Category Archives: Local government

We should allow Ukrainian refugees to stay

It has now sadly been over two years since the latest phase of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

I was living in Kyiv back in early 2014 when the conflict began after Russia invaded Crimea and East Ukraine. Since then, the UK has rightly been one of Ukraine’s strongest allies, providing economic, military, political and diplomatic support. This has also very much been a cross-party endeavour, which I strongly welcome.

There is though more that the UK and our allies – particularly the USA – need to do to now ensure that Kyiv has the military means to defeat Moscow.


Likewise, there is more …

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ALDC’s by-election report – 30 November 2023

There were 3 principal Council by-elections this week with Liberal Democrat candidates – and there was so much to celebrate in all three.

There were an additional 2 by-elections on City of London Council but these were only contested by independent candidates.

The only place to start is North Yorkshire Council with a historic Lib Dem gain from the Green Party in Sowerby and Topcliffe ward. Congratulations to Councillor Dan Sladden on an extraordinary victory that is remarkable for a number of reasons.

Not only did we get a brilliant 42% of the vote, we did so from nowhere having not stood in the ward in the previous local election! It is also only the third principal council seat that we have gained in a by-election from the Green Party since 2002. For so many reasons this is a historic result so once again we want to say thank you and well done to Councillor Sladden and North Yorkshire Liberal Democrats.

North Yorkshire Council, Sowerby and Topcliffe

Liberal Democrats (Dan Sladden): 764 (42%, new)
Conservative: 460 (25%, -23%)
Green Party: 306 (17%, -35%)
Labour: 250 (14%, new)
Yorkshire Party: 35 (2%, new)
Official Monster Raving Loony Party: 20 (1%, new)

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Young Liberals’ Local Elections campaigning and successes

In May, we at the English Young Liberals got massively stuck into campaigning for the local elections! Proving ourselves to be a massive driving force in the locals, we held multiple action days in twenty different locations across the country, with many often happening on the same day. We’d like to thank all the local parties in supporting us setting up these action days, and to give a huge thank you to every Young Liberal that turned up and made the action days a success!

As well as campaigning, we also saw at …

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ALDE Party Congress 2023 – the local government cut

In addition to all the MEPs, Prime Ministers and Grandees there were also quite a few local Councillors like me in attendance.

The Committee of Regions continued to focus on Local Government issues by mounting a couple of specific interest Fringe sessions.

One regular event is entitled the Liberal Mayors Summit, and despite the poor attendance of Mayors and Group Leaders from the UK ,even when we were in the EU, I’ve fortunately managed to sneak in on a couple of occasions. There were about 20 attending this year, from metropolitan areas across the EU, with representation from well-known cities like Warsaw, Stockholm, St Omer, Bucharest, Split, Budapest, Vienna and smaller less well-known ones from across the EU states. It was good to realise that the Liberal influence is present in so many local authority areas.

The main guest was the very popular Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President of the European Commission who had delivered a speech about plans to regulate IA.

The agenda included issues about SMEs, and combatting gender-based violence but the item which generated most contributions and took up the majority of time was about The European Year of Skills. Every attendee around the table had prepared a contribution on this subject and I found there was such resonance with issues our own towns and cities are experiencing, I thought it would be of interest to our colleagues here in the UK.

As the discussion went round the table, we heard from every representative about problems that their authority faced in planning for the future. These were an ageing population, a lack of well qualified staff and skilled personnel to fill vacancies, while experiencing an incoming surfeit of unskilled migrants. An interesting example was given of an authority above the Arctic Circle in the North of Finland, which had recognised that it needed to bring in new people if its business and activities were to thrive.

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Lib Dem Cheltenham launches free leisure passes for food bank users

Health and wellbeing is top of our party’s agenda. All of our local campaigners have a strong message on NHS services.

While leading campaigns about treatment, we must also pursue innovative approaches to measures that prevent ill-health. Liberal Democrat-led Cheltenham Borough Council is partnering with the NHS and local food banks to do just that. It’s a part of our response to the cost-of-living crisis.

