Universal Credit Tory rebellion shows cuts must be reversed in Autumn Budget

Responding to the news Conservative backbenchers have called for a pause to the rollout of Universal Credit, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesman Stephen Lloyd MP said:

"There is a mounting sense that the government could be defeated if it does not immediately pause the roll-out of Universal Credit. 

"The roll-out has been an utter failure so far, with many claimants waiting over two months for their first payment and some relying on loans to survive. Rent arrears among universal credit claimants are also through the roof.

"If the Conservatives are serious about helping ordinary people get ahead in life, they must immediately pause the roll-out of Universal Credit until these issues are resolved. Reversing the huge cuts to UC in this Autumn's budget would be a good start.

"Universal credit was supported by the Liberal Democrats in coalition because it promised to make work pay.

"Sadly, under this Tory Government it has been cut to shreds, leaving families worse off and with weaker incentives to find work."

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Disappointment as Tory cuts hit Community Recycling Centres across Surrey

Liberal Democrat county councillors in Surrey have expressed their disappointment following a decision today by the Conservative Cabinet to slash the opening hours of Community Recycling Centres across the county and increase charges for residents.

The decision will see Community Recycling Centres close for an extra 20 days a week, as well as an end to the free daily allowance. The Cabinet decision follows a petition handed in by Liberal Democrat campaigners of 3,245 signatures, plus an enormous response to the county council's own consultation of 13,637 people.

Cllr Stephen Cooksey, Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson, said:

"I addressed the Conservative Cabinet today, in order to object to these ill thought out proposals and to hold the Conservatives to account for their decisions. I recognise the difficult financial position that central government has imposed on the County Council but just 3 months ago, in June, the Cabinet were out campaigning for that government's return and must therefore carry equal responsibility for the refusal of that government to ensure adequate funding for this Council to maintain services to its residents.

"CRC'S were a success story - they provided residents with a helpful and convenient method of disposing of waste; they helped Councils to improve their waste collections; they made a major contribution to improving our environment and they were a significant deterrent to fly tipping.

"I believe, as do the majority of my residents, that the remaining package including the increased charges and closure days are self-defeating and unacceptable and am fearful that the reduced waste collections will lead to damage to the environment and increased fly tipping. Surrey residents deserve so much better than this."

NOTES

- The Cabinet decision can be found here:

https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=5110&x=1

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Liberal Democrats launch petition to save the Surrey Performing Arts Library

The Liberal Democrats have launched a petition to save the Surrey Performing Arts Library which is under threat of closure by Surrey County Council. Surrey residents have reacted with dismay on hearing of the threatened closure and that the County Council's consultation exercise will give residents just two weeks to respond.

The Library, which is currently based near Dorking at Denbies Wine Estate, houses a truly unique collection of music, theatre, orchestral and dance materials available for public loan. It also holds a specialist Vaughan Williams collection and permanent display covering the life and works of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), commemorating his strong links with the area where he lived and where he composed some of his most important pieces.

Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council, said:

"I am appalled that the Conservative administration at County Hall is trying to rush through a consultation in just two weeks on the closure of this unique and much loved amenity. Liberal Democrat county councillors have previously opposed attempts to close this facility and will do so again, in order to protect such an important part of Surrey's musical and artistic heritage. I have written to the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive asking them to extend the consultation to six weeks, in order for as many residents as possible to respond.

"The Performing Arts Library is a great asset to the County. The Library not only benefits the many groups that use play scripts and musical scores to perform plays and orchestral works, but also benefits the audiences who enjoy the performances. The beneficial impact of the Library is immense and we need to do everything possible to retain it. I am calling for as many residents as possible to respond to the County Council's consultation and also to sign the petition we have launched today to retain the Performing Arts Library and protect it from closure".

Cllr David Goodwin, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Communities, added:

"This service must be retained for the benefit of all Surrey residents. There has been little or no scrutiny of this proposal by county councillors and a two week consultation period is totally inadequate. These plans should be fully examined by all county councillors in Surrey before any decisions are made. To lose such a specialist service alongside many dedicated and knowledgeable staff would be an act of great folly, and we will oppose it".

