Leading Conservative Councillor Moves to the Liberal Democrats

Graham Chrystie, a Pyrford Councillor for 8 years, has left the Conservative party and joined the Liberal Democrats. The move comes on the eve of May’s local elections.

“The Conservative Party in Woking is failing on openness, proper consultation and financial disclosure,” points out Cllr Chrystie.  “The Leader of the Council, who has his main residence in Scotland, has curtailed debate within the Conservative group and has proceeded with projects which too often lack transparency,” he continued. “Residents have not been properly consulted on key decisions such as plans for a Pub/Restaurant on West Byfleet Recreation Ground, a site held by the Borough only as a Trustee for local residents.”

Cllr Chrystie is surprised that the Conservative administration seem to be proud of the fact that Woking Borough has borrowed more money than almost any other Local Authority in England.  He has seen West Byfleet poorly treated and regrets the sorry state of the partly derelict village centre that is a far cry from the vibrant centre of a few years ago.

“I cannot in conscience remain a member of the Conservative Group,” said Cllr Chrystie.  “I now feel I can work more effectively for my ward residents and deliver what local people want, within the Liberal Democrat Group, where I can operate within an established, harmonious and effective team.”

During his time as a councillor, Cllr Chrystie has tirelessly supported the two Neighbourhood Forums which have been registered in his area. He believes that Forums give an important voice to our local communities.  He is delighted that there is now a Forum moving ahead in Hoe Valley, with major input from the Lib Dems, and is disappointed that the Conservative administration has apparently delayed progress on this.

Welcoming Cllr Chrystie to the Liberal Democrat Group, Leader Cllr Ann-Marie Barker said, “Graham is an excellent councillor for Pyrford. He makes a huge contribution to the Council, planning committee in all aspects, overview and scrutiny committee and financial scrutiny together with the Joint Committee between the Borough and County Council.   Beyond the Council he has been a representative on Voluntary Services and Community Transport, where he has worked closely with my deputy Cllr Deborah Hughes. Graham will be a fantastic addition to the Liberal Democrat group, bringing his finance and planning knowledge and his experience with neighbourhood forums”.

Cllr Barker said “Both nationally and locally, the Conservatives are a fiasco and the Lib Dems are the clear alternative.  Unlike the Tories, we are willing to take step back and think of the consequences, Local people have the opportunity to change Woking's future on May 2nd by voting for change with the Lib Dems."

 

Cllr Graham Chrystie is not up for election in 2019. Having topped the ballot paper in 2016 his term of office runs until May 2020.

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Lib Dem victory on Mental Capacity Bill

Yesterday (3rd April) the House of Commons was debating the Mental Capacity Bill which now includes huge concessions the Liberal Democrats secured from the Government.

The Bill aims to reform the process in the Mental Capacity Act 2005 for authorising arrangements enabling the care or treatment of people who lack the capacity to consent, which give rise to a deprivation of their liberty. 

The Liberal Democrats led a cross-party effort which secured a huge concession from the Government to remove their exclusionary definition which would have led to people not being protected when deprived of their liberty, and further includes a commitment to review the Code of Practice.

Ahead of the debate, Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson Judith Jolly said:

“This Bill when it was first introduced was one of the worst pieces of legislation ever to be considered by Parliament.

"What was proposed by the Conservative Government would not have fixed any of the issues we see at the moment in authorising care for those who can no longer consent, and instead would have ridden roughshod over their rights.
 
“Through consistent, hard work over the past few months, the Liberal Democrats have secured key concessions to the Conservative Government’s shoddy legislation. Today’s win removes the Government’s exclusionary definition of deprivation of liberty to protect the rights of those who are not capable of consenting.

“Liberal Democrats demanded better of the Government, and secured better for all those in care.”

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Supporters Pack now available

On Saturday at our conference, members voted to create an registered supporter’s scheme for the Liberal Democrats.

In the first 24 hours after we launched the scheme, more than 2,000 people joined in almost every single Westminster constituency in Britain.

More supporters are joining every hour.

To help you make the most of these new supporters, the Membership team at HQ have produced some resources for you – which you can access here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/supporters-local-party-guide

The launch pack covers everything you’ll need – from an explanation of what supporters are to template emails and social media graphics to help recruit even more supporters.

It also includes how to find the people that have become registered supporters in your area.

We want to make sure these new supporters feel valued and part of our party – and local parties are best placed to make that happen.

You’ll get the contact details of every single supporter that signs up so you can get them involved in your local campaigns.

So please, help use the resources we’ve provided to help bring more people into our party – especially if you have local elections in May.

And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Just email [email protected]

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Yet another councillor switches to the Lib Dems

Following the news from East Devon, Beverley, Lincolnshire and Somerset in the last fortnight, Councillor Alan Britten in Horsham, West Sussex has switched from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats.  

