Responding to an National Audit Office (NAO) report on the Road Investment Strategy that shows the Tory Government’s road building plan is facing an extra £500 million in costs, including the vital A21 hospital link from Tonbridge to Pembury which shows an increase in the latest forecast of almost 74%.
Alan Bullion, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesman for Sevenoaks and Swanley said:
“The Conservative government has built just 5% of the roads they have announced, often to much fanfare. The Department of Transport should just call themselves a microwave because of the amount of times they seem to reheat things. The NAO report is damning. It is the civil servant version of a justified character assassination. This whole scheme is late and over-budget. The Tory government are an utter shambles.”
Why I left Labour and joined the Liberal Democrats
As many of you will know last year I was the Labour candidate in the Rainham Central by-election and had been a Labour Party member for some time. But times change as do sentiments and I never did feel quite like I belonged there.
For the majority of my life the Labour Party has been the alternative to Conservative governments, and it has imploded time and again after every failed election. In short it has been a disappointment, none more so than in recent years.
The continuous lurches to the hard left do nothing but undermine its authority and this as history tells us means overcompensation, when Corbyn finally falls, to the authoritarian right leaving nothing but damaged credibility and the hopes of many in its path.
Being a history geek, I can wilfully compare this to the Liberal supremacy of the 19th Century, governments that kept the Conservatives out of power and reformed the UK for the better.
The Labour Party like the Tories is a throwback to the industrial revolution and empire and has now passed its sell by date, completely out of touch with the very people it claims to represent. Split indefinitely between Socialists and Trade Unionists, Blairites and Corbybnites. Anyway you cut it; it adds up to the same and fewer and fewer people identify with either side.
These feelings towards my former party have been harbouring for a long time but what finally dawned on me during the fallout of the EU referendum was just how damaging to the progressive cause Labour has become.
The Great British public value highly, competence and coherence in their political parties and leaders, and have shown that in spite of being a mostly liberal country, in the absence of these traits the country will vote Tory. So we end up with the same right wing governments the same right wing policies and the same right wing results. Labours refusal to back electoral reform and its rampant tribalism and inability to work with partners enables the Tories to operate as the UK's default setting.
The left needs to change and make sure that the scenario outlined above does not keep repeating.
Labour is now nothing but an echo chamber endlessly fighting over who controls what part and screaming in the wind where no one can hear. They have some talent and they are engaged but they lack courage, leaders and problem solvers. And with Corbyn at the helm they are undermining even those of us seeking a left liberal government in the UK.
The Labour party in fairness is a socialist party and has elected a socialist leader. The outcry this caused within its own party tells you that something has seriously gone wrong there; its MP's seriously revolting and holding no confidence votes against a leader it should on paper idealise.
So after all this ( I could write more) I left and joined the Liberal Democrats. There were many policies civil liberties and foreign policy among them that never sat well with me in my former party and the Liberal Democrats confidence and courage appealed to me, especially after the 2015 GE.
Now I understand that the Liberal Democrats have a fight on their hands, a monumentally massive task. But for mistakes made in a coalition government to sink the party that was home to the likes of Mill, Gladstone, Lloyd George, Beveridge and Keynes is in my opinion sacrilege. Young people are increasingly more Liberal and the traditional classes are not as entrenched as they have been and there is half a country that is angry and disillusioned over Brexit.
Ah Brexit, how could I forget? The Labour party has been Pro-European for a while now and the majority of its voters and members backed staying in the EU. Yet it finds itself in a position where through sheer cowardice it let this Tories government put through the Article 50 bill un-amended. This in my view makes them complicit in the biggest act of self-immolation this country has ever seen. For this they should be rightly ashamed.
The Liberal Democrats have been good to me in my short time here and I feel at home, it's a nice feeling. They care about local politics and they constantly ask for feedback, all things I value. I aim to make sure we continue being the real opposition and will keep enjoying Liberal Democrat wins throughout the country. I will wear my pin badge with pride and look forward to meeting you all to campaign and canvass and generally chat.
