Leader of TW Lib Dems calls for second referendum

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?"

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Caulfield and Conservatives turn their backs on child refugees

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 and Tim Farron MP at Refugees Welcome March in 2016

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.”

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STATEMENT FROM CLLR HAZEL WATSON ON TEXT MESSAGES FROM CLLR DAVID HODGE AT PMQs TODAY

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?"

 

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Tory scrap 15% tax rise after thousands sign Lib Dem petition

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:

https://surreylibdems.org.uk/en/volunteer

and if you want to show your support by joining the party, you can do so here:

https://libdems.secure.force.com/LiberalDemocrats/NewMemberRegistration

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West Kent bans operations till April - Norman Lamb reacts

Norman Lamb, the former Liberal Democrat Health minister, has responded after West Kent banned all non-urgent operations until April.

“Patients who are in severe pain should not have to wait for a new financial year to have an operation. This is not what our NHS is about. What we need instead is a new financial plan from the government to deliver the funding the health service needs.

“This is the longest ban in NHS history on patients undergoing surgery to relieve pain.

“There is a major crisis in funding. This is why I led a cross-party delegation to see Mrs May this week to try to get a cross-party process under way. The NHS is too important to use as a political football."

“The Liberal Democrats will be straight with the British public. We should consider raising taxes to give the public the NHS and care services they are right to expect.”

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Lib Dems Launch Petition Against 15% Tory Council Tax Increase

Liberal Democrat County Councillors have condemned the Conservative-run County Council's proposal to increase the County Council element of the Council Tax by 15% - nine times the rate of inflation - and have launched a petition opposing the increase and calling on the government to properly fund social care as a national service.

The petition has already been signed by hundreds of Surrey residents every day since its launch as the public outcry against this Council Tax increase has grown. If you have not already done so we would like to invite you to sign the petition at: https://signme.org.uk/1304

Signing the petition will send a message to the Conservative administration at County Hall and the central government that this Council Tax rise is unfair, unaffordable and not the way in which to address a national crisis in the funding of adult social care.

Once you have signed the petition, please tell your family and friends about it and ask them to sign too.

If the rise is approved at Cabinet and then Council in the next couple of weeks, this unprecedented increase would trigger a county-wide referendum on the proposals, with voters going to the polls on the same day as the county council elections on 4 May.

A yes vote will then add a 15% increase a year to bills for Band D properties and will still result in millions of pounds worth of cuts to essential services.

A no vote will result in even more damaging cuts which is why Liberal Democrats have consistently called for a more appropriate level of funding from central government to the County Council to help avoid large cuts to vital services for Surrey residents.

The Liberal Democrats have opposed and will continue to oppose this huge increase in Council Tax as it is unaffordable for many Surrey residents and as it would hit the elderly and those on fixed-incomes hardest. We believe that it is quite wrong for the Tories to try and shift this funding problem onto Surrey residents with the result that many families who are "just about managing" at the moment will "not be able to manage" in the future.

The Liberal Democrats have also opposed this huge increase as it will still mean substantial increases in charges and cuts to services: the recent increase in social care charges, the cuts to grants awarded to voluntary organisations, and introduction of charges for disposing of household waste at the tips will not be reversed and the decision to close the County's Alzheimer's Centres will be implemented.

Furthermore, we believe that it is astonishing that the Conservative-administration thinks that Surrey residents should carry the can for their own financial failings and the government's failure to properly fund services. The crisis in the funding of adult social care which is behind this increase needs a long-term solution from national government not a temporary sticking plaster, which is what a large Council Tax rise would offer.

The Conservatives that run both the County Council and the Government have clearly failed Surrey residents. A national solution is required for the funding of social care to meet the growth in demand and despite the Leader of Surrey County Council holding a prominent position in the Local Government Association and Surrey being represented in the Cabinet through three Cabinet Ministers, including the Chancellor and Health Secretary, the Conservative Party has failed to deliver an acceptable national solution for the funding of social care.

 

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Dinner with Norman Lamb - Woking - Wednesday 8 February

In the current climate, with Surrey County Council Tories calling a Referendum for a 15% Council Tax increase to fund social care I am writing to remind Lib Dems across Surrey of the opportunity for an evening with Norman Lamb. Woking is is bringing Norman to Surrey for a Dinner on Wednesday 8 February. I'm sure you'll agree this is a great opportunity to see and question our Health spokesperson and former Care Minister Norman Lamb MP.

Norman recently set up the cross-party NHS and Care Convention to find a long-term solution to the crisis in health and social care funding. Previously he brought mental health to the forefront and is recognised as a tireless campaigner on this vital issue.

