Trust is in Short Supply in Politics These Days

Nationally, Boris Johnson and his Government have been elected to ‘Get Brexit done’. Will they? Possibly. Will they deliver on all of the promises made, while maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom? I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Locally, Tunbridge Wells residents are angry that £10.8m of their money has been spent over the past few years on Calverley Square, a project which never saw the light of day. They have questions about how this could happen, and they are entitled to answers.

To prevent similar mistakes from happening again, an independent audit of the project should be carried out. However Conservative-run Tunbridge Wells Council intend for Conservative-run Mid-Kent services to carry the audit out. The Liberal Democrats have a number of problems with this.

Firstly, our local leadership were determined to plough on, spending millions of taxpayers’ money on a project they knew was unpopular. This suggests systemic problems in consultation and decision making, which needs proper investigation by a truly independent body.

The Conservative-run council will only admit to costs of £10.8m. We believe there are millions missing from this figure. Therefore to know the true cost, the audit must be conducted by a competent body wholly independent of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. Residents - who are paying for this failed project - deserve to know the real cost to the tax payer.

More widely, we must increase the transparency around decision-making. Our council must treat members of the public who elect us as equals who can guide our decisions, rather than passive customers. A truly independent inquiry can help us learn lessons and avoid making similar mistakes in future.

Likewise, the recent defection of Councillor Christian Atwood from the Tunbridge Wells Alliance (TWA) to the Conservatives does little to foster the faith voters place in us. TWA was set up specifically to challenge the Conservatives’ Calverley Square project, and he was voted in by residents of Park ward with the project at the forefront of their minds – after all, Calverley Grounds, the intended site of the new complex, sits within Park ward. For him to move camp so soon after his election will feel like a betrayal to the hundreds of people who voted for him last May. And worth bearing in mind that he is joining a Conservative council group who are trying to get away with marking their own homework.

To end with a quote from Walter Anderson: “Trust is like a vase; once it’s broken, though you can fix it, the vase will never be same again”.

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