First, Happy New Year to everyone! And now to the politics. The scale of challenges in 2018 will continue apace.
As politicians, we all have a duty to rise to them. Within the next three months the prime minister aims to finalise the terms of a Brexit transition period; voters wouldn’t be blamed in thinking that nothing seems to be changing but that is the point of a transition deal. What will change however is the domestic agenda.
On March the 18th, a two per cent cap on council tax increases will be lifted and those that have criticised from the sidelines about the loss of services will now have to reconcile themselves to paying more for them. Funding pressures on schools, housing and social care will continue to test our local councillors who have been elected to come up with solutions, when often those solutions are more about choices. The tensions between urgent need and limited resources will remain a theme for a while yet so they face a difficult job and should be respected for their efforts. I am also concerned that low-income families will still feel stagnant real-wage growth until inflation starts to fall.
Nationally, politicians also have to make choices. Do they back the competing demands of the health service? or the military? both are suffering from crises of morale and recruitment. As for our prime minister, she faces a whole host of difficulties; pressing on with an EU withdrawal project which has split her cabinet, party and country. You have to give her points for resilience. Some members of the political establishment continue to try and stop Brexit. They think a second referendum is the answer. I don’t. It would cause huge damage to a trust in democracy because millions would conclude that their precious vote and the promise made to them was worthless. It also would be politically dangerous and provocative. And to be honest there is no huge public clamour for one.
On a more positive note I believe the private sector will continue to thrive. The FTSE 100 ended 2017 on a record high and could go higher still if the weak pound continues to boost foreign earnings. Exporters including British companies catering to foreign tourists, are expecting another good year. Employment is high. Locally, we live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, in a community whose members support each other. It will be tough out there for a while yet but we will see it through if we all keep positive.