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FRANK SOBEY: PM's cash pledge raised an eyebrow

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 21, 2014

WE'LL FIND THE CASH: David Cameron, centre, at Dawlish last week

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AS I write this little column the rain is lashing against my study window and I can hear the sound of huge waves battering the coast. All this sends a shiver down my spine and I glance at the paper on climate change I have just finished reading.

Of course, by the time you read this it is likely the sun will be high in the sky and those pesky winter storms will have slipped from the daily news headlines.

It all seems so fragile, but then this life of ours really is a risky business. It is all too easy to take things for granted until something pops up which suddenly makes your stomach drop to the floor.

For many, sadly, that stomach dropping emotion is a daily experience. You may well be one of those or perhaps you are someone skipping on the edge of anxiety in these troublesome times.

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This stormy weather is a physical manifestation perhaps of the monetary maelstrom which has battered us all since 2007.

Like the relentless giant waves which washed away the main railway line to the south west at Dawlish, for many the draconian financial cuts have ripped away the support mechanism which kept their heads above water.

Recently Torbay Council set a budget which has sent many people spinning and we are told more savings still have to be made.

It did therefore make me raise an eyebrow when our prime minister said money was no object when dealing with the floods. How can that be the case?

If it is true money will always be found when needed, then how do you explain this to some of the most vulnerable members of our own community who will be hammered by the budget that has been set by our local councils?

For many people financial hardship is perhaps an abstract because little has changed in their world, but that is not a reason for looking the other way.

Simply saying 'it has nothing to do with me' or 'it's not my problem' is dangerous.

It would be hard to argue the gap between those who have and those who have not is hardly noticeable. It's getting wider by the day.

I've quoted poet David Neita before and I make no excuse for doing so again.

He says: "Mind the Gap between the rich and the poor. If nothing is done it will extend even more.

"The rich live on Excess Island in the middle of Deprived Sea. When the wealth of the world is enough to satisfy everybody. If wealth is distributed, then wealth will increase. If there is no social justice there can be no peace."

I don't know whether you use Facebook and follow people like Torbay councillor Alison Hernandez, but if you do you will appreciate her words after this budget was voted in.

Alison said: "So exhausted and drained today. After months of late nights, research, meetings, reading, speaking with people, negotiating in group. We finally agreed to the Mayor's budget last night.

"No winners in any of it, but it has forced a better understanding by all councillors about the challenges many of our community face.

"I am willing to help any organisation affected and will be getting even more hands on over the next few months. We still have another £3.8million to find by September. Not easy being a councillor and I think my family deserve some attention now."

We live in a time, it seems to me, which tends to make us seek people to blame when the going gets tough.

Local councillors seek election for all sorts of reasons, but one thing is clear and that is the nature of our community democratic process requires folk to stand up and represent the people.

There is a cost for them and that point is made clearly by Alison when she says 'I think my family deserve some attention now'.

How about asking your local councillor what you can do to help?

One thing we can all do is read where the budget cuts have hit voluntary groups supporting the members of our community at risk.

Perhaps we can all ask whether there is anything that we can do to soften the blow or fill the gap.

It's a hard one but it seems to me we really must make the effort to make our community inclusive. This is not a time for shrugging shoulders and looking the other way. The truth is we really are all in this together though perhaps not in the way our political leaders suggest.

Keep the smile.

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