Although the start of January always has something of a ‘back to school’ feel about it, it’s an exciting time of year. Whilst many of us have enjoyed a break we are of course all indebted to those working, including in the emergency and other public services, over Christmas and New Year.
2017 was a challenging year in many ways but I do start this year optimistic that we can make progress. The week after New Year’s Eve seems an appropriate time to say we need to start returning the care that the NHS shows to us. Eight million hospital appointments were missed in the last year, costing around £1billion, and at weekends up to 70% of A&E admissions are alcohol related. Stories of unfair health tourism also still abound. Of course there will continue to be differences of approach but this is an area in which we can surely do better.
I have high hopes for our democratic process in 2018. England is supposed to be the mother of all Parliaments but rows over Brexit in particular have prompted some concern over how things are working. The Referendum was more divisive than anyone predicted but it is up to those involved in the process now to restore some faith in the system. Progress in areas like getting sufficient new housing in the right places and better care options as we get older are part of the solution, but it is also crucial that the political accountability people voted for in the Referendum is not subverted. The Houses of Parliament may be starting to look like they are falling into the river but this is going to be a really important year for their reputations.
On the subject of democracy, South Somerset District Council is currently running a consultation which anyone can contribute to, as part of a wholesale review of its Local Plan. It runs until midday on the 11th January and details are on its website https://www.southsomerset.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/spatial-policy/local-plan-review---issues-and-options-consultation-october-2017/. Planning for new homes and developments is a policy area that affects many people greatly, and some proposals for development which were previously discounted have been resubmitted. I would strongly encourage everyone to have their say.
One option being considered is a new Garden Town. This could provide new jobs and homes near to the soon to be improved A303, in a relatively low impact way, and could help relieve some of the significant pressures from development on our existing towns and villages. It could also mean a once in a generation chance to launch new education, healthcare and other public service facilities, and better network up our existing towns and their populations with local and longer distance transport, to support growth and jobs throughout the area. This seems a major opportunity that deserves full consideration in the further stages of the Local Plan process.
As always, if you would like to get in touch about any of these issues, if you feel I can help with a problem you have, or if you would like to book an appointment at one of my regular advice surgeries, please do email email@example.com or call 01935314321.