Jon is standing as a Conservative candidate in the North Norfolk District Council elections on Thursday 2nd May, for Stalham, Sutton, and Catfield. As a newcomer to local politics, here are his thoughts on local and wider issues from the campaign trail.
Monday 30th April:
I've really enjoyed meeting so many residents over the past few weeks, but it's been impossible (particularly with a full-time job) to meet all 4,391 of you! So I thought I'd share the video above to tell you a little bit about me and why I'm standing for election.
Tuesday 23rd April:
An article on the North Norfolk News website raises the concerns, voiced by a local resident, about a number of boats at Stalham Staithe which have not been moved for many months. In one case, a vessel is partially submerged: a wreck, in other words. The Norfolk Broads are part of the life-blood of towns like Stalham, bringing many visitors by both boat and road. Stalham is home to the Museum of the Broads too, so it's obvious the Staithe should be a tidy, attractive place to be. Stalham Town Council and the Broads Authority are yet to find any practical solution to the problem - which is surprising, given that both UK and EU inland waterways law places clear expectations on 'boatmasters' when it comes to partially submerged vessels, particularly when they present a navigational hazard. The laws are there but, for some reason, they're clearly not being enforced in this case. I have written to the resident concerned offering my help.
Saturday 20th April:
The break in a very busy Holy Week (the busiest time of year for church musicians and organists!) has given me time to reflect on all I've learned during my first few weeks of campaigning. I've met some incredibly friendly, positive people, who really want to see their councillors (and prospective councillors) working harder on their behalf. I've been told about all sorts of issues which seem, to me, to be ones with easy solutions. The dangerous crossing on a main road which needs illuminated speeding signs... the planning application which will deprive Stalham of 25-30 much-needed car parking spaces... the concern about changes to local bus timetables... these are all things which councillors have the power to act upon. If elected, I'm really going to enjoy getting my sleeves rolled up and getting stuck in to these kind of issues. They may not be as newsworthy or talked about as Brexit, but they really matter to the people affected by them at local level.
And, speaking of Brexit, I've also met some people who are very, very angry, and view me - a complete stranger - as the living embodiment of all that they hate about politics and politicians. The level of anger about Brexit is almost visceral, and it comes from all corners of society. Regardless of whether you voted Remain or Leave, and regardless of whether you're a Conservative voter, a Labour voter, or a Liberal Democrat voter, the chances are you're unhappy about what is going on in our national Parliament. So am I.
The first thing to say is that it is possible to vote for different parties at local and general elections. I have friends who vote one way at local elections, and another for general elections. That's fine. Because it's not about party politics as such: it's about which party you think will best represent your views if elected. So I can understand why, perhaps, people might not want to vote for any of the main parties in a general election - at least until some solution for Brexit emerges.
But it's incredibly important to remember that 2nd May is not a general election. If it was, the chances are that Norman Lamb would lose his seat, given that he has spent the past two years steadfastly ignoring the expressed will of his constituents at the 2016 referendum. This is a local election, for local people (with apologies to the 'League of Gentlemen'). "We'll have no Brexit here"! How you vote will make no difference to the Brexit situation whatsoever. It will make a profound difference to how much you pay in council tax, the quality of your local services such as bin collections, support for market towns, and how much money is available to support your local sports centre, bowls club, brass band, or other community group.
The choice is a stark one: there is currently no Labour representation on North Norfolk District Council, so it is vanishingly improbable that a vote for Labour will result in a Labour-controlled council. So it's a straightforward choice between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Let's look at the facts:
Between 2010 and 2017, the Conservative-controlled council managed public finances not just carefully, but well, running efficient local services whilst keeping council tax rises to an absolute minimum (just a single rise of £4.95 in seven years!) In addition, we provided £100,000 funding to each of our market towns to support local businesses and provide better facilities. Through the Big Society Fund, a small-grants scheme to enable local community groups and organisations to undertake small, but important projects, Stalham Bowls' Club gained a new clubhouse, and Stalham Brass Band benefited too. In total, nearly £26,000 of grants were given to organisations in Stalham, Sutton, and Catfield. The council also created significant reserves, enabling larger capital expenditure projects across the whole district, including a new leisure centre and skate park. All this, at a time when other councils (such as Northampton) were facing bankruptcy.
Last November, all that changed. The Liberal Democrats seized control of the council. They have already imposed a huge council tax rise upon all of us; announced a £2m budget deficit (where none existed before); and presided over the sand-martin fiasco at Bacton. "The nets will be gone within 24 hours", tweeted council Leader, Sarah Bütikofer. 24 hours later, the nets would be gone by the weekend. At the weekend, they would be gone by the middle of next week. A whole series of broken promises, and a monumental PR disaster which has caused immeasurable harm to North Norfolk as a holiday destination and area largely dependent on tourism. A hard-working council staff forced to respond to over half a million tweets and complaints.
If the Liberal Democrats can deliver such catastrophic incompetence and failure in just four months, imagine the harm they could cause if we elect them for the next four years!
So: if you're annoyed about Brexit (and you have every right to be), why not write to Norman Lamb and ask why he's ignoring you? And then consider seriously who you should vote for in the local elections.
I am completely new to local politics. I got involved because I believe in volunteering and doing my bit to help my local community. If elected, I will be working for my residents first, and my party second. If elected, what I think about issues will come second to what you think about them. I am a Conservative by history, upbringing, and nature - but that doesn't mean I agree with everything the Conservatives stand for. It does mean it is a natural 'spiritual home' for me to be and, that through doing good work on behalf of the people of Stalham, Sutton, and Catfield, I'll hopefully be able to do my bit to restore faith in what Conservatism is all about, at a time when our national politicians are letting all of us down.