Tag Archives: Local government

Cardiff Council under Lib Dems: Clear leadership, effective financial management. Cardiff Council under Labour: Fragmented leadership, weak performance

One of the most heartbreaking things about the last four years has been seeing really good, outstanding Liberal Democrat Councillors lose their seats and Liberal Democrat councils losing office through no fault of their own.

This stuff matters because, frankly, if the quality of services a Council provides deteriorates, people suffer.

Compare and contrast the Wales Audit Office reports of 2011, when the Liberal Democrats were in power, and 2014 when Labour were two years into their term of office.

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Labour kicked out in Calderdale: The inside story

Calderdale CouncilThis week the Liberal Democrat group on Calderdale Council came to the decision to vote out the minority Labour administration, and vote in a minority coalition of the Conservatives and Independent Councillor. Allow me to explain why.

From 2010 we had worked in a fairly successful Coalition with the Labour party. We didn’t shut a single sure start centre or library, we opened up cabinet meetings with a public question time, and we had the highest recycling rate in West Yorkshire.

As that coalition went on it became increasingly apparent Labour wanted to control the Council alone, and to ignore the wishes of the other parties. It was harder and harder to work with them as continued to propose political motions that did little for local people, but did a lot of party point scoring. Finally last year they managed to secure the support of the Conservatives who abstained at the right votes in return for some scrutiny chairs, and Labour got their wish of a minority administration.

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Ed Miliband’s “People Powered Public Services”: some interesting ideas lurk beyond the bland

I read Ed Miliband’s Hugo Young lecture on the train home last night to save you the trouble. No need to thank me. Actually there are some good parts to it, which I’ll come onto. And if you want to share my pleasure the full text is available here.

However, I’d suggest skipping the first 1,685 words which can be summarised as, “Life can be unfair. I, Ed Miliband, have noticed this and so have lots of other people, like Obama and the Pope.” Along the way he name-checks Margaret Thatcher (a conviction politician, y’see… except for all the …

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ALDC’s by-election round-up: Midlands win and a bad month for Tories and SNP

ALDC christmas pressieThose lovely people at ALDC have done us a by-election round-up for last week. 

Last Thursday saw the Liberal Democrats gain Chadsmead ward on Lichfield DC. Councillor Marion Bland took 36% of the vote and returned Liberal Democrats to Lichfield Council for the first time since 2011. The Lib Dems first gained a seat in the two member ward in 2007 but the Tories took both in 2011.

The by-election saw the Conservatives drop 22% of their vote and slump into last place after their councillor was disqualified for not attending …

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This week’s by-elections: A town council gain but a big loss in Bucks for the Liberal Democrats

There’s not much to take joy from for the Liberal Democrats in this week’s crop of by-elections.

In South Buckinghamshire, we took a bit of a pasting in Iver Village and Richings Park where we were defending the seat. The result was as follows:

Conservative 422 46.9% (-6%)

UKIP 377  41.9% (+41.9%)

Liberal Democrats (Peter Chapman) 101 11.2% (-35.9)

The Tories nearly lost it too.

The last time this ward was fought was in 2011. The turnout then was nearly double at 38.93%. On Thursday it was only 20.4%.

In 2011, it was a straight fight between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The 3 Tory …

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This week’s by-elections: a Lib Dem hold and a near miss

Amongst the crop of this week’s by-elections are a convincing hold in Todmorden Town Council’s Stoodley ward:

LD Zaheer Abbas 203 (39.9)
Lab 123 (24.2)
Ind 71 (13.9)
National Front 59 (11.6)
Ind 53 (10.4)
Majority 80
Turnout 19.12%

In Cardiff’s Splott, we came within 102 votes, and raised our vote by 3.5%, of taking a seat from Labour.

 Lab 706 (39.1; -8.7)
LD Jamie Matthews 604 (33.5; +3.5)
UKIP 209 (11.6; +11.6)
Ind 94 (5.2; +5.2)
Con 86 (4.8; +0.5)
TUSC 80 (6.1; +3.2)

Majority 102

Glasgow Shettleston has never been our strongest area, but I can report a 0.6% rise in our vote in the ward for our candidate Jamie Spiers. 53 local residents …

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Nick Clegg attacks Labour council over Don Valley stadium closure

Sheffield’s Labour council have been criticised by Nick Clegg over their decision to close the Don Valley Stadium where Olympic heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill trained.