Cllr Hazel Watson
Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council, said:
"I am horrified that despite huge public opposition the Leader of the Council is talking about a referendum and a large council tax rise next year - he has clearly not listened to local residents.
The transcript of the Conservative Group meeting begs the question: what does the Leader of the Council have in writing? It suggests a deal between the Conservative administration at Surrey County Council with the government and that the Leader of the Council wants to keep it under wraps. This contradicts his previous statements denying that a deal had been done with the government.
These secrets do not do anyone any favours in local government. What is needed is a long term solution for the funding gap for adult social care and how we fund services across the country".
A picture of Cllr Watson can be found here:
An extract of the transcript from the BBC is here:
HODGE I want an assurance that people will not put what I am about to say on Facebook or Twitter anything.. SHOUTS Show of hands.. Chris..
Hodge …. So I was able to come in this morning and ask Helen Platt and Peter to join me in the office while a series of conversations took place with the Secretary of State for local government, in his car outside number 10 downing street, looking for assurances, looking for clarification, looking for help basically. On how we could stop a referendum. He then went inside and spoke to the Chancellor, I think I can say that. The Spad was Waiting - (Witten) the spad being his adviser - and then the spad rang me with what we can and cannot say. There are certain things we cannot say and yes there are certain risks but I'm going to be commending that we go for a 4.99 % council tax.
The issue for me has always been 18/19 and 19/20 when we lose learning disability. We have done a huge amount of work with officials and officers but the govt is very clear that they want to push forward the fairer funding review…
We have agreed this morning that subject to them agreeing that if it is possible we will become part of that process going forward. …
Some of my friends will say you have to have it in writing, but there are sometimes a leader has to make a judgement call. It is really important that you understand who was in the room at the time I made the judgement call. The Deputy Leader was, and Helen was and she has huge experience.. the chief executive was in on the phone listening for 2 hours, the deputy chief exec, We listened carefully to the information that was being relayed back to us and yes, on the one hand Tony is absolutely right we should get something in writing, but on the other hand I do have something in writing, that Helen knows I have in writing, Sir Paul Beresford knows I have in writing which gives me a certain amount of comfort.
But I'm not going to release that information for obvious reasons. There may come a time that what I call Gentleman's agreements, that the Conservative Party often does, are not honoured we will have re-visit this in 9 months or a years time. If we do - I will assure you will have to drag me dragging not to go for a referendum this time next year.
There are risks attached to what we are going to do I want toi make that clear but I have witnesses who have recorded everything that was said and we have a gentleman's agreement with the chancellor and the secretary of state that we will sort the funding out for the following year.
Up until 11 o clock yesterday morning we thought we would have a resolution for this year but it wasn't possible but we can get a referendum for next year. But after today please don't text or tell anyone what we've done or send anyone a note that we've got a solution.
(FEMALE QUESTIONER) People are going to ask "have we done a deal"
We are in a different situation , the government has listened to us. All I'm going to say is that we are now at a point where we can go forward. David Mack said "say as little as possible, say this, and sit down"
Local Liberal Democrats have held a day of campaigning in Lewes urging Maria Caulfield to oppose the Government’s hard Brexit plans and to vote to give EU nationals living in the UK the right to stay, enshrining it in legislation.
Forty local campaigners spoke to dozens of local residents about the importance of remaining in the Single Market for the local economy, running a street stall in Lewes town centre and collecting more than 700 signatures for the rights of EU Nationals to be protected.
The event was part of the Liberal Democrats' national day of campaigning on Europe with over 100 events taking place across the country.
Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, who has succeeded Norman Baker, Kelly-Marie Blundell commented:
“Many people in Lewes are telling us they are deeply concerned about this Government’s divisive hard Brexit plans and Labour's failure to oppose them.
