The first hustings of the campaign have taken place at the South Hill Centre and Kings Langley.
What we've seen is very much a clash between two contesting philosophies about what kind of town we want to be. Labour's Tony Breslin offers passion and commitment about how we go about building something better. Mike Penning, who will have been MP for a decade by the time we get to the polls next month, said that replacing the Pavilion was “a fantasy” and didn't mention David Cameron or George Osborne or any of the uncosted promises on tax and housing that the Conservatives had published in their election manifesto.
In fact, you would be forgiven for thinking he was the challenger rather than the incumbent given his low key approach and the way he raised the problems the town still had to overcome including his admission that there was too many low paid jobs in Maylands and that he had still not delivered the services to the hospital he pledged in 2005 and 2010. Surely this can’t be Labour’s fault.
But Penning isn't the challenger. He is a member of the Government which, as recently as December warned us we would have to find £30 billion worth of cuts in the next Parliament and reduce public spending to levels not seen since the 1930s.
Tony, and the Labour team for Dacorum Borough Council, has a clear plan for Hemel and its villages. Much like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz we’re looking for a heart which seems to have got lost along the way. As Tony argued last night – we don’t want to promise the earth and deliver nothing; instead we will carefully lay the foundations to build a town that is ready and able to grasp the opportunities the future will bring. Labour will put the heart back into Hemel. We will:
- reopen the Pavilion
- review all Dacorum major plans, including LA3, within six months
- reduce planned 100% rent rises on community shops
- rejuvenate the hospital
- reverse the planned closure of children and Sure Start centres
- Guarantee apprenticeships at Maylands and provide more help micro business.
The Tories have been in power in the council for a generation and in Westminster for a decade and what have we really got to show for it? Broken promises on the Pavilion, the hospital and on town regeneration. And what's the big idea now? Watered down improvements in the Water Gardens and a £16 million new civic centre with plush new offices for councillors on the space where, twelve years ago, council leader Andrew Williams promised a new Pavilion.
What the Tories have done has never been joined up or properly followed through. A bit here and a bit there. Labour will bring confidence and a sense of purpose to our town. We will link in the economic powerhouse in the Maylands with the University of Hertfordshire along our amazing clever talented people and .
But there is another way and we get to choose on May 7th.