It’s not a question of what to do about Brexit - more what is being done about all the other things that impact Norfolk and Suffolk?
PUBLISHED: 16:15 08 January 2019
This isn’t a column about Brexit, the rights and wrongs, ins and out and more.
Now hopefully that’s got you hooked in.
In all honesty I feel no more qualified to talk to you about the positives and negatives of remaining or leaving than the next person.
Of course I have my own private views on the matter, but for now at least they will remain just that. My own.
More to the point, I’m sure you’ve had enough of this subject elsewhere in this newspaper, on its website or through other media outlets.
What I want to write about is a growing concern over what has not been achieved because the dreaded B-word has dominated the head space of our politicians for such a long time.
And, with my parochial hat always on, what effect this has had on Norfolk and Suffolk.
Even the most determined of politician would struggle to convince me that such dominance on this issue has not had an impact on the many other challenges politicians are tasked with tackling.
Financially, it’s distressing to think what else could have been achieved with the many millions spent so far, especially during this period when cash is increasingly harder to come by.
But what is more concerning is the loss of focus on some real key issues that must have occurred while instead MPs and civil servants got their heads around such complex stuff.
This is where I fear the impact filters down to the local level.
Lots of key local projects only happen because an MP from that area has managed to gain the ear of either an influential colleague or the right civil servant.
I always remember when Norfolk received the final chunk of A11 cash and the groan from the cabinet told you straight away our MPs had managed to fill their heads with how important a scheme this was.
But how is that going to be possible when so much of their headspace must be filled up with the latest Brexit developments?
Are we now so caught up in the issue, the country is effectively in paralysis as it waits for normal service to resume? Or even to find out what normal service is actually going to entail.
In Norfolk and Suffolk there are a stack of issues that are shaped by central government.
For instance, I worry that we’re seeing a worrying trend of poorly run care homes in this region and several have recently been identified as failing to meet acceptable standards.
I’m sure part of this is because the care sector in general is being stretched to the limit in Norfolk and Suffolk as it tries to cope with a growing elderly population and decide the best way to look after them in the future.
Yet a government care strategy to outline what we should do, in itself a subject as complex as Brexit, has been repeatedly delayed and put on the back-burner.
A few other issues that need attention from Whitehall include our out-of-date road network, now proven to be costing this county jobs and investment, our failing health services (though at least we did have a 10-year plan for this revealed this week), the growing problem of homelessness and poverty and the future shape of local government.
No doubt there are many more I examples I could have given.
But are we likely to see much progress in these areas during the first six months of the year? I fear not.
I can’t help but think it strengthens the case for more power to be devolved to a local level – just as they have done in other parts of the country. That way local communities don’t have to stand still while awaiting national strategy and guidance.
The irony here being that we passed up the opportunity last time around, so to make that happen again would involve getting the attention of those very same people I fear are too focused on the ‘bigger picture’.
So we find ourselves right back to square one again.
No matter what way this government goes in the next few weeks, it simply needs to go somewhere so we can get back to concentrating on those issues in life that may not be Brexit – but are vital to so many people.
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