It’s hard to know where to begin after reading the deeply objectionable remarks about Trumpington made by newly-elected LibDem county councillor Barbara Ashwood, reported in today’s Cambridge News. They reveal a set of attitudes towards the people she is supposed to represent that I find deeply depressing and worrying and that run completely counter to my views. They also seem to be based on hearsay and prejudice, with no supporting evidence.
I am sorry that Trumpington residents find that they have replaced the absent former LibDem Donald Adey with someone who seems to have no real understanding of the issues facing us and seeks to create social division by claiming – without any evidence – that newly arrived residents are responsible for problems in the ward.
I am also sorry that the real challenges that Trumpington faces as a result of rapid expansion will be overshadowed by this sort of ill-considered comment. We do have problems, because the ward has grown massively and this places a great strain on transport and other services. We have issues because we have less to spend after years of Tory and LibDem led cuts in public services as a result of the false narrative of austerity in public funding. And we have issues because many people are struggling, and some are failing, to keep their lives together.
As a local councillor I am doing what I can to help. But creating divisions within the community by talking about ‘problem families’ and ‘dumping grounds’ and worrying about primary school pupils who come from ‘social/affordable housing’ and ‘have English not as their first language’, while contrasting the ‘houses that sell for over £1m’ is not the way to do this. It is an attempt to split our community, to reduce support for those who need it, and to divert us from the real struggle to improve the quality of public service for everyone. It also carries with it hints of the sort of narrative that would not be out of place coming from parties on the extremes of British politics.
When Cllr Ashwood was elected I said to her, as to all other councillors representing Trumpington, that I would be pleased to work together to help all our residents and to ensure that Trumpington thrived, and I meant it. But if her statements today are representative of the approach taken by the LibDems then I fear we will find it very hard to do so. I hope she will have the good grace to apologise for her remarks and to come and talk to me about the issues in Trumpington that I have become aware of in my time as councillor, instead of repeating rumour and causing division.