I’m a strong believer in the power of physical activity to transform people’s lives. It has made my own life immeasurably better, despite an unexpected arthritis diagnosis at age 29. Whether it’s regular walking, having a swim, lifting weights, doing water aerobics, or going to a HIIT class, physical activity is proven to help people improve their health and wellbeing. In fact, it can be a ‘miracle pill’ for mental and physical wellbeing, as argued in the recent book by Guardian journalist Peter Walker. Sadly, the cost of living crisis means that so many people across Cheltenham have had to make sacrifices. In a town that many characterise as wealthy and prosperous, we have more than 600 families registered with local food banks and more getting help in other ways. Often, it’s nice-to-have activities like leisure centre trips that are sacrificed when people can’t make ends meet. That can have a big knock-on impact, not just now, but for people’s long-term health. People who lead sedentary lifestyles are more likely to suffer ill-health in the short and long-term, storing up problems for our NHS.

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Lib Dems enjoy not feeling sad after election.

It’s just past 2am the 5th May and we’re already seeing some impressive results coming in for Lib Dems all over the country! In many places even where we aren’t winning we’re seeing good increases in vote shares even in the face of lower turnouts which really speaks to the hard work being done by activists all over the country. The BBC is reporting we’re up 2% in their key wards overall, 3% in high remain voting levels and 0.5% in high leave remaining areas with 189 of 792 counted

While a lot of counts aren’t happening until the morning we at LDV at far too excitable/masochistic/nerdy to wait that long so join us in celebrating some of our early wins!

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Liberal Democrat Councillor speaks out about stalking experience

Brent Councillor Anton Georgiou spoke to the Kilburn Times and the Local Democracy Reporting Service recently about his experience of being stalked and called for better support for victims of stalking and especially those in public life.

Councillor Georgiou spoke candidly about his experiences – from receiving threatening messages and constant phone calls to his stalker sending him feces, emails containing pictures of himself covered in ejaculate and death threats. He talked candidly about the impact the messages and calls had on him personally and professionally as well as on his family and how this only increased when his stalker told him he’d moved to London from Ireland and how Anton could “run into him at any time.” leaving him afraid to leave the house.

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Met police found to be institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic – Now what?

The Baroness Casey Review into the Met Police makes for very grim reading for all Londoners. The contents outline some horrific attitudes and behaviours towards minorities, women and LGBTQ+ people across the city it polices as well as within its own ranks. Baroness Casey has simply held a mirror up to this organisation and stated very clearly this has to change.

What makes reading the report even more depressing is that these same issues within the Met were identified back in 1999 in another independent review – the MacPherson report. This report only arose from years of campaigning by the Lawrence family seeking justice for their son Stephen. Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack in Eltham in 1993. The Macpherson report concluded the investigation into Stephen’s murder was “marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership”

I grew up in Lewisham in a ‘tough neighbourhood’ not far from Eltham within miles of the racist attitudes that prevailed at the time. My local pub, the Golden Lion, was the scene of the unsolved Daniel Morgan murder in 1987. Daniel’s family still wait for a justice that may never come and can only take some comfort the  Independent Panel enquiry they campaigned for established the Met was “institutionally corrupt” and  Britain’s biggest police force engaged in “the denial of the failings in investigation, including a failure to acknowledge professional incompetence, individual’s venal behaviour, and managerial and organisational failures”

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Your Parish and Town Councils need you!

ALDC are often reminding us that we should run candidates everywhere in local elections, and far be it for me to disagree. But it isn’t always easy – not everyone wants to be a councillor, and in years like 2023 with the prospect of a Conservative collapse in the Districts, there is a risk that even supposedly paper candidates may get elected.

But let me introduce you to a world where elections are usually uncontested, and where not every seat is filled.

The National Association of Local Councils has published its review of the 2022 elections at Town and Parish Council level and, whilst it was a relatively “off year” for the tier, with just 10% of local councils holding elections, just 11% of those elections were contested, representing 888 of the 8,068 council seats up for grabs. Worse still, 1,639 seats remained vacant after the elections, or 20% of the available places.

As liberals, that tends to offend, especially given our general view that citizens should be engaged and consulted by those who represent them. Indeed, the laws that determine how local councils are elected permit co-options within thirty days of an election where vacancies remain unfilled, a recipe for affirming undemocratic local cliques.

For many small Parish Councils, the lack of power is a contributory factor – how can you entice people to sit in meetings every two months where most of the issues are dealt with at higher tiers of local government? – but even towns with five figure populations and significant budgets struggle to find sufficient candidates.