“Lewes voted decisively to Remain in the referendum, and most people certainly did not vote for Theresa May’s reckless decision to leave the Single Market or insistence on using EU nationals as bargaining chips.
“Maria Caulfield should do the right thing and vote to secure the rights of the many EU citizens living here. This must be done in legislation, not vaccuous Government promises, to make sure people are protected who are currently in a state of flux.
“This weekend we sent a clear message that those who don’t support the direction our country is going in should join the Liberal Democrats, the real opposition to this Brexit Government."
Liberal Democrats in East Sussex overwhelmingly reject Grammar Schools, after East Sussex County Council moved to introduce the practice into the county and Theresa May, Prime Minister, announced cash for Grammar Schools in tomorrow's budget.
The Liberal Democrats, who are the official opposition to the Conservatives on East Sussex County Council, put forward an amendment to Conservative proposals to embrace selective education to declare it a damaging move that would hit educational attainment.
The amendment was defeated by Conservative and UKIP votes.
Far from helping social mobility, studies show Grammar Schools are far less likely to have students on free school meals or with special eduation needs. This indicates that selective education favours affluent children and not those from disadvantaged families. Further to this, the Educational Policy Institute demonstrates exam results are on a par with comprehensive schools, showing no significant educational improvement from the scheme.
Kelly-Marie Blundell, Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Lewes who attended Highworth Grammar School in Kent, condemned proposals by the Government and East Sussex County Council;
“Grammar Schools sound like a great idea in principle. Put the brightest together and help them achieve more. However, the figures do not add up.
“Exam results show no significant improvement compared to comprehensive schools. Children are no more likely to achieve high exam results than at a comprehensive.
“Sadly, as we see in Kent, the result of funding being channelled into Grammar Schools means that children at comprehensive schools suffer from less investment in their education.
“Grammar schools are selective and divisive and benefit a small majority of affluent pupils, rather than investing in our schools as a whole, helping the majority of children.”
Cllr Rosalyn St Pierre, Liberal Democrat, commented;
“Children who 'fail' selective exams can be affected for life. Testing a child one day in their life to set them up in a different education scheme is unfair and can have disasterous consequences.
“There are many cases of children from the same family attending as many as three different secondary schools.
What we need is investment in our current schools, not an ever diminishing budget, and investment in comprehensive education, not just in the few.”
On 18th October 2017, ESCC Full Council voted on a motion on selective education;
East Sussex County Council:
· Supports its school improvement strategy: Excellence for All, which has contributed to a significant improvement in school performance and outcomes for children and young people in East Sussex.
· Believes that existing local arrangements for ensuring the supply of good educational places in the county are robust and effective in ensuring that local communities have access to good educational provision.
· Would like to consider the government’s amended proposals further following the end of the consultation period in December.
Amendment submitted by Cllr Kathryn Field, Liberal Democrats;
(insert) [Based on this County’s success and the positive outcomes achieved for young people in the County this Council strongly opposes the reintroduction of selective education and believes it to be detrimental to the wellbeing of children and will not contribute to the raising of educational attainment]
A recorded vote on the amendment was requested and taken. The amendment was LOST
Research on Grammar Schools:
Education Policy Institute Report on Grammar Schools
Maria Caulfield MP, who represents Lewes Constituency, has turned her back on unaccompanied child refugees again, voting against a parliamentary motion to ensure the Government accepts 3,000 children seeking refuge instead of just 350.
The motion went to Parliament on Tuesday 7th March 2017, following outcry when Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, announced two weeks ago the scheme would only admit 350, not 3000 that had been campaigned for at the end of 2016.
Maria Caulfield was lobbied by constituents on the issue, and claimed on social media and her website to support the so-called Dubs amendment. However, in the vote in April 2016, Hansard records Maria Caulfield as voting against the proposals. She then voted for the proposals at the next reading. Today she has voted against, again, denying the vulnerable, unaccompanied children no support from the UK.
