People in Ledbury are reeling at the terrible news that drinks manufacturer, UBL-Heinekin is all but pulling its manufacturing production out of our town. In relation to our modest ten thousand population, this loss of a few hundred jobs, direct and indirect, will have a huge impact on the wider local economy.
Like the nation, ours is a town of two halves, some people are prospering, having ample disposable income, but there are plenty of others who are struggling to keep afloat. A true sign of the times, we maintain a thriving foodbank in well-healed Ledbury.
The trouble is that the policy-makers in Herefordshire Council and at the Marches Local Economic Partnership seem to think that we can perfectly well fend for ourselves. Support for economic development? There’s not a sniff of it. Few people here are holding their breath that there will be any concern, much less practical action in response to the UBL closure.
Everything in the Marches LEP (who are completely unelected and largely unaccountable of course) is focused on the big towns, Shrewsbury, Telford and Hereford. They are fixated with some imaginary north-south economic artery along which all good things flow. Woe betide however if you live points East or West. Reading through Marches LEP's economic growth strategy, it’s as if places like Ledbury and the other market towns simply don’t exist.
God knows, Herefordshire Council does pretty well out of the ratepayers and small businesses of our town. We’re even now facing evening parking charges, which is a pitiful move that will inflict further economic damage on the town centre, yet bring the council very little return in revenue. Ledbury is nothing but a cash cow for Herefordshire Council.
The point is, when is Herefordshire Council going to start thinking about Ledbury’s interests? When is there going to be any consideration of attracting inward investment to our town in pursuit of sustainable jobs? When are our people going to get a fair deal from our Council?
Politicians and policy-people listen up: the people of this town are simmering with discontent. We’re not a community to trifle with. Please take off the blinkers right now and let’s start seeing some good things coming our way. Just remember, in May 2015 we will be turning out for an election and deciding how things are going to be in future.