Although a Leave voter in the 2016 referendum, Cllr Alan Britten has since been won over by the Liberal Democrat position on Europe as he explained to the local paper when announcing his switch of party [Mark Pack]:

Alan Britten, who is chairman of North Horsham Parish Council and was first elected to [Horsham District Council] in 2015 in Roffey North, described being impressed by the “cogent, sensible and well-thought out” contributions from opposition members at meetings.

On a number of occasions he has found himself agreeing more with the Lib Dem approach and if he wanted to stand again felt he would have to “think seriously about changing parties”…

While he was in favour of joining the common market, he voted to leave in 2016 as he did not support the increase in political strength of the EU. But now he said: “I always tend to lean towards safety and if we are giving up a safety net for the sake of politics then I can’t subscribe to that … [The Lib Dems] are offering a bit of an alternative and one of the reasons it strikes me is that the Lib Dems are more willing to step back and think of the consequences not just on the EU but other things going on in local government.” [West Sussex County Times]

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ESMS instrumental music service saved from axe!

News broke late last week that it appears East Sussex Music Service instrumental lessons have been saved. I'm absolutely delighted that East Sussex County Council have, finally, made a right decision!

For many months now I and others have been lobbying for them to row back from their initial proposal - to cut this much-loved and important music service.

I’m aware that many of the staff were convinced money could be saved whilst retaining the musical instrument service, because a number had written to me with this information, so we’ve been nonplussed why it appeared that County Hall simply wouldn’t listen to them.

And that ESCC just seemed intent on closure.....

Consequently I wrote again only a few weeks ago, urging Cllr Bob Standley, the Tory Cabinet Lead, to drop his and the Senior Officer’s opposition to the proposals put forward by his own employees. It’s good that he and his colleagues have finally listened to reason, and to the many thousands of members of the public who’ve begged the County Council ‘not’ to shut the much-loved musical tuition service for the county’s children.

It is appalling though that all the other key areas which have been so savagely cut recently by East Sussex County Council such as Firwood House, Home Works, Children's and Adult Social Services, 25% of the counties library network, single parent support, after-school support for disabled children and so much more - could not also have been spared.

Good news for ESMS though. Right decision all round....

 

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First week back after Recess:

No doubt you’ll have read that Parliament is consumed at the minute with the ongoing saga of Brexit - is the PM’s Chequers plan a dead duck or not - Jeremy Corbyn’s seemingly interminable battle over allegations of anti-semitism, my own Party Leader's proposal to potentially open up the future leadership of the Lib Dems to outsiders, and former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s trials and tribulations in Scotland. 

Then I see this morning that Boris Johnson is back on the front page of The Sun for the other activity he’s well known for!!

A lot going on frankly. 

As I said to a young man who was keen to study politics at A-level now that he’s successfully completed his GCSE’s, at least politics can’t be said to be boring at the minute. And that doesn’t even include the ongoing shenanigans across the pond of one Donald J Trump. 

To misquote Matt Chorley from The Times - “This is not. Normal”

Nonetheless, other matters still progress in Westminster and this week one of my colleagues got her upskirting bill through to third reading, which is an important step. This will make it illegal for someone to use their mobile phone to clandestinely take a photo up a woman’s skirt. Something I and many others were horrified to learn has become reasonably common. An awful mix of prurience and technology. 

Well done Bath Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse. It’ll be on the statute books soon.

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Gosport Inquiry - Point of Order

Local resident, Mrs Gillian McKenzie, came to me a decade ago with shocking allegations about what she believed had gone on at the Gosport War Memorial NHS Hospital, particularly on the Ward run by Dr Jane Barton. The subsequent Gosport Inquiry, led by Bishop James Jones, into those claims concluded last month that at least 460 patients died after being given opiate drugs which led to their untimely death. Following the report's release, I immediately wrote to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, urging her government begin the process of starting a criminal inquiry. This was 5 weeks ago.

Parliamentary protocol demands that the Prime Minister responds to an MP's letter within 20 working days and it is now 25 days since I wrote to No 10 but still, at the time of writing, have not received a response. Consequently I raised it in Parliament on Monday as a point of order (See video below). I was pleased the Speaker, John Bercow, shared my dissatisfaction that a reply had not been received, and hoped that by raising it in the House, the government would respond to my letter as a matter of urgency. 

Mrs McKenzie, and all the other relatives, demand and deserve justice.

I believe the government has an absolute responsibility to take the necessary steps so that a criminal inquiry can be implemented into what went on at the hospital. Let’s be absolutely clear here - these people were unlawfully killed and those responsible must face the consequences of their actions. I will continue pushing the PM and her government until they do the right thing.

