PUTTING people first – that’s the message from Redditch Labour after party members launched their borough election manifesto this week.
At its heart lie ambitious plans to tap into the skills and knowledge of local people, local entrepreneurs and businesses, creating not for profit enterprises and local co-operatives all supported and encouraged using the influence, power and wealth of the borough council.
Above all they want to keep the wealth of Redditch within Redditch for the benefit of the people of Redditch.
Party members have also pledged to restore the grants to voluntary community organisations cut by the controlling group Conservative group and have vowed to battle hard to retain services at the Alexandra Hospital.
Local group leader Councillor Bill Hartnett (Church Hill) said: “We want to secure our economy, protect the NHS and rebuild our country, starting in Redditch.”
Eye catching initiatives include cutting the allowances for councillors – which were increased by the Conservatives soon after they gained power.
Coun Hartnett said the controlling group had gone ‘over the top’: “They gave themselves what, a £48,000 pay rise – we’ll be reviewing that and bring it down to a more reasonable figure,” he said.
They also plan to ‘engage with everybody’ over the future of the town, including young people and the members of the town’s minority groups..
“It means making local people the heart of everything we do,” said Coun Hartnett.
“It also means involving people in the decisions which impact upon their lives. Not token consultation at the end of a process but real participation from the start.”
The party pledged to battle to retain services at the Alex, citing fears the much-loved Garden Suite could be lost permanently to Kidderminster and plans for housing which effectively put paid to any plans to expand the Alex.
“When we were last in control of the council there wasn’t hardly a council meeting without the Alex being mentioned,” said Coun Hartnett.
“And we were pressing the health trust, pressing the clinical commissioning group, we held a health commission and the people’s voice was heard loud and clear.
“Now it’s got more distant and it’s out of people’s minds but the need is still local, the people are still local but the services aren’t local, we want local services for the local people, the paediatrics, the maternity, all the things we were promised.”
Coun Greg Chance (Central) added: “It’s recognised that the competitive model in the health service is not producing what it should so we need to look at a more collaborative approach and I think the council ought to be front and centre in leading that debate.”
Other initiatives include tackling flytipping, a green new deal and working to attract better paid jobs to grow the local economy.
“And we will be putting the community at the heart of everything we do,” said Coun Hartnett.
The borough, county and police and crime commissioner elections are on Thursday, May 6.