Lib Dems call for a fresh start for Surrey in the County Council elections

Surrey Liberal Democrats have unveiled a full slate of 81 candidates across every division in Surrey to take on the Conservative-administration at County Hall in May's elections - the only opposition party to do so.

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

"I am delighted that we are fielding such a strong set of candidates for the County Council elections in May. We need a fresh start in Surrey and an end to the 'crisis management' at County Hall, which has resulted in the 15% council tax fiasco, £123m of cuts to services, 'gentleman's agreements', secret recordings and leaked text messages, all of which saw Surrey in the newspapers and TV bulletins for all the wrong reasons. Liberal Democrats led the successful campaign to stop the 15% council tax increase proposed by the Conservative administration at County Hall. We will continue to oppose any future attempts to impose such a large council tax increase on Surrey residents.
"Liberal Democrat candidates across the county are fighting for an end to the financial waste and culture of secrecy at County Hall. We are campaigning to improve the condition of Surrey's roads and footways, to re-instate the opening hours of tips and an end to the "Tory Tip Tax" on DIY household waste, more special educational needs places within Surrey, increase the amount of youth service provision and give more support for carers and the voluntary sector. We are opposed to the expansion of Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and committed to improving road safety across the county.
"Surrey needs a fresh start, an end to the chaos at County Hall, and only the Liberal Democrats can provide it".

A full list of Liberal Democrat candidates can be found here:

The Liberal Democrat County manifesto for 2017 can be found here:

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Tory Minister in House of Lords confirms DIY waste should be disposed of for FREE

Liberal Democrat county councillors in Surrey are delighted that following a question in the House of Lords by Lib Dem Environment spokesperson Baroness Kate Parminter, it has again been confirmed that DIY waste should be disposed of for free.

The Conservative Minister Lord Bourne, stated in a written answer on 20th March 2017 that DIY waste is household waste and should therefore be disposed of for free. However Conservative-run Surrey County Council continues to charge for the disposal of waste from DIY claiming that it is not household waste.

Cllr Stephen Cooksey, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the Environment & Highways, said: "The reply from Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, a Minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government clearly states that there should not be any charges for DIY waste disposal. We once again call on Surrey Conservatives to scrap these unlawful charges, and this time we expect them to take notice of us as we clearly have the Minister's support. Surely Surrey County Council cannot defy a Government Minister?".


The written answer from Lord Bourne is here:

The Local Authorities (prohibition of Charging Residents to Deposit Household Waste) Order 2015 prevents local authorities from charging their residents to dispose of household waste and recycling at household waste recycling centres. Furthermore, Government has been clear that DIY waste should be classed as household waste if it results from work a householder (living within the authority area) would normally carry out, and that this should be disposed of at household waste recycling centres for free. (20th March 2017)


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The Lib Dems are the only party with a plan for Britain


Many local people are switching to back the Liberal Democrats because they’re the only party with a plan for our country.

With Article 50 triggered, it’s clearer than ever that Labour and the Conservatives are lost without a plan.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron says, “I think even people who disagree with us will respect the fact we are standing by what we believe.” “And for the many millions of people who agree with us, my message to them is: join us.”

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Lib Dem membership reaches 87,000 as Article 50 is triggered

The Liberal Democrats have seen their membership surge to 87,000 on the same day Article 50 is triggered.

Over 5,000 members have joined the party since the beginning of February, when Jeremy Corbyn ordered his MPs to vote in favour of triggering Article 50.

This comes amid reports that the Labour Party's membership has fallen by almost 11,000 over the last four weeks.

Join the Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat President Sal Brinton commented: "The clear message to this Government is we have not given up the fight against a hard Brexit, and thousands of people across the country agree with us.

"This is not the time for despair, it's the time for action.

"Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour may have given Theresa May a blank cheque to pursue her divisive Hard Brexit.

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On Monday, 13th March 2017 the Labour party had one of its biggest meltdowns yet. Voting for, then against the amendment to protect the rights of EU citizens who already live in the UK to stay here.

Nobody knows where Labour stand on Brexit, they’re trying desperately to play both sides. Unfortunately for them people in this country are wise to it and people cannot respect a party that will not stand up for what it believes in.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said “Labour had the chance to block Theresa May’s hard Brexit, but chose to sit on their hands. Tonight there will be families fearful that they are going to be torn apart and feeling they are no longer welcome in Britain. Shame on the government for using people as chips in a casino, and shame on Labour for letting them,”.

Locally the NHS relies on hundreds of EU nationals, both doctors and nurses, to sure up an already underfunded service. This is a huge problem for every person in our country, and we shouldn’t let hard working EU nationals and their families be treated as second class citizens.

As Liberal Democrats we believe in an open, tolerant and united future for our country. We want them to stay, they’re part of our country and our community. We will do all we can to fight for their rights and make them feel welcome. If you agree please join us.

MPs voted down the amendment on EU nationals’ rights by 335 to 287, a majority of 48, with peers later accepting the decision by 274 to 135. The second amendment on whether to hold a meaningful final vote on any deal after the conclusion of Brexit talks was voted down by 331 to 286, a majority of 45, in the Commons.


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Late and over-budget Tories blasted for A21 road-building shambles

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.”

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Labour by-election candidate defects to Medway Liberal Democrats

Why I left Labour and joined the Liberal Democrats

Simon Allen

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.

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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"


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Lewes Lib Dems campaign against hard Brexit and urge Maria Caulfield MP to support EU nationals

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."


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Lib Dems reject Grammar Schools

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

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