 

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WASPi Parliamentary Ombudsman UPDATE

As regular readers of my e-newsletter will know, I recently sat down with the Parliamentary Ombudsman to discuss those issues around the age changes for women to receive their state pension. They confirmed to me they’d be beginning their preliminary procedural checks in the coming weeks, and that the key outcome available to them, if that is what's found, would be maladministration. Along with a set of recommendations which could include financial compensation. 

I’m pleased to inform you that, even more recently, I secured the commitment of my Party's Leader, Sir Vince Cable to support - as Liberal Democrat policy - whatever findings and recommendations are made by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. This is important because their conclusions are not binding. We now need to build a groundswell of political support at Westminster to ensure the Conservative government implement the Ombudsman’s conclusions in the way we have committed. 

As a Party of just 12 MPs this may not sound as though it will carry much weight in parliament but with the help of WASPi women in Eastbourne and beyond we can hopefully persuade the other political parties to do the same. So, if you know an affected WASPi woman living in a Labour, SNP or DUP constituency, I urge you to ask they write to their MP pressing them to join the Lib Dems in backing the Ombudsman's eventual recommendations. If Labour in particular join our call, as the Official Opposition, it will put the government in the spotlight and make it much harder for them to ignore the Ombudsman’s proposals.

Working together in Parliament on this will, I hope, lead to genuine progress for affected women across the United Kingdom.

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Our town, betrayed!

The profoundly disappointing news from County Hall this week at the closure of our outstanding rehab care home, Firwood House, in Hampden Park, has caused shockwaves across the town. I am pleased East Sussex County Council at least listened to my pleas and those of the 10,000 residents who signed a petition opposing the original proposal to close ‘both’ Milton Grange and Firwood House, and that Milton Grange was spared but their decision to shut Firwood House is awful. Apparently all it’s rehabilitation services are to be squeezed into Milton Grange, which is also a nonsense. There is simply not enough space available. It’s an absolutely shocking decision to close such a first-class care home with an enviable reputation for ensuring patients maintain their lives independently in their own homes, as well as aiding their recovery, post-admittance to the DGH. This also reduced the bed-blocking we had so much of a few years ago.

I have asked the three Eastbourne Conservative County Councillors; Cllrs David Elkin, Colin Belsey and Barry Taylor to consider their position as a consequence of their utterly deplorable decision. It is clear to me and to many others that by either voting in favour as Cabinet Members or not opposing it publicly, they’ve put Party allegiance ahead of the needs of our town. I am not impressed.

I was also contacted earlier in the week by a constituent who told my office - word for word - that our campaign had received support from the Duke of Devonshire himself. His appreciation and links to Eastbourne go back over 100 years. They told me he’d written ‘I have every sympathy with your great concern about the possible closure of Milton Grange and Firwood House. I know how valuable they are to Eastbourne and how well used and much loved they are. I am delighted to see that Stephen Lloyd MP is actively campaigning for the saving of the two care homes. I only hope that East Sussex County Council will be able to find the money to allow the homes to continue their great work.’

I was grateful for this intervention and have written back to the Duke informing him of the woeful decision by ESCC.

I’ll also be writing to the Chief Executive of the CQC (Care Quality Commission) and the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, urging they commission an independent audit into the County Council’s proposal, so that we can at least be sure the safety of patients will not be compromised by this shortsighted cost-saving measure. A sad day for Eastbourne.

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Gosport War Memorial Hospital: I call for a criminal inquiry

Last week saw the publication of Bishop James Jones' enquiry into what took place decades ago at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

The Report concluded that more than 450 patients had died early and unnecessarily after being given opiate drugs. It went on to say there was a "disregard for human life" of a large number of patients from 1989 to 2000. I welcomed the Report, shocking that it was, as I’d been supporting a local constituent Mrs Gillian Mackenzie, who lost her mother Gladys Richards suddenly in 1998 after she was transferred to the Hospital following a hip operation. Mrs Mackenzie first raised the alarm twenty years ago but was fobbed off, and let’s be clear what really happened here, over 450 people on one Ward in the Gosport War Memorial Hospital were unlawfully killed. No if’s nor buts. The relatives got the truth, at last, from Bishop Jones’ Report but they now demand, and deserve, justice. 

I have written to the Prime Minister asking her Government appoint a police force to begin a criminal investigation into the Report’s findings. Mrs McKenzie, brought to me her suspicions and research into the deaths at Gosport ten years ago and I’ve been campaigning on her behalf ever since.

Now a decade later the truth has come out but it must not end here. The relatives deserve their day in court, and those who perpetuated these shocking, awful deeds must face the consequences of their actions. 

Click here to watch Stephen Lloyd call for a criminal inquiry into Gosport.

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