There are unprecedented numbers of people fleeing war-torn countries to settle in mainland Europe and the UK. In April 2016, Parliament supported proposals put forward by Lord Alf Dubbs, himself a refugee to England fleeing Germany during the Second World War. However, on Thursday 9th February Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, announced the scheme to home child refugees was coming to a close with just 350 children taken in by the UK.
Kelly-Marie Blundell, Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Lewes, who took part in the 10,000 strong Refugees Welcome march in 2016, commented;
“Maria Caulfield has continued to be insincere in her comments on child refugees, going as far as to block constituents on social media who have pointed out her change in voting on this matter.
“We are talking about vulnerable children. Children who just a year ago thought they may be able to seek refuge in the UK, whom the Government are now turning their backs on.
“Constituents have expressed to me their unhappiness with Maria Caulfield's response, and she has let her own constituents down with her vote today.”
“Who would vote to turn away children seeking sanctuary? It beggars belief.”
Maria Caulfield’s previous comments on child refugees:
BBC Report on Dubs Amendment vote on March 7th 2017: which states who the Conservative MPs who supported the amendment were, not including Maria Caulfield
Ben Chapelard, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, is calling for a second referendum on the final deal to leave the European Union.
"MPs should represent the people who elect them," states Councillor Chapelard.
"Last Wednesday Tunbridge Wells MP, Greg Clark, voted again to trigger article 50, giving the Prime Minister authority to start the process of the UK leaving the European Union. Amazingly, this is despite his own constituents, including himself, having voted to Remain by a clear majority!
"During the first reading of the bill the previous week, 105 MPs voted against triggering article 50 precisely because their constituencies, like Tunbridge Wells, voted to stay in the EU. So why did Mr Clark, unlike the 105, go against the very wishes of the people he claims to represent?
"The difference is that Mr Clark is a member of Mrs May’s government and his first loyalty is to her. No amount of spin or lofty words from Mr Clark will detract from the fact that he has abandoned his Remainer principles and forged ahead with a hard Brexit, all in the pursuit of his own ministerial career. This leaves us residents voiceless as the local MP puts his own party above his constituents.
"Members of Parliament should represent the people who elected them. Whilst I accept that MPs cannot consult on every decision, the referendum was a clear poll of local opinion. We voted to Remain! Mr Clark should respect the opinion of his constituents. For us Liberal Democrats, loyalty to our residents comes above party allegiance. Sadly, Mr Clark is a Westminster man in Tunbridge Wells and not a Tunbridge Wells man in Westminster.
"Meanwhile Mr Clark had done handsomely well out of Brexit. Having obediently wielded cuts to local government funding, including to our own Borough Council, his loyalty to the party was rewarded by the incoming Theresa May. The new Prime Minister duly promoted him to one of her top Cabinet jobs, Business Secretary. In contrast, many local people, whose livelihoods depend on being part of the Single Market, are now facing an uncertain future as employers begin moving jobs to the Continent.
"The government's subsequent desperation to keep major employers in the UK has been embarrassing. Look no further than the grubby sweetheart deal Mr Clark put together to prevent Nissan moving away. The decision to leave the EU has already started to undermine job security and we are still years away from leaving.
"Let’s be clear: the Liberal Democrats respect the result of the referendum. We are leaving the EU. Whether we like it or not, we have all got to get used to it. But what does Brexit look like in reality? No voter knew last June. That is why the Liberal Democrats want the British people to have the final say to avoid a stitch up by Westminster politicians which satisfies neither Leavers nor Remainers. On Wednesday Mr Clark also voted against this Lib Dem amendment to to give, you the final say on the terms of Brexit.
"Mr Clark, like many of his colleagues on the Conservative and Labour benches, hides behind the narrow referendum outcome as if it provided a mandate for the most extreme exit from the EU. It did not. Mr Clark likes to call himself "a democrat". So why not give the British people the right to vote on the final deal? What are you afraid of, Mr Clark?"