From the Sheffield Star:

I’m hugely disappointed that Labour councillors have decided Don Valley Stadium is not an asset of community value.

This short-sighted decision has denied the Save Don Valley Stadium group access to central Government grants, which would have helped them develop a business plan and move closer to their vision of running the venue at no cost to the public.

Instead of working with the community to protect facilities, we have a council determined to

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Opinion: Shropshire is slipping into black hole democracy

Shropshire Logo in Black Hole

I am lucky enough to live in Shropshire, in Ludlow – one of the most treasured places in my known universe.

I am so unlucky to live in Shropshire, in Ludlow – one of the most trashed places in my known universe.

Yesterday, we lost our dream hospital. This was not for any real reason; it just fell through the widening cracks in the national health system.

We have also lost our local tip and recycling centre in Ludlow. It’s not official. It’s just that the staff have been told they have no jobs any more.

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Opinion: Real localism – it could surprise us all

Everyone’s talking about Localism now – we’ve even got a Government Act. Yet when that very Act gives the Secretary of State 126 new powers over local government, you have to wonder if we all mean the same thing.

Liberal Democrats have been advocating devolution, double devolution and subsidiarity for many years. But central government continues to tighten its throttlehold over local authorities with little trust in local politicians and local communities and their ability to do what’s best for local people. London boroughs receive 74% of their income through central government grants, compared to 31% for New York, 18% for …

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Liberal Democrat Voice Awards: The Shortlists (5) Liberal Democrat Councillor of the Year

The Liberal Democrat Voice Awards are but three days away. At 10 pm on Saturday 14 September, in Castle 2 of the Crowne Plaza, with cash bar on hand, and an imaginative dress code, the best in blogging, campaigning, social media and politics in general will be feted in a ceremony filled with razzmatazz, glitz and glamour.

Our Members’ Forum has now been e-mailed with the chance to vote for the majority of the awards so I can now start to reveal the shortlists in those categories. It’s high time we celebrated our councillors, so here is the shortlist for Councillor of …

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By-Election Results – good hold in Windermere Bowness North

Tim Farron and Colin JonesGood news from the heart of Tim Farron country – a solid win in Thursday’s Windermere Bowness North ward on South Lakeland District Council for Colin Jones. He’s pictured here with local MP and Party President Tim Farron.

The result was:

Liberal Democrat Colin Jones: 431

Conservative:                                   248

Labour:                                                  29

60.8% of …

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Opinion: Does the central and local government relationship need rewiring?

Wired Government smallerThe relationship between central and local government in the UK has always been strained. The UK is one of the most centralised democracies in Europe, and as we have no written constitution local government has no automatic right to exist or do anything. Everything is dependent on the decisions of ministers.

The new Government in 2010 did good things in reversing some of the things the last right-wing, authoritarian and centralising government had done. The huge inspection and reporting regime was abolished. Ring fencing of budgets was mainly done away with. The Localism Act was brought in that gave local government the power of local competence.

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Know someone in local government who deserves an award?

The ALDE Group in the Committee of the Regions has launched the third edition of the awards for key liberal players at regional and local level. This year’s awards ceremony will be held on 4th of December in Brussels.

Both the national board of ALDE and EDP member parties as well as their local branches can submit nominations of persons that are considered to be suitable candidates for such an award, accompanied by a small motivation. Nominations need to reach the ALDE Secretariat by 30th September 2013.

There will be 2 categories of awards:

  • Local Leader of the Year
  • Regional Leader of the Year

Each …

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2 gains from Labour on Merseyside – and very nearly a third

Maghull Victory July 2013Winning a council seat in Merseyside off Labour would be a significant achievement.  Winning two on the same day would be virtually unheard of.

Yesterday, in Maghull, Sefton MBC, Merseyside, Lib Dems won two seats off Labour and came within 9 votes of winning a third.  The by-elections concerned took place in three adjacent seats on Maghull Town Council.

Maghull Town Council, 8 miles to the North West of Liverpool City Centre, is the largest civil parish in the country and levies a Band D council tax precept of nearly …

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Mixed by-election results – joy in Maghull, commiserations in Kingston

So, who says the Liberal Democrats can’t take seats off Labour in the north?

