This May’s elections really matter. Across the whole of the UK polling stations will be open on May 6 for our own ‘Super Thursday’ as directly elected mayors, councillors, London Assembly members, the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Senedd, Northern Ireland Assembly and police and crime commissioners are all up for election.
The people of Hartlepool will also be choosing a new MP to represent them in Westminster.
The pandemic has shone a light on the importance of good local government. That is why Unite believes it is vital that you have your say on May 6 on just who is in charge – because these elections will be an enormous test of public opinion and will shape the way our local authorities are run for the next few years.
When Covid-19 spread its toxic virus across the globe, hitting cities, towns, and rural areas, it changed our lives and created a fear few of us have never known. A year later and nearly 130,000 of our fellow citizens have lost their lives, while countless others are suffering from the disease’s debilitating long-term effects.
There can be little doubt that mismanagement by the Conservative government has left us with one of the highest death tolls in the world, and the worst economic hit in Europe.
After a decade of austerity, year on year cuts to the NHS, and a reorganisation of our health service that left it fragmented and struggling, we went into this crisis with severely weakened public services.
Covid -19 has exposed in stark terms those weaknesses, and the shocking inequalities that exist throughout our society. The data has been brutally clear. Workers in lower-paid jobs, people from ethnic minority backgrounds and people living in poorer areas have been the worst hit by the pandemic.
We’ve also seen at first hand the catastrophic mismanagement of ‘test and trace’, despite the billions of pounds that the government has thrown at it. Yet, experience shows that when local authorities and representatives, who know their streets and neighbourhoods well, are able to take control, it works.
The reality is that Labour councils have led the way throughout the last 12 months – using their budgets to protect economic security and the welfare of communities including, with Unite’s support, using their powers to provide food security.
Years of austerity and the accompanying increase in precarious, insecure work has so shamefully seen the need for foodbanks skyrocket. It’s grown to an unprecedented demand during the pandemic, which is why Unite supports the campaign to enshrine the Right to Food in law, which would also force the government to scrap its cruel five week wait before a claimant receives a single penny of Universal Credit.
Unite believes a vote for Labour on May 6 is a vote to enable local authorities to continue to invest our money wisely and locally – on jobs, in our young people and in our communities. It’s a vote for equality, to support our vulnerable and for greener, stronger communities. It’s a vote to protect and support our incredible NHS and to build decent and affordable homes.
Opinion polling has shown that these are the things people want and society needs if we are to truly build back better out of this pandemic.
Now, with the vaccine programme roll-out, there is real hope that we will be able to start to go about life safely again. But unless that means returning to a more equal society, the hope that millions of people have for the future will soon be dashed.
National issues have local consequences and rebuilding always starts locally. That’s why your vote is so important. Your council will make sure polling stations are Covid-secure, but you can make sure you’re even safer by applying by April 20 for a postal vote.
Whatever you do, don’t lose your voice. Register to vote and make sure you use it to have your say on May 6.
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By Amy Jackson, Unite political department director