Christmas can be a lonely time for many
Column by Coun Charmaine Morgan, Labour district councillor
As Christmas approaches, it should be an enjoyable time for everyone. The harsh reality is that for many people this will not be so. At our Rural Overview and Scrutiny Committee we recently discussed loneliness. A survey by the BBC, which looked at this issue worldwide, found loneliness cuts across our whole community and people of all ages are affected. Our district faces a significant increase in elderly residents over the next decade who are most likely to be lonely. Yet government funding cuts have hit many local facilities, clubs and services.
I started an interest in politics from an early age but became active after volunteering for Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels offered a daily visit and hot dinner, and even prepared cold tea for those needing it. Although most of our clients were on low income this was not always the case. A number realised the importance of knowing every day someone would be popping by to make sure they were ok. Meals on Wheels was one of the first services to be cut by Lincolnshire County Council. It was replaced by private companies delivering microwaveable meals. Meals that need to be heated, placed on a tray and carried to the person’s table or lap. These acts in themselves are challenging for some and the priceless smile and quick chat provided, every day of the year, including Christmas, has been replaced by the opening of a fridge door. The most basic provision of food is not the only area that those running our county have failed to fully consider. Another consequence of cuts has been a reduction in policing. This is resulting in an increase in crime in some of our neighbourhoods.
The Conservative administration are playing a blame game over the staggering rise in cost of the Grantham Relief Road from £36m to over £86m. But perhaps someone can explain why the work was started before Network Rail had agreed terms and conditions relating to the bridge over the railway in the first place. The Relief Road, now Grantham By-Pass, will bring negligible benefit as lorries will be replaced by thousands of cars with the resulting forced increase in the size of our town. There is a blunderbus attitude among some Conservatives that if we want it we will have it, regardless of the consequences. The same can be said of the Belvoir Hunt. A contact from those concerned about the hunt raises a number of questions over the legality of their actions and their management last year. It is now emerging that they failed to submit a request to Lincolnshire County Council Highways department to close town centre roads for Boxing Day. It is not clear that they have ever followed the correct protocol or procedure required for safety purposes. Had they done so then they would know it needs to be submitted well ahead. When we organised the Grantham Hospital protest I had a number of meetings with the police and Highways department regarding the best route, first aiders and wardens. All other event organisers including those involved in St George’s Day do likewise. In the meanwhile however there are people in our community who are unable to afford to buy the Journal. They are unable to buy presents and who will be unable to eat a Christmas meal or heat their home this winter. Low pay and callous benefit cuts have left too many of our neighbours in poverty, reliant on Foodbank and Grantham Passage donors and volunteers. As they sell off any valuables they have and face an even harsher New Year this brings into question if this is what some of us voted for.