Over the past few weeks and months, a high volume of people in the Ribble Valley have offered me an apology.
They have said “sorry” for previously thinking UKIP was a “single issue” party, ceaselessly droning on about the nation’s need for total independence from the European Union. Having seen the error of their ways, quite a few have said “sorry” again – either for not voting for us in May’s local elections or, worse still, not voting at all.
Those people, like an ever increasing number throughout the country, have come to understand there is much more to our party than the European issue. Indeed, we have a radical local agenda committed to genuinely empowering our communities. This agenda includes the introduction of elections for county health, education and policing boards, the preservation of local pubs, the replacement of VAT with a local sales tax (a proportion of this going to local authorities) and the requirement of all borough and parish councillors – myself included – to prioritise local people and issues over party political dogma.
With the issue of new large-scale housing developments rightly showing no sign of going away, there is one other UKIP policy that could have led to a decisive outcome on the subject.
UKIP espouses a binding referendum on local issues, enabling the people – not the developers, councillors or anyone else – to have the casting vote on matters such as planning. Under the terms of this policy, a petition signed by just 5% of Ribble Valley residents would have triggered a referendum on whether or not to approve the proposed developments. A democratic process would have ensued, with all local residents able to cast their vote. Prior to the referendum, both the “yes” and “no” camps would have been able to present their arguments. Moreover, Ribble Valley Borough Council would have been required to properly outline its plans – and, by “properly”, I am not referring to a 95-page “core strategy consultation” document!
The local people would have ultimately had their say and had their wishes – one way or another – granted, with the result binding, therefore leaving the losing camp with no scope for appeal.
Many people reading this article will probably find themselves in apologetic mode once again, having previously been unaware of the existence of our policy of binding referenda. Of course, there will also be those – similarly hitherto oblivious to the same policy – who will be mightily relieved it has not been activated and that they are not facing an anxious wait for the outcome of a binding local referendum!
They will certainly not be sorry now...but they could have been!