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1 July 2022 – today’s press releases

  • VAT cut: Ministers need to stop dithering and act now
  • Suspending Chris Pincher should never have taken this long
  • Concern Over Cardiff Council Plans to Tackle Begging
  • Southwark Liberal Democrats Demand More Ambition in Plans to Tackle Air Pollution

VAT cut: Ministers need to stop dithering and act now

Responding to reports the government is considering cutting VAT, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

Families across the UK are facing a cost-of-living emergency. Ministers need to stop dithering and act now.

Liberal Democrats have been calling for an emergency VAT cut for months. It was a key part of our successful by-election campaign in Tiverton and Honiton. Families need it, businesses need it, and voters clearly support it. So why haven’t Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak done it already?

The sad truth is that we have a Government has no plan and a Prime Minister too busy fighting with his own party to help the British people.

Suspending Chris Pincher should never have taken this long

Responding to the news Chris Pincher has had the Conservative whip suspended, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

It should never have taken Boris Johnson this long to act and withdraw the whip.

Once again it seems Johnson has had to be forced into doing the right thing

There can be no more cover ups or excuses. If this investigation confirms these serious allegations, Chris Pincher will surely have to resign.

The Liberal Democrat Voice team have recently started to receive more press releases from Council Groups around the country, perhaps a sign of greater confidence and ambition, and we’ll try to publish some of them going forward…

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East of England – let joy be somewhat unconfined…

Greetings from an election-free Gipping Valley, where it gives me great pleasure to report on events in the East of England. In truth, you can pretty much divide the region into two halves today. In Norfolk and Suffolk, only the county towns saw election action, and Bedfordshire sat this one out altogether. That left Cambridgeshire, Essex and Hertfordshire to fight, and the results have been pretty good.

We’ll start with Essex, which saw gains in Brentwood (2), Colchester (2), Rochford (2), Epping Forest and Southend-on-Sea, as half of the councils were up, which indicates that progress is being made. The Conservative/Independent coalition running Colchester is expected to be replaced with a Liberal Democrat/Labour coalition of partners, with the Liberal Democrats holding one more seat than Labour. Will Quince, no replacement for Bob Russell in truth, should be looking over his shoulder for next time, although the split opposition might be his salvation.

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“Democracy Made in England – Where next for English Local Government?”

In less frenetic times, this report would have grabbed headlines – but attention has already been cornered by outrageous events in Ukraine. Those distractions are, no doubt, mightily convenient for the current cabal who pretend to power in Whitehall.

The report should be required reading for all Liberal Democrat candidates for local Elections next May. There is only one name on the report’s cover – lead author, Michela Palese, Research and Policy Officer, Electoral Reform Society. At first glance you will see this is not the outpourings of some single tortured soul, but the collective views garnered from a cast of hundreds drawn from across the political spectrum.

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Liverpool loses World Heritage Status accolade

The loss of World Heritage Status for our City, even though it was expected, is a huge blow to our international prestige and will, without a doubt, affect our tourism and inward investment.

When, under Lib Dem control, we received the status in 2004 it helped our work, alongside winning the European Capital of Culture, in changing round the national and global and view of our City. Until these two things happened, we were just Beatles and Football globally and a poor man’s version of Coronation Street within the UK. People shunned our City for visiting, living and investment and the people of Wirral demanded a CH post code and not an L one!

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Helping us protect biodiversity with the help of a Lord or two

We really should make use of the peers who have local government experience in the Lords more, so I decide to.

We have a site in Kingston where biodiversity is being destroyed. Seething Wells Filter Beds is a ‘Site of Importance for Nature Conservation’ and Metropolitan Open Land where nature had flourished after Thames Water left in the late 90s, but now the private owners are spraying pesticides, draining the standing water, cutting back grasslands and trees. They have even resorted to using goats to munch though all the vegetation on site! And as a council we are pretty powerless to stop them!

Sound familiar?

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The most important elections you have never heard of

Today, Liberal Democrat Councillors in England and Wales will be getting an e-mail to vote in the elections for a number of positions on the Liberal Democrat Group on the Local Government Association (LGA). These include the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group (also a Vice Chair of the LGA), Deputy Leader and a number of members of LGA Boards. A full list can be found here.

