Local Government doing less to achieve more

Darlington Borough Council is skint. One of the smallest local authorities in the country, Darlington was created as a Unitary Authority in 1997. Since then, it has been governed (like many Northern councils) exclusively by Labour, and it now stands on the verge of bankruptcy (the two facts may not be unrelated).

Specifically, the Council have calculated the need for £12.5m in spending cuts over the next four years. To go: Darlington’s historic indoor market, the public library (both of which were donated to the town by the Pease family), the town centre’s Christmas lights and floral displays, several children’s centres, and multiple other social, environmental and cultural services. Streets will be swept less frequently. Charges will be introduced for blue badge holders.

Are these cuts to local services best blamed on central government, with its reduction in funding for local authorities, or on incompetent and profligate local councils? Certainly, cuts in central government funding have been made, with the provision of local services affected; certainly, other local authorities facing similar cuts are not broke. The truth of the matter is probably somewhere between the two!

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Let ALDC know if you are a candidate

ALDC campaigning photoALDC (the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors) wants to help your campaign but in order to do the best job that we can, we need to know who your candidates are for the forthcoming elections on the 5th May.

We are gathering relevant information about local elections across the country and helping co-ordinate various types of support that are available for candidates and groups in different seats.

The team at ALDC would be really grateful if you could fill in this short form here with the details of any currently selected candidates in your area, and come back whenever there is new information to share.

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Lib Dems deliver vital aid to Dunkirk Refugee Camp

Brad HS Dunkirk 1Throughout last week Baroness Shas Sheehan and I have been collecting vital items needed in the camp in Dunkirk. From a list of items approved by volunteers on the ground we asked Lib Dems and local residents to come together and purchase what they could. The list included brand new sleeping bags, tents, blankets, food, gas, warm and waterproof clothes as well as sturdy, waterproof shoes. We were overwhelmed with the response and managed to fill a van to the brim with these essential donations.

On Sunday, we drove the van across to northern France to the camp in Dunkirk. The conditions in Dunkirk are in many ways worse than in Calais. The mud is particularly problematic for the 2,500 mainly Kurdish refugees living there. Local authorities are disallowing any construction of more sturdy wooden shelters so most people live in tents. This does not offer much protection and makes the weather a real problem with high winds, cold temperatures and large rainfall, especially in the last few days. It is also the case that there are more families and children in this camp.

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LibLink: Catherine Bearder: The campaign to keep Britain in Europe must be based on hope not fear

Catherine Bearder has written for the New Statesman’s Staggers blog to castigate both sides of the EU Referendum debate for negativity, citing the example of Scotland:

On the one hand, Ukip and the feuding Leave campaigns have shamelessly seized on the events in Cologne at New Year to claim that British women will be at risk if the UK stays in Europe. On the other, David Cameron claims that the refugees he derides as a “bunch of migrants” in Calais will all descend on the other side of the Channel the minute Britain leaves the EU. The British public deserve better than this. Rather than constant mud-slinging and politicising of the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, we need a frank and honest debate about what is really at stake. Most importantly this should be a positive campaign, one that is fought on hope and not on fear. As we have a seen in Scotland, a referendum won through scare tactics alone risks winning the battle but losing the war.

So what’s the alternative?

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Full Spring Conference Agenda out now

Spring Conference Agenda 2016The full agenda and directory for the Spring Conference in York is out now.

All the details of motions, training and fringe meetings are inside.

A few points to note:

  • The Exhibition, which had originally been cut, has been reinstated. Leave.EU and the Lib Dem InTogether campaign will be no doubt glowering atmospherically at each other across the room.
  • The photos of the Federal Executive were supposed to be in the agenda, but seem to have been left out for some reason. People should know who their federal representatives are. However, there will be an FE help desk so please come and talk to us if you have any questions about the overall strategy of the party.
  • The number of what appear to be all-male panels at fringe meetings is more than a little annoying. And much as I love Tim, Vince and Jim Wallace, surely to goodness they could have found women for the main business reception too. After all, Jo Swinson as Business Minister did loads for women entrepreneurs and Lorely Burt is our go-to person for women in business. (UPDATE: it appears Sharon Bowles will be attending this now, which is good.)
  • The Saturday afternoon session goes on till 7pm with a consultation session on the Governance Review after the close of official business. This is really important as the outcome will determine the way the party is run and where power lies within it. An hour is barely time to scratch the surface of the issues. However, do take time to read the document now and submit your ideas to the team even if you are not going to Conference. The consultation is open until the end of March.
  • York is a city where we Lib Dems are in the Council administration. We should hear from Council Deputy Leader Cllr Keith Aspden at some point during the weekend.
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Nick Clegg compares Investigatory Powers Bill powers to Russia

On the Today programme, Nick Clegg compared the “dragnet” approach of Theresa May’s Investigatory Powers Bill to the way things happen in Russia.

During the Coalition years, Nick had stopped the Conservatives from introducing a “snooper’s charter.” It’s worth remembering that he was going to let it through until a conference call with some angry bloggers who understood the technology, and the intervention of people like Julian Huppert, made him think twice. But once he’s changed his mind, he was good to his word and held May off for 3 years.

The Guardian quotes him as saying this morning:

He said: “Why there is this great congregation of concern from all wings of political opinion is because what the home office is in essence proposing is that in order to be able to surveil and analyse something they are saying they want to collect everything on everyone. That is a dragnet approach which I have always felt is disproportionate.”

He dismissed the analogy of the needle in the haystack – the argument that the security agencies need to embark on the bulk collection of data in order to be able to find crucial nuggets of details about terrorists.

He told Today: “I know the needle-haystack argument and it is a comforting analogy. But the reality is a little different. Why, for instance, is there no other European or Commonwealth country that I know that pursues this dragnet approach?

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Kirsty Williams’ More Nurses Bill becomes law

Kirsty More Nurses Bill graphicKirsty Williams has ensured that Wales is the first nation in Europe to have legislation to guarantee safe staffing levels on hospital wards.

Her bill is only the second private members’ bill to make it into law. The first was by her Liberal Democrat colleague Peter Black.

At Welsh conference the other day, Kirsty explained how a visit to an admissions ward with a family member allowed her to see at first hand the stress that the nurses were under. There simply wasn’t enough of them and Kirsty spoke to one nurse who had been there long beyond the end of her 12.5 hour shift. As she pointed out, if a nurse made a mistake through exhaustion, it would be they, not the manager who had made them work for so long, who would be held accountable.

Kirsty said:

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Recent Comments

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  • User AvatarManfarang 12th Feb - 1:52pm
    John The Channel Islands are not part of the EU- Lincolnshire next?
  • User Avatarexpats 12th Feb - 1:50pm
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  • User AvatarLORENZO CHERIN 12th Feb - 1:32pm
    Stephen I cannot know whether all the recent members of the Labour party are the sort of Jeremy Corbyn socialists you allude to.As an ex...
  • User AvatarNick Baird 12th Feb - 1:24pm
    And that's my first ever anti-Nick Clegg post. Do I get a gold star now or something?
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    It's also a shame he supported the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers bill in 2014 that was rushed through as an emergency bill with minimal...