NOTES

A link to the petition can be found here:

http://scc.lib.dm/P22S

The County Council online consultation on the future of the Library can be found here:

https://www.surreysays.co.uk/libraries-service/38ff7ab4/

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Lib Dems march for Exit from Brexit

On Saturday, 9th September I joined 3,000 Liberal Democrats at Hyde Park Corner. EU flags were waving, placards were being held aloft and there was an abundance of stickers.

Through the somewhat hit-and-miss medium of handheld loudspeaker, Catherine Bearder MEP addressed the crowd, followed by party leader Vince Cable. They wished us well on the upcoming march and said its timing was key, as Parliament will debate the repeal bill (formally known as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill) on Monday. The Conservative government has included in the Bill provision to give itself powers over which pieces of EU law remain copied over into UK law, and which are amended or repealed, bypassing any further scrutiny by Parliament. These are known as Henry VIII powers: in short, a power grab.

Fired up by the need to defend parliamentary democracy, we started to march, joining the rest of the People's March for Europe at Curzon Gate. We stopped briefly as the march passed Downing Street to direct a few chants at the Prime Minister, then continued on. As we arrived in Parliament Square, the sky briefly clouded over and the statue of Churchill loomed large, causing me to wonder what he'd make of all of this.

There were a wide range of speakers, but the two that stood out for me were Bhupinder Singh and Tom Brake MP.

Bhupinder Singh has been one of the key volunteers helping the Grenfell Tower survivors. He reminded us that most of the residents of Grenfell were immigrants, a large proportion were refugees, and all were poor, living in one of the wealthiest boroughs in Europe. Those who have died have not all been identified and those who escaped have not all been given the right levels of accommodation and support, particularly with regards to mental health treatment. He concluded: "the measure of any society is how it treats its poor".

Tom Brake MP, who is the Lib Dem spokesperson for Europe, divided his short speech into two parts: the lies behind the Leave campaign and the cynical attempts by the government to reduce scrutiny of its actions. He said that the Brexit bus had promised £350 a week for the NHS, but in reality the NHS will have higher costs because of Brexit, including having to pay for the visas of EU nurses. As if Brexit weren't bad enough, the government's repeal bill is also "trampling on Parliamentary sovereignty" and must be opposed.

The mood throughout the day varied between reflective, angry and energised. There were imaginative ways of expressing opinion, from a placard saying "I'm rather cross", to a crude cartoon of Donald Trump, to balloons proudly spelling out REMAIN. One point was consistent throughout: this bill is not being done in our name. When negotiations end, we need the option of an exit from Brexit.

Written by Carrie Hynds a member from Brighton and Hove.

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Save our Tips - over 2000 sign Lib Dem petition in Surrey against Tory plans

Over two thousand residents have signed a Liberal Democrat petition against Surrey County Council's proposals to close four popular and well-used Community Recycling Centres (CRCs) in Bagshot, Cranleigh, Dorking and Warlingham. The County Council is also planning to reduce the opening hours of all the remaining CRCs, as well as scrapping the daily free waste allowance in order to save £2m from its budget.

Cllr Stephen Cooksey, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the Environment, said:

"I am pleased that so many residents have signed our petition and also made their feelings known to the County Council via its online consultation, and I urge those who have not done so to fill in both. Like us, many residents are concerned that fly-tipping will increase as a result of these proposals, which would then lead to extra costs in clearing dumped rubbish, as well as further damage to the environment. Furthermore residents will be forced to travel longer to sites further away, which is both inconvenient and increases vehicle pollution. Community Recycling Centres in Surrey are well-used and highly regarded by residents and I urge the Conservative Cabinet member to take heed of the public reaction to this petition and the consultation, and reject the changes that have been proposed".

NOTES

- A link to the Lib Dem petition can be found here:

http://scc.lib.dm/P62Q

- A link to the County Council's consultation - which closes on 7th August - can be found here:

https://www.surreysays.co.uk/e-i-directorate-programme-group/shaping-surreys-community-recycling-centres-1/

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Lord Chris Rennard, raises the issue of Mental Health in Schools!

Lord Chris Rennard, during a recent debate in the House of Lords, raised the issue of Mental Health in schools. It was in particular to do with the support for children and young people who have mental health issues.

It was during the questions on Health in that place. The question which started the debate, was raised by Labour's Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, who asked. "To ask Her Majesty's Government when they intend to bring forward proposals to reform Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services as outlined in their 2017 manifesto."

