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Local elections; your vote is important

USE YOUR VOTE: Helen Grant at a count in Maidstone, 2018

WE ARE invited to visit the polling booths once again, with local council elections taking place on Thursday 2nd May.  Over 8,500 council seats are up for election right across the country, in 246 of the 343 English local councils.
 
I have every sympathy with the thousands of disaffected voters who are still awaiting Parliament to resolve the way in which we leave the EU.  In my defence I must remind readers that I’ve voted in the Commons dozens of times in recent weeks to try and get the job done but remain stymied on each occasion.  There is wholesale frustration being meted out by those who seek to block progress for political or ideological gain.  They are seemingly blind to the urgent and pragmatic need for certainty, especially businesses who are facing serious, possibly existential threats to their survival.
 
The looming prospect of further European elections next month is further alienating many voters I speak with, who are resolute in abstaining from participation for understandable reasons.  For the record I remain steadfast in trying to avoid holding the EU elections if at all possible.
 
So, what has Brexit and the EU elections got to do with next week’s poll?  Absolutely nothing – and that is the point.  Brexit fatigue should not be allowed to blur the importance and purpose of voting in local Council elections.  People may get tired of running for the bus, but that doesn’t mean they stop running for everything else, like the ice cream van or the London marathon.
 
Local elections are about deciding who you choose to make decisions on local issues; those that have a direct effect on the individuals, families and businesses in your particular part of our great country.  Housing and planning; improvement in air quality and related traffic controls; town centre management; refuse collection, litter and fly tipping; parks and leisure facilities; support for local businesses that create jobs – the list is extensive. 
 
The Borough Councillors you choose will need to work with Parish Councillors, County Councils and Members of Parliament if you are to gain a joined-up approach to local affairs.  Those we elect also decide on how much is spent on our services and how much council tax we pay for those services.  I try to avoid party politics in these pages but there are a few home truths that must be said at this point;
 
Conservative councils continue to provide lower levels of council tax than Labour or Liberal Democrat councils. Averaged across tiers, Conservative-run councils in 2019-20 in England charge £93 a year less than Labour-controlled councils on a Band D home, and £137 a year less than Liberal Democrat-controlled councils - but without diminishing the quality or level of local services.
 
Mindful of the environment too, Conservative councils recycle more than Labour councils. In 2017-18 Conservative councils in England recycled, reused or composted around 49 per cent of their waste, compared to 36 per cent in Labour councils, (based on the best available data).
 
Politics aside though, the most important issue is to turn out to vote next week.  Your choice of who runs your local services is important.  Please don’t waste that opportunity.

Helen Grant is MP for Maidstone and The Weald and is Vice-chair of the Conservative Party

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