Actually, we can. In Maghull, just north of Liverpool, two wards of the town council turned from red to gold and another came within 9 tantalising votes of doing the same.  Our vigorous campaign won a 20% swing from Labour.

And, it seems, those fabulous Liberal Youth people were on the case, too.

Well done …

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Today’s by-elections – only half have a Liberal Democrat candidate

According to our friends at ALDC, there are four council by-elections taking place today. Sadly, in only two of them, in Brighton’s Hanover and Elm Grove (lovely name for a ward) and Mid Sussex’s Lucastes and Bolnore (ditto) are the Liberal Democrats even fielding a candidate.

I am of the view that we need to at least be on the ballot paper in every single public election to give people the chance to vote Liberal Democrat. I know that in Scotland we have missed opportunities recently, so we’re not perfect either. This, for all the doom-mongers around you, is …

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++++Breaking News: Liberal Democrats gain Abingdon & Broadland seats from the Tories

Good news from Oxfordshire tonight. Jeanette Halliday gains the Abingdon Fitzharris ward for the Liberal Democrats with a 3.3% swing from the Conservatives.

Could this be another example of the Midas touch of Liberal Youth, who spent Sunday campaigning in the ward?

Of course the strong Oxwab team and PPC Layla Moran have put many hours of work in to achieve a magnificent result, the 8th gain from the Tories in the past year. Congratulations all round.

Update: News of a second victory reaches my ears. Steve Riley won the Aylsham ward of Broadland District Council from the Conservatives with a majority of …

Posted in Local government and News | Also tagged | 26 Comments

Opinion: It’s time to prioritise electoral reform for local government

As Liberal Democrats, we all know First Past the Post is a terrible voting system. But in this year’s local elections it has sunk to new depths.

With the arrival of genuine four-party politics in England, the proportion of votes that actually make a difference to the result has reached an all-time low. And of the 16 county councils that returned a single party majority, not one of those ruling parties gained a majority of votes – in fact most got less than 40%.

This is not just a dry academic point or a moan about unfairness. It makes a real …

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Hinckley and Bosworth Cllr John Moore leaves Conservatives to join Liberal Democrats

Cllr John MooreThe Liberal Democrat Group on Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council in Leicestershire is tonight welcoming a new member, Cllr John Moore, who has decided to leave the Conservative Group and join the Liberal Democrats.

Group leader Cllr Stuart Bray expressed his pleasure at Cllr Moore’s decision:

We are delighted to welcome John to the Lib Dem Group. I have worked with him over the past 6 years on Burbage Parish Council and latterly the Borough Council and have always found him a man of great integrity who cares passionately about Burbage

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Opinion: Nick’s journey

It’s natural for defeated political leaders to make up stories which absolve themselves from blame.  After every by-election, those who have done less well offer unconvincing explanations. Nick Clegg is no exception, but his story last week that “the Liberal Democrats are on a journey from a party of protest to a party of government” is curious for two reasons. First, because no previous Liberal or Liberal Democrat leader has presented the party as one of protest and second because the party was very much a party of government before he became leader.

It is wrong and insulting to suggest that …

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Local government reform: a progress report from Spring Conference

Between the AV referendum and the House of Lords, the cause of electoral reform has taken a few punches recently. But this year’s Spring Conference showed that Liberal Democrats have far from given up the fight.

Member contributions at consultative sessions on Political & Constitutional Reform and the next General Election manifesto revealed a strong appetite for reform to local government elections in England and Wales. And the same issue was addressed in detail at a packed Saturday evening fringe entitled ‘Worst Past the Post: why local government desperately needs electoral reform’.

The event, jointly sponsored by Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform …

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6 out of 10 places with happiest residents have high Liberal Democrat inflluence

Photo by Alex FosterSomething to cheer us on a cold, wintry Spring afternoon.

I’m rarely comfortable about linking to the Daily Mail, but for once it has some good news for Liberal Democrats, although, of course, it doesn’t realise it.

Today, it points to a survey which shows the 10 places in Britain with the happiest residents – and six of them are run, or have recently been run by Liberal Democrats.

Harrogate tops the poll with Stockport, St Albans, Kingston upon Thames, Bath and Truro also in the top ten.