Here is the question from Lord Rennard, and the answer from Lord O'Shauhnessy, The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health

Photo of Lord Rennard Lord Rennard Liberal Democrat

"The Government in Scotland are considering providing mental health counsellors in every secondary school. Does the Minister accept that all schools should have dedicated members of staff able to do more than just provide mental health first aid, and that there should be a trained mental health and well-being lead in every school, college and university?"

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

"That is what we are moving towards with the mental health first aid training for teachers in all schools. The noble Lord will recognise that schools come in all different shapes and sizes and that it is easier to do that initially in secondary schools, which are bigger than, for example, rural primary schools which might only have a staff of 10. It is critical to make sure that there is at least one member of staff who is highly trained in spotting and dealing with the initial signs of mental health problems and signposting them to the relevant authority-local health authority or whatever it is-for further care."

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Lib Dems highlight 'unsafe' care homes in Surrey

Liberal Democrat county councillors have expressed their concern after it was revealed that 6 care homes in Surrey are rated as "Unsafe" by the Care Quality Commission and have contracts with Surrey County Council. The information was revealed following a question tabled by Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council, to the Conservative Cabinet this week.

In his oral reply to Cllr Watson, the Cabinet member for Adults stated that the County Council does not send new residents to care homes that have received the poor rating, and puts in place an action plan to improve care homes which receive the rating and have existing Surrey residents.

Cllr Watson said:

"It should concern us all that we have Surrey residents receiving care packages paid for by the County Council but living in accommodation which is rated as "Unsafe" by the Care Quality Commission. One of the County Council's corporate priorities is for residents to 'live and age well', and it is not possible to age well in an environment that has been deemed unsafe by a national regulator.

"I am calling for the County Council to urgently tackle this issue by working with care homes to ensure that no Surrey resident in receipt of a care package paid for by the County Council is living in a home that has been rated as unsafe".

NOTES

A link to the question and answer can be found here (p8) - however the County Council have subsequently confirmed that the number of 4 care homes was incorrect, and should be 6:

https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/documents/g5109/Decisions%20Tuesday%2018-Jul-2017%2014.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=2

A webcast of the Cabinet meeting can be found here (scroll to 0:05:45):

https://surreycc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/297151

The CQC ratings for the 6 Surrey care homes can be found here:

http://www.cqc.org.uk/search/services/care-homes?page=2&location=Redhill%2C%20United%20Kingdom&latitude=51.239208&longitude=-0.16988000000003467&sort=distance&distance=30&mode=html&f[0]=im_field_inspection_rating%3A3928&la=

The CQC report on the state of adult social care services 2014-17 in England can be found here:

http://www.cqc.org.uk/publications/major-report/state-adult-social-care-services-2014-2017

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Swinson: BBC gender pay gap should be a wake-up call

 

Figures published today have shown that of the 108 people at the BBC who earn more than £150,000, just 34 are women.

Only five women are in the top 20 and one in the top 10. Claudia Winkleman, the top earning female. earns a quarter (£400,000 - £449,000) of the salary of the highest earning male, Chris Evans (£2.2m – 2.249m).

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and Former Equalities Minister Jo Swinson commented:

"I hope these figures will act as a really strong wake-up call.

"We need to eliminate the gender pay gap as quickly possible.

"Making gender pay gap data transparent is vital to pierce the bubble of complacency in organisations. That is why I was so determined in 2015 to win the fight in government to introduce mandatory gender pay gap reporting.

"That means that not only do we know the picture in the BBC, soon we will be able to see how other media organisations compare."

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20 things Theresa May has U-turned on!

Our lovely friends in the Lib Dem Press Office have been keeping tally. They have found twenty policies that the Government has U-turned on in the last year.  And here they are:

