Tag Archives: Local government

The building blocks to a sustainable built environment

Did you know the UK’s built environment is responsible for 42% of carbon emissions, 62% of waste and 50% of material use? These shocking statistics highlight why buildings, infrastructure and land use must be central to our approach to addressing the climate and biodiversity emergency.

Last night I attended the launch of Building Blocks, a manifesto to transform the Built Environment and turn a climate catastrophe into a climate opportunity. The climate emergency can often feel daunting and insurmountable. But it was truly uplifting to join experts focused on practical, implementable, and positive responses. Adopting optimistic, radical alternative approaches can turn waste and climate headaches into solutions to build a fairer, greener, and more prosperous planet.

Architects Declare —a movement of over 1300 architectural practices in the UK – are advocating for a more sustainable built environment. Their message is clear: our current approach to design and construction is not enough to address the urgent climate crisis. We must embrace fundamental change, aligning ourselves with regenerative models to secure a sustainable future for generations to come.

The evidence is undeniable. Despite three decades of sustainable design efforts, we are still far from meeting our climate goals.

Building Blocks is a bold vision for transformation, rooted in systemic change. It outlines practical steps to reduce carbon emissions, promote circular economies, and restore social and natural infrastructure. It’s a roadmap for creating a built environment that not only mitigates climate change, but also fosters thriving communities and ecosystems.

Key among these Building Blocks is the imperative to prioritise resource efficiency. We need legislation to limit embedded carbon emissions in construction (greenhouse gas emissions generated from producing and transporting goods), minimise carbon emission from buildings and align building standards with net zero trajectories (France has already done this). Business can support this and some do. Speaking at the launch Kevin McCloud, from Grand Designs, cited the case of a developer in the North West who builds to passive house standards and still make a decent profit. The more this type of development becomes the norm the quicker costs will come down too.

Local authorities also need greater powers to demand higher standards from developers. Westminster City Council recently unveiled a ‘retrofit first’ approach. It’s facing resistance from those used to traditional development, but it is worth persevering with.  A nationwide retrofit strategy would create around 500,000 jobs, a £300bn boost to the economy , and eliminate fuel poverty—all while reducing emissions from existing buildings. It’s good for the planet, and good for our pockets too. If every home in Manchester were retrofitted it would save £10bn in energy bills.

Transitioning to a circular economy is another vital component. Health, wealth, and wellbeing all improve in a circular economy. By reducing waste and maximising material reuse, we can not only cut carbon emissions but also stimulate economic growth, and protect natural resources. Financial incentives and removing VAT on retrofit would support this shift, encouraging businesses to prioritise sustainability. We need to make sure we are designing all buildings with deconstruction and the reuse of materials in mind.

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Solving the crisis in Local Government

What’s the point of a Motion bemoaning a crisis but failing to suggest a solution?

Liberal Democrats have conferences to decide Party policy, not indulge in hand-wringing! Declaring that local government has a funding crisis without stating what we’d do about wastes our time and money as conference-goers. That’s why I’m asking for a reference back to FPC for F23 at York.

The Party last seriously debated local government  and its funding in 1998 – the year I co-founded ALTER. We’ve progressed since then but in 2019 we funked the big one: reform of Council Tax.

In the 1998 policy paper the most significant citation was a 1996 House of Lords report that “demolished the circular argument” that local government expenditure is all part of national government expenditure, saying it’s “Humpty Dumpty” logic! Its only because Treasury says so and only because councils are over