Fridges, fairs and fewer walls

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Local fairs can lift a community – but there’s no hiding from the anxious mood that grips the Vale’s residents, says North Dorset Lib Dems’ Mike Chapman

Mike Chapman Lib Dems
Mike Chapman Lib Dems

At the peak of COVID, we recognised the difficulties families were facing – we saw the successful roll-out of community fridges in Poole. There was nothing similar operating at the time in North Dorset, so we decided to pave the way and set one up in Sturminster Newton. Community fridges have the double benefit of reducing food waste and stretching household budgets. Other schemes have since developed including fridges in Shaftesbury and Blandford and, of course, The Vale Pantry in Sturminster Newton.
Two years on, we have decided to hand our community fridge over to The Emporium team who I am sure will be able to stock it more effectively from more local sources. The very best of luck to them with this and all their other initiatives.
On another positive note, no-one does a Fair quite like Dorset, do they? In quick succession we have the Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show, The Oak Fair, The Great Dorset Steam Fair and the Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival. It always makes me smile that the Cheese Festival was borne out of a collective fury at the closure of the town’s creamery and cheese factory. This was a very Dorset response: an attachment to all things rural, coupled with a blend of stubbornness and entrepreneurial flair.

An anxious mood
We found the G&S Show especially good. It gave us the opportunity to ask people about their priorities and to listen to a wide range of thoughts and perspectives. Although the Show with all its attractions served to lift most people’s mood, there was no hiding from the underlying anxiety about life and the world at large.
And now have the winter of our discontent. We face a nasty enemy, multiple threats to our standard of living, a poor economic outlook and strikes and go-slows every which way you look. We ought to be pulling together but we are a million miles from that. Boris’s legacy will be dominated by that failure. Despite his ‘levelling up’ vocabulary, he has undoubtedly increased the polarisation of the nation. Blue wall, red wall, whatever colour wall; please can we just have fewer walls?
Please would the new PM also address another noticeable polarisation – that between customer satisfaction and shareholder satisfaction. Across rail, energy, water, communications, the media and even the ports, a proper balance seems to be out of reach. Is this because the public as customers have so few real choices? Or is it due to a failure to regulate profits effectively?
We need to find answers and properly invest in solutions before the roving eye of capitalism settles on the NHS and begins to espouse more and more salami-slicing of its routine, less complex activity, engendering counter-productive competition that distracts doctors, nurses, technicians, support staff and managers alike from their real purpose.

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