Norman is joining Woking, and other Surrey Liberal Democrats on Wednesday 8 February for what is sure to be a stimulating and interesting talk and discussion.

Tickets are £34.50 for an excellent 3-course dinner at Sutton Green Golf Club, situated just off the main road between Woking and Guildford.

If you would like tickets for the event please download and return the booking form.

If you have any questions or would like more information then feel free to email Anne Marie at; annmarie.barker@googlemail.com or give her a call on; 07885 231878.

 

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Lewes Lib Dems vow to keep Britain in Single Market

Following Prime Minister Theresa May's announcement she would push for Britain to leave the Single Market of the European Union, Lewes Lib Dems have announced their commitment to keeping Britain in.

Theresa May set out twelve objectives for her negotiations with the European Union, including controlling the UK's borders and leaving the Single Market. The Prime Minister argued for the 'greatest possible' access to the free market, but did not provide details or timelines. 

Kelly-Marie Blundell, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Lewes, slammed the Government's position;

“The Single Market provides security for our export and import trade in the UK, without this we will see tariffs imposed on businesses who simply cannot afford it.

“Businesses in Lewes and surrounding towns and villages rely on trade with the EU and Theresa May and the Conservatives are potentially signing a death warrant on their future.

“The Office of National Statistics shows 43% of UK exports go to the EU. The impact on our trade will be tremendous if we do not fight to stay in the Single Market.

“The people did not vote to leave the Single Market. Indeed the people of Lewes did not vote to leave the European Union at all.

“We must demand the Government responds to thousands of people who want to stay in the Single Market, and see a vote for the people on the final details of the Brexit negotiations.”

Lewes Liberal Democrats are running a petition to stay in the Single Market which can be signed here

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Lib Dems Gain Seat from Conservatives in Kent By-election

Liberal Democrat candidate Antony Hook became the first Liberal Democrat Councillor on Faversham Town Council today after seizing the Abbey Ward seat from the Conservatives who slumped to third place.

Antony Hook said:

"I am very, very honoured to be elected as a Town Councillor in Faversham: the first Liberal Democrat member of the council.

"I am excited for the opportunity to help the town I live in, and really grateful for all the people who supported my campaign."

Abbey Ward, Faversham Town Council by-election Result in full (change on 2015)

  • Antony Hook, Lib Dem: 300, 29.5% (+29.5)
  • Labour 226, 22.2% (-6.8)
  • Conservative 210, 20.7% (-16.8%)
  • UKIP 121, 11.9% (+11.9)
  • Ind 102, 10.0% (-12.8)
  • Green 57, 5.6% (-5.0)

No spoilt ballots. Turnout 24.95%. Lib Dem Gain from Conservative.

 

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Winter Health Crisis

Winter Health Crisis: The Tip Of The Iceberg For Maidstone Residents. One in three West Kent GPs and nurses set to retire by 2020.

The long-anticipated, and much-feared, winter crisis in our health service has dominated the headlines recently. A&E departments in Kent and across the country have been overwhelmed, with severe waiting times for patients and dangerous bed shortages.

Locally, this is the tip of the iceberg. For many residents in Maidstone, problems at A&E are compounded by insufficient provision of primary care, the health care provided for people in the community by GPs.

I attended a recent meeting of the West Kent Health and Wellbeing Board, where they discussed NHS, social care and public health provision where we live; and two things stuck out to me. The first is the health inequality that already exists in Maidstone, of which too many of us are unaware; the second is the severe shortage of GPs in West Kent.

Increasing demand for primary care in our borough has been an agonising and growing problem affecting residents for years now. Many people in town centre and rural practices have relayed to me that they are unable to get appointments when needed, and for people moving homes, joining a local practice has been difficult or impossible.

A local GP told me that the number of vacancies for GPs in West Kent is rising, but young doctors are not joining the profession - they’re training locally, but not staying here. Even more worrying is that a third of all current GPs and nurses will be retired by 2020. So Mrs May’s latest demand that GP surgeries should be open for longer hours is frankly ridiculous.

With too few GPs to satisfy the demand in Maidstone, many residents are missing out on a continuity of care which is concerning. It is concerning for those people who need it most: people suffering from long-term mental health problems or those with a complicated medical history.

This is a situation which has been brushed under the carpet for too long. It needs immediate actions, joined-up thinking, and planning for the long-term. If this is a familiar picture in your community, please do get in touch - I’d like to hear your story.

 

Emily Fermor is the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Maidstone & The Weald

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