All of the positions receive an allowance, ranging from £36,769 for Group Leader to £2,919 for Board members.

The most interesting and important contests to my mind are those for Group Leader and Deputy Leader.

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Tales from a Small Parish – David vs Goliath…

Welcome back to Creeting St Peter, a small Parish in Suffolk’s Gipping Valley…

One of the more visible aspects of small parishes is the role of statutory consultee for any planning applications in, or affecting, the Parish. More often than not, councillors are asked to consider extensions, occasionally an outbuilding for a farm. They generally aren’t very controversial, and as planning controls have been relaxed in recent years, there are fewer of them it seems. And, as a councillor, you probably don’t need much in the way of technical skills to take a view on whether or not the Council should take a view.

There is training available if you’re lucky. In our case, the District Council offers the occasional half-day course, and the County Association of Local Councils also offers both support and seminars offering some basic awareness. But, for the most part, councillors in small parishes don’t take up the offer.

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How we championed a growing anti-discrimination campaign and made our council a more inclusive employer

In November’s Full Council, Hull City Council (HCC) unanimously passed a motion calling for a proactive, zero-tolerance anti-discrimination policy and backed a campaign for the law to be changed to make this mandatory for all organisations.

In the summer, the former president of Hull University Union founded a campaign called @MakeDiversityCount following her experience of racism in her role – and how the university was not equipped to deal with it. Her story and subsequent petition calling for all organisations to have a clear, robust and effective policy prompted me to investigate the situation at HCC, which she was pleased to support.

I did some research and discovered a number of potential failings at the council. Despite pockets of good practice, the evidence suggested many did not feel comfortable speaking up: lack of awareness of the reporting processes and the fear that they would not be taken seriously were among the suspected reasons for this. This simply wasn’t good enough.

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Why you should think of trying to become a Liberal Democrat Councillor

London Region have recently been running a series of Zoom calls for people who are thinking of running for their Council in the 2022 elections. I have taken part in a couple of these and it has made me think about what I enjoy being a Councillor and why I would recommend others think about doing so.

I have been a Councillor for the Dundonald Ward in Merton since May 2018 – the ward runs from Wimbledon to Raynes Park along the railway line and it is characterised by terraced houses occupied by middle class professional families many of whom are from the EU. It won’t be a surprise that it voted strongly for Remain.

It’s a great place to knock on doors and talk to people – particularly in the daytime (I am retired) when a surprising number of people even before the lockdown work from home and often have more time to chat. I have had fascinating conversations about PG Wodehouse, the merits of working for different French banks and the details of train operations on the District Line. People occasionally even want to talk about politics!

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Tales from a Small Parish: welcome to Dibley?…

For those of you who live in urban conurbations, your concept of a Parish Council is possibly associated with the TV series “The Vicar of Dibley”. Funny really, because the Vicar usually works with a Parochial Church Council, a very different animal indeed. But 30% of England’s population is covered by Parish Councils which, for the most part, operate under the radar of political activists…

I moved out of London more than a decade ago but hadn’t been here for very long before a vacancy arose on the Parish Council and, well, …

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My experiences of being a woman Councillor of colour

I am very proud to say that I was elected as a Liberal Democrat councillor in 2017 to serve the residents of Cyncoed and Lakeside at Cardiff County Council. Cardiff, capital city of Wales, is very cosmopolitan, a city that celebrates its diversity, but still fails to represent its population in the make-up of the council chamber and the workforce within the council.

I had stood in local elections before in a different area and did notice the ballot papers that came in with crosses next to my ward colleague names and not mine and still this time same occurred on some ballot papers, but luckily I secured just enough votes to become the third and last candidate to be elected. When you see such ballots, many questions and answers come to your mind, why did they not vote me? They don’t know me personally so is it my name, the origin of the name, my faith or the colour of my skin that they considered more than anything I had to offer?

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Over 100 East Midlands Councillors sign letter calling for halt to Unitary Council plans

Over 100 Liberal Democrat councillors from across the East Midlands have signed a letter to the Secretary of State for Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, calling for a halt to controversial Government plans to abolish Borough and District Councils across the region and replace them with larger Unitary authorities.

The letter, signed by 118 Councillors, was jointly authored by Lib Dem Hinckley and Bosworth Borough and Leicestershire County Councillor Michael Mullaney and Leader of Chesterfield Lib Dem Councillors Paul Holmes.