There are unprecendented numbers of people fleeing wartorn countries to settle in mainland Europe and the UK. In April 2016, Parliament supported proposals put forward by Lord Alf Dubbs, himself a refugee to England fleeing Germany during the Second World War. However, on Thursday 9th February Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, announced the scheme to home child refugees was coming to a close with just 350 children taken in by the UK.
The scheme, legislated on in April 2016, called for the UK to rehome 3,000 children, those left without families, or indeed with family members in Britain with whom they could reunite. Despite pressure from constituents in Lewes keen to see these children helped, Conservative MP Maria Caulfield has flipped and flopped over the proposal, first voting against the Amendment, then supporting the bill as amended.
Her own website adds to the confusion stating first;
“It is my opinion that those young people remaining in Syria should be our priority, and therefore I very much welcome this Governments approach. It is also why I chose not to support Lord Dubs amendment.
as she voted against at first, then voted for the bill as amended by the Dubs Amendment at the next reading, saying;
“I supported the Dubs amendments in Parliament so that refugees could be reunited with family members and I am currently working with local groups in Lewes to help support East Sussex County Council and Lewes District Council in taking in refugees locally”
Kelly-Marie Blundell, Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Lewes, who took part in the 10,000 strong Refugees Welcome march in 2016, commented;
“Maria Caulfield is being insincere in her comments on child refugees.
“Constituents would be right to question whether she is in fact looking at the interests of child refugees, or simply following the Conservative whip.
“Either way, with her tacit support for the closure of the scheme, it is the children seeking sanctuary who will suffer.
“Lewes District Council have expressed an interest in continuing to help house refugees. But the Conservative Council clearly do not have the support of the Conservative MP.
“Who would vote to turn away children seeking sanctuary? It beggars belief.”
Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat County Councillors in Surrey, said today:
"The text messages sent by the Leader of the Council, referred to in PMQs today, mention "numbers", "proposals" and "killing off the R [referendum]" - but none of this information was shared with Surrey County Councillors at our budget meeting yesterday.
"We need to know the precise details of what Surrey has been offered. The culture of secrecy that the Conservatives thrive upon at County Hall must end now. I am calling for the full release to county councillors of any deal agreed between the Leader of the Council and the government. We are facing £93m of cuts and a £30m black hole in the next financial year - it is the Leader of the Council's job to tell us where the money will come from to avoid these damaging cuts. Why can't he come clean with councillors and Surrey residents and tell us the facts?"
Thank you for signing the petition against Surrey County Council's proposed council tax increase of 15%. Many of you have contacted me to say that apart from the basic unfairness of the County Council passing on government cuts to residents, the 15% rise is simply not affordable for many elderly people and those on fixed incomes here in Surrey.
I am pleased to let you know that today, the county council held its annual budget meeting where the Conservatives - thanks to pressure from you and Liberal Democrat county councillors - scrapped their plans for the 15% rise, which means that the referendum will be cancelled.
However the Conservatives provided no detail as to any new funding from the government, which is urgently needed to stabilise the county's financial position. They went on to pass a budget which means £93 MILLION of unspecified cuts to Surrey services in 2017/18 plus an extra £30 MILLION of cuts that the council have not identified yet. This means that a total of £123 MILLION of cuts to services are on their way in Surrey.
Liberal Democrats in Surrey believe that only a fairer funding arrangement with central government can solve the county's financial problem, and protect vital adult social care services. It is clear to me that the Conservatives have mismanaged our finances and cannot be trusted to deliver good public services and a balanced budget.
Elections to the county council will be held in Surrey on May 4th and this is an opportunity for residents to make themselves heard about the way in which the Conservatives have mismanaged the county's finances.
Remember the Conservatives wanted to raise council tax by 15% until Liberal Democrats and Surrey residents forced them to back down.
If you would like to volunteer to help the Liberal Democrats in Surrey, please follow this link:
and if you want to show your support by joining the party, you can do so here: