The council meeting had lasted more than two hours and Ellie was losing the will to live.
She was convinced that half the councillors only attended to nod off on the backbenches, completely out of touch with what was happening on the streets. She was sure a couple had even begun snoring at one point.
One councillor, newly elected, had made an interesting case about poverty in the local area. The former football training ground, which had originally been earmarked for development into a community hub, had been sold on and planning permission for yet more ‘trendy’ commuter style apartments had been approved.
With more and more families struggling to cope with the economic downturn, bus companies were pulling the services into the rural market towns and villages and so finding accessible work was becoming almost impossible.
The market town had a decent high street and a twice-weekly market. Handsomely stocked by surrounding farms, crafters and entrepreneurs selling everything from name-brand bleach to kids wellies and bedding plants. Sainsburys, a freezer shop, the inevitable Costa Coffee, and tourist appeasing fish and chip shops kept the town afloat.
Antiques, handmade crafts, clothes, books, charity shops, and a generations-old toy emporium made up the rest of the high street. Summer brought the tourists to the castle ruins and river, but winters were hard on everybody. Ellie listened as the councillor spoke at length about a family facing eviction.
“This could be any one of us. This lady is a single parent. She works a 12 hour day, 6 days a week. She doesn’t earn enough to run a car and so without the bus links she’ll lose her job. She’s a lad at university and a daughter at the high school, they both work part-time around studying because they know the pressure she’s under.
“She’s behind with the rent because she’s having to pay for taxis to and from work. She’s on gas and electricity meters and paying the highest tariff.
“She is just one of literally hundreds of local residents crying out for help. We need to acknowledge the fact that this isn’t a sleepy market village anymore and help to provide better opportunities for our residents and the kids coming out of the high school”
Ellie wanted to stand up and applaud. She was right. The paper was constantly receiving calls from local residents complaining about the lack of jobs, how crap the transport links were, and the fact there’s nowhere for the teens to go.
The Mayor offered her sympathies and said there were no quick fixes, again, a tired phrase peddled by the council since Ellie left uni more than ten years ago.
She was one of the few who came back instead of chasing the dream of a weekly column on a red top in London. As she listened to the lukewarm promises to take a closer look at a potential community hub and links with employment agencies, Ellie wondered if she’d made the right decision after all?