TDC Leader's Column October 26th

26 Oct 2023

Last week there were two by-elections for Westminster.  Both caused by misbehaving Tory MPs, and both showed a loss of support from the public for the government.

Which is interesting, because since the last by-elections, we have seen the leader of the Tories, our current Prime Minister. move to short term populist ideas – stopping HS2, going soft on Net Zero, blaming climate policies and immigrants for their own errors.

Populism is rife across the world, but we mustn’t mistake it for doing what people want.  Populism panders to simplistic short-term answers, often including blaming a marginal group.  Populism is about being dissuaded from difficult decisions by a small number of voices shouting loudly.  The PM is giving into his populist right wing that wants to remain in the past, cling on to solutions that haven’t worked and deny moving on to future solutions.

We know that we have to move beyond our Fossil fuel dependency.  We know that we have to reduce carbon, air pollution.  We know that we have to change our habits of old, and adapt to the new economy, the new green solutions and renew the environment on which our lives depend.

And the by-elections proved that the voters in those constituencies know it too.  By-elections are different to General elections, and all comparisons and numbers must be taken with a large pinch of salt.  However huge amount of effort is made to get people out to vote. Especially when the elections are as controversial as these were.  Labour got nearly all of their supporters out – they are ready for a general and keen to be rid of this government.  Lib Dems got more supporters out than they did at the general election. But the Blue voters stayed home.

After 13 years it does look like the Government has lost its drive, has lost its supporters and may well lose power.  It also looks like the populist approach from Rishi Sunak hasn’t won the support that he wanted. With a broken economy, persistent inflation and starvation of funds for local government they have little left to offer.  But we shall see what happens when they call an election, be it May 2024 or later next year.

Meanwhile in Teignbridge we had a busy week.  The District Council debated additional items for the new emerging Local Plan.  We still have to allocate development sites based on the central government’s numbers of 700+ new houses every year for the next 20 years.  The Government says the numbers are now guidelines – but they haven’t changed the law that says they are mandatory.

Some additions were passed that were about improving the design of areas already in the local plan, updating and improving policies that help TDC control what developers build.  The plan itself is our best defence from speculative developers who would like to build much much more than we need.

Some additions did not pass.  District Councillors did not agree on three extra sites that had come forward after the consultations – in Ipplepen, Kenton and Dawlish.  Each proposed for good reason, but in each area, each one a step too far.  After the recent flooding in Kenton, when one family had been flooded for the third time in five years – each flood being a 1-in-200 year event, councillors backed the idea that more construction would not make the situation any better.

The council also heard from concerned voices about the proposals to make Newton Abbot Queen Street more pedestrian friendly.   Modernising Queen Street will be a change and will be hard for some.  However, the choice of doing nothing would mean that nothing would get better for anyone.  It is well proven across the country that improving the shopping environment for pedestrians, improving the shopping experience, will make the shops more viable in the longer run.  Meanwhile Teignbridge will do everything it can to help local traders over the changes, and enable a brighter, cleaner, greener future.

Martin Wrigley

Martin Wrigley
Martin Wrigley