far not experienced such serious levels of abuse as a local politician. However, over the past week I have been subject to an attempt to spread untruths and misinformation about myself via social media in relation to our libraries. I would like to be clear that these claims are wholly untrue. As I have stated many times in many different forums, as a reader, I share the same passion that residents have for our library service, which is why I have been determined to ensure that, despite the financial challenge we face, the Council does whatever it can to keep our libraries open. It is disappointing that some contributions to the debate have descended to this level, and I am considering whether further action is required as I believe residents deserve better than to be misled in this way.
Turning to other matters, this week we launched the latest consultation on the Council’s proposed Parking Strategy. Based on previous public consultation, and the views that people have already expressed about parking, our strategy aims to balance the needs of the wide variety of communities across the district – including local residents and businesses, as we strive to address a range of social, economic and environmental issues, such as air quality and congestion. I encourage you to take a good look at the proposals in the Parking strategy and give your views. You can find out more by visiting: www.bathnes.gov.uk/parkingstrategy.
On Thursday, I’ll be joining other community representatives and researchers from the University of Bath for an update on the Community Matters programme; to learn more about the benefits of universities and communities carry out research together. The presentations include: Transition Larkhall looking at why local parents drive their children to school in the Larkhall area; the Black Families Education Support Group exploring the contribution black and minority ethnic young people have made to the local community; and Wansdyke Play Association evaluating the impact of their outreach play services in the Somer Valley. These innovative collaborations highlight the importance of ensuring that knowledge and expertise on local people contributes to that of the academics, in order to give more meaningful outcomes.
I’m also pleased to attend the Developing Health & Independence (DHI) event on Thursday – to celebrate the fact that the charity has bought Burlington House – its supported detox and dry house, which provides temporary supported accommodation for people in recovery from drug or alcohol misuse. This has secured the future of the facility, which helps vulnerable people to turn their lives around and give something back, whilst also saving money for the NHS. Burlington House is a great example of everyone coming together – charity, public sector, the local community and the service users themselves – in order to sustain a valued service and deliver real benefits.
Finally, I’ve just finished reading Conn Iggulden’s magnificent series of novels based around the Wars of the Roses – which I can thoroughly recommend. They’re the kind of books that you cannot resist turning the page; but once you’ve finished, it’s like losing an old friend.