  1. Northern Powerhouse: It was reported last August that Theresa May had decided to ditch the Northern Powerhouse from her plans for an industrial strategy, she later back-tracked and made clear she was fully behind it. 
  2. EU nationals: Theresa May reversed her stance towards EU citizens living in Britain (£), after her rivals accused her of treating them as “bargaining chips” in exit negotiations.
  3. Hinkley Point: The PM paused the deal around Hinkley Point – but then unpaused it with almost nothing changed.
  4. Foreign doctors: Theresa May appeared to suggest foreign-born doctors will not be welcome in the United Kingdom beyond 2025. The Prime Minister then backed down and admitted that foreign doctors won’t have to leave the NHS.
  5. Lists of foreign workers: Amber Rudd announced at Conservative party conference that firms should “be clear about the proportion of their workforce which is international”. Theresa May was forced to back down after the scheme was slammed by businesses and the public.
  6. Pharmacy closures: Plans to implement £170m of cuts and close thousands of local pharmacies were shelved after one million people signed a petition calling on the Government to think again.
  7. Workers on company boards: During her campaign to be leader and at the Conservative Party conference, Theresa May announced plans to force companies to appoint workers to their boards. She then confirmed the policy had been dropped, following lobbying from businesses.
  8. Brexit White Paper: Theresa May finally agreed to publish a White Paper on Brexit only after being threatened with a rebellion by Conservative MPs.
  9. Taking in refugee children: Theresa May announced plans to shelve the scheme to take in unaccompanied refugee children from Calais.
  10. National Insurance rise: Plans announced in Theresa May’s first full budget as Prime Minister to hike National Insurance for self-employed workers were dropped after they were criticised for breaking the Conservative’s 2015 manifesto pledge.
  11. Holding an election: Theresa May repeatedly said she wouldn’t hold an election, arguing that it would risk the stability of the country. She then called a snap election when the polls were in her favour.
  12. The Dementia Tax: The Prime Minister was forced to U-turn on proposals to make people pay more for their care, branded as a “Dementia Tax”, within days of it being announced.
  13. Energy price cap: Theresa May had pledged a price cap on energy bills for 17 million families during the general election campaign, but the policy was missing from the Queen’s speech. Instead, the business secretary, Greg Clark, wrote to the energy regulator asking it to safeguard “customers on the poorest value tariffs”.
  14. The European Convention on Human Rights – Theresa May was reportedly planning to make the case to leave the ECHR a central aspect of her 2020 election campaign before she called for an early election. She then confirmed the UK will remain signatories to the European Convention of Human Rights for the next Parliament.
  15. Triple lock: Theresa May scrapped a manifesto commitment to drop the State Pension ‘triple lock’ after signing a deal with the DUP.
  16. Winter fuel payments: Conservative plans to means test winter fuel payouts were also scrapped under the party’s deal with the DUP.
  17. Grammar schools: Theresa May ditched plans to expand grammar schools from the Queens’ Speech.
  18. Free school lunches: Controversial plans set out in the Conservative manifesto to axe free school lunches and replace them with breakfasts for families on low incomes were dropped last week.
  19. Public sector pay: The Government appeared to U-turn after Downing Street suggested it was ready to abandon a 1 per cent cap on public sector pay rises, only to insist hours later that the cap remained in place.
  20. Fox hunting: Theresa May has ditched plans to hold a parliamentary vote on bringing back fox hunting, the Government confirmed last week.

One thing we do know about Theresa May is that she can never say “This lady’s not for turning”.

 

 

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Lib Dems launch petition to protect Surrey's tips

Liberal Democrat county councillors in Surrey have launched a petition to save four community recycling centres earmarked for closure by the Conservative administration at County Hall after a huge outcry from local residents. The petition also calls for the county council to scrap plans to reduce the opening times of every CRC in the county by 2 days per week and increase the charge for residents disposing of waste. The four centres earmarked for closure are Bagshot, Cranleigh, Dorking and Warlingham.

Cllr Stephen Cooksey, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on the Environment, said today:

"I am calling for residents in Surrey to show their support for our well-used and highly regarded community recycling facilities by signing this petition and completing the county council's online consultation. We need to show that the people of Surrey will not be taken for granted by an out of touch Conservative administration which rides roughshod over the wishes of its residents, who are hugely concerned about the potential increase in fly-tipping, the damage to the Surrey environment and the extra costs this would incur.

"Before the county elections in May, the Conservative administration at County Hall boasted that they had passed a budget that protected vital services for Surrey residents - but nothing could be further from the truth as they are now implementing a programme of huge cuts and blaming everybody but themselves.

"We need to save and invest in our community recycling centres as they help residents do the right thing by recycling their waste and helping to protect Surrey's environment".

NOTES

A link to the petition can be found here:

https://SignMe.org.uk/1376

A link to Surrey County Council's consultation can be found here:

https://www.surreysays.co.uk/e-i-directorate-programme-group/shaping-surreys-community-recycling-centres-1/

 

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