Michael Mullaney said;

Abolishing Borough and District Councils and creating huge unitary authorities would be disruptive at anytime. But to be considering this

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A letter from Caroline Pidgeon AM to the Mayor of London

Dear Sadiq,

Re: Concerns for London’s Charity Shops

As we know, many businesses and organisations are facing unprecedented challenges in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. I wanted to write to you about some specific concerns I have for charity shops, a staple of our high streets in London.

Charity shops provide essential revenue for charities in London and across the UK. They are important for all charities, but particularly important for those smaller charities who rely heavily on the income from their charity shops. Furthermore, charity chops provide an affordable place for many people to shop in London and are a lifeline for many in terms of purchasing goods they would otherwise be unable to afford.

An often-underrated benefit of charity shops is also that they are a greener and more environmentally sustainable way to shop – promoting the reuse of items, whilst providing a profit for good causes.

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15 May 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Govt urged to protect funding to house homeless
  • Lib Dems call for Coronavirus honours list
  • Davey: Govt must get a grip on care homes coronavirus crisis
  • Davey: Public would expect Brexit extension

Govt urged to protect funding to house homeless

Responding to reports that the Government will no longer fund local councils to house homeless people during the Covid-19 pandemic, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:

The Coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat. It is leaving the most vulnerable in our communities at risk and it is our duty to look after them.

It would be irresponsible for the Government to pull emergency funding for local

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Lib Dems on the march in Ayrshire

The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald reports:

The Scottish Lib Dems say they have now relaunched the Ayrshire party with residents now volunteering to stand as candidates.

The Scottish Lib Dems say membership has trebled in Ayrshire with residents now volunteering stand as candidates and the party ‘on the march’.

At the constituency event, Scottish Convenor Sheila Ritchie said: “The Liberal Democrats are on a big upwards trajectory in Ayrshire. The local party membership has trebled in the last two years. We have realistic hopes for the Scottish elections next year and to get candidates volunteering for council seats in 2021 this early is a major boost.

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“Stop blaming local government for the housing crisis”

More than a million homes granted planning permission in the past decade have not yet been built, according to new analysis by the Local Government Association.

Latest figures show that 2,564,600 units have been granted planning permission by councils since 2009/10 while only 1,530,680 have been completed.

The number of planning permissions granted for new homes has almost doubled since 2012/13 with councils approving 9 in 10 applications.

While in some cases there will be a time lag between permission being granted and homes being built, new build completions have only increased by half as much in that time. Encouragingly, completions last …

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Good luck to Jonny Edge and team in Suffolk this Thursday

Jonny Edge (left) and his team in Newmarket and Red Lodge

There are two by-elections in Suffolk this Thursday, both caused by the resignations of a Conservative councillor who was elected as an MP in Aberconwy, North Wales.

Jonny Edge is our candidate in both the contest for the Newmarket North seat on West Suffolk District Council and also the battle for the Newmarket and Red Lodge seat on Suffolk County Council.

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water – there are referendums galore this Thursday

Embed from Getty Images

You probably thought that we have had our fill of referendums for the next several millennia.

But, in my researches for this Thursday’s by-elections, I stumbled upon several Neighbourhood planning referendums happening this Thursday, 30th January.

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+++Anton Georgiou wins big in Brent!

Many congratulations to Anton Georgiou and his team on a stunning by-election win in Alperton ward, Brent!

Anton achieved a stonking 29.5% swing to the Lib Dems, to grab the seat from Labour.

Siobhan Benita, our London Mayoral candidate, campaigned strongly with Anton – this is a great boost for her campaign for London.

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Good luck to our candidates and teams in by-elections tomorrow!

There are four seats on Brent Council, London, up for grabs in by-elections tomorrow. These contests have been caused by the resignations of four Labour councillors.

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Tim Pickstone named Mayor of Bury

Bury Town Hall
Many congratulations to Tim Pickstone on being named as the next Mayor of Bury, in Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

Tim leads Bury Council’s four Lib Dem councillors. There are 29 Labour, 16 Conservative and two Independent councillors. So Tim’s election is a sign of the respect in which councillors of other parties hold him.

Bury Times reports:

HOLYROOD ward councillor Tim Pickstone has been named as the next Mayor of Bury.

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