Clearly, as Ben …

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LibLink…Tavish Scott: Community councils empower the people

One of the big themes in Scottish politics in recent years has been the Labour and SNP impulse to centralise anything that stands still for long enough. The SNP Government, against all good advice and much opinion, recently merged Scotland’s 8 police forces into one.

In contrast, the Liberal Democrats under Willie Rennie’s leadership have been emphasising giving power to local communities. Tavish Scott, MSP for Shetland writes in the Scotsman about how giving more power to community councils could help deliver the sorts of services communities need, including schools.He cites the example of a plan to close a secondary school …

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Good news from Chelmsford: Liberal Democrat Graham Pooley wins Council by-election

Chelmsford winYou would think Eastleigh was the only by-election in the world at the moment, but yesterday Liberal Democrats in Chelmsford saw the reward for their hard campaigning efforts when Graham Pooley saw off the Tories to win a Council by-election. He increased the Liberal Democrat share of the vote by 17.7%. TheConservatives saw their vote fall by 3.5%.

The result, from the Chelmsford Liberal Democrats website, was as follows:

Graham Pooley (Lib Dem)     543

Conservative                               …

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New Labour group: Lib Dems might prove more tenacious than many people expect

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKProgress is a New Labour pressure group. On their website, Mark Rusling argues that there are strong signs that the Lib Dems are “waving, not drowning”. He bases this on evidence from local government, particularly from Waltham Forest Council:

…I have a gnawing worry that, while the Liberals aren’t thriving, neither are they drowning. They might prove more tenacious than many people expect.

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Opinion: You know what, equality impact assessments can be quite useful

Rainbow - Some rights reserved by @Doug88888Equality Impact Assessments are carried out by local councils to judge how their decisions will affect some of the most marginal communities in their area. But there are calls now to scrap the process as part of the Tory mantra on scrapping red tape.

I know that some authorities have turned EIAs into the worst extremes of political correctness gone mad.

But the truth is that councils (and the Government too please) should be

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Scottish Liberal Democrats mourn ex Council Leader John Morrison

John Morrison with Jo Swinson MPScottish Liberal Democrats were shocked to learn of the sudden death of former East Dunbartonshire Council Leader John Morrison at the age of just 50. The Sunday Herald reports that John was found unconscious as the result of an assault in a Glasgow Street early on Saturday morning and died later in hospital.

John was affectionately known as Hobbit throughout the Scottish party. He had acquired that nickname while at Glasgow University and bore it with his customary good humour. He’d been a leading …

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Opinion: public contracts should not go to companies linked to human rights abuses

I recently spoke in Canterbury against the Conservative City Council’s decision to consider giving its waste handling contract to a company whose Israeli affiliate are alleged to be linked to human rights abuses in Palestine.

The Council is refusing to consider the ethical issues on the basis of an interpretation of European law that prohibits taking such matters into account. The correct interpretation of the law is disputed but members of the public formed the distinct impression that the Conservative Council …

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Opinion: What is keeping councils awake at night?

The Local Government Conference met in conference in Birmingham last week.

I am slightly (only very slightly) embarrassed to confess that I have attended every conference since the LGA was created in 1997. In that first year the conference (in Manchester) ran from Tuesday until Friday. There was a gala night on the set of Coronation Street (this is apparently a television soap opera for those of you too busy each evening with your politics).

John Prescott and Gordon Brown turned up to praise the new body’s birth and the role of local government (delicious irony in hindsight), John Bird and John …

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LDVideo: From the archives – ‘The Work of Local Authorities (1943)’

There now follows a public information film… During the 1940s, the British Council produced more than 120 short films ‘designed to show the world how Britain lived, worked and played’. They’re now available online, and here’s the wonderfully of-its-time feature on local government — or, as it’s described in the British Council Film Department Catalogue:

‘A simple description of English Local Government, showing the areas into which England is divided, the system of election and finance, and the many services administered by the local authorities.’

Hark back to a time when local authorities had power over all manner of local services — from public health and education, to the fire authorities and water boards — when councillors were invited to stand for election from every walk of life (“for instance, this businessman or even his wife”), and a little boy would utter the deadpan phrase “I’m going to be a councillor when I grow up, daddy”.

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