The Tories Have Neglected The Backbone of Britain – Its Communities

If you drive along the M5, you will eventually reach the local government district of West Somerset; at a glance, you will observe an area of beauty and peace. However, if you read between the lines, you will discover an average wage of £312 a week (less than half of the £670 weekly average in the London borough of Wandsworth), the quality children’s development at age five being one of the lowest in the country and an entire generation of young people being deprived of opportunity. This is all conducive to the district finishing at the bottom of the social mobility table, a position it has held for the second year running (according to the latest State of the Nation report in 2017).

 Being one of the 34,900 residents of West Somerset, I can say that life as a young person is not full of the vigour that I would want it to be; cuts to youth services and local government funding has been a significant cause of the lack of opportunity and ‘things to do’. Now, the County Council is about to go the whole hog by completely shutting down the Youth and Communities Service as part of £28m of cuts voted through in September 2018; this will bring an end to Citizens’ Advice funding, close youth clubs, end support for young carers and slash vital mental health support. Improving the statistics is no justification for the profound effect that this will have on my generation – the knife of austerity might be dripping with blood as support for our challenged generation is callously withdrawn.

Through the thick and thin that this country has endured, there has always been one aspect of Britain that has held it together – its communities. It is a fact that “teamwork makes the dream work” and that could not be exhibited more conspicuously than in how we support each other and break through the barriers that have been laid before us. However, I am now seeing that indispensable aspect of our country being properly shattered before my eyes. This is firstly because of the lack of opportunity and ‘things to do’ that I mentioned earlier; some young people, without activities to partake in, will turn to crime – the pressure that is already inflicted upon our police force will only be increased by this crime. This increase in crime first fractures the community – many will see young people as a threat to their community, thus establishing a common enemy. The stereotype of hooliganism that is associated with young people will grow in strength, leading not to cooperation, but to the antithesis of it. The breakup of a community in this way can easily be traced back to a shutdown of youth services, which can be traced back to the lack of funding for local government – that being part of the austerity measures inflicted upon Britain by the incumbent Conservative government.

Secondly, the breakup of our communities can be traced back to the calling of the EU referendum by (surprise, surprise) the Conservative government. The calling of the referendum wasn’t mainly to resolve a country-wide dispute, but instead a party dispute; by David Cameron selling out to the right wing of his party, he laid down the unnecessary divisions that the referendum deepened. After he ran away from the chasms that he created, people turned against each other, thus breaking up the communities that were once united and happy. Violence is becoming increasingly common in a sad indictment on the crumbling of our communities.

However, this neglect of the importance of our communities by the Tories is contrary to what their infamous “Big Society” policy of 2010 was exhibiting. The idea that power should be devolved to communities to run services was actually just a mask to hide the impact of the cuts that were destroying them; the failing of this policy is clear – if it had properly worked and performed the task it was supposed to do then I wouldn’t be seeing my local area of West Somerset falling this far behind; the somewhat strength that is still left would be enough to drive the area forward. The devolution that would have been provided would have made the area more socially mobile; perhaps more in certain areas than others.

The conclusion? The Tories’ pursuit of improving economic statistics rather than maintaining the backbone of the country is starting to show repercussions that make a decaying, decadent Britain ever more real; people in West Somerset are also beginning to realise this fact – the constituency that West Somerset is in has been constantly Tory since 1950. However, the most recent General Election put Labour in second place, defying all of the expectations that were in place. As people in the area grow ever more restless, a Portillo moment at the next general election grows ever more likely. The postcode lottery that social mobility is will only continue, at least for the foreseeable future. Even if austerity measures are ended now and public services become properly funded, the mending of the backbone of our country will not be instant, no matter how much money is injected. Young people, including myself, will not forgive the Tories for the damage that they have done – we must now not let them swing the hammer any more, for the dents that might come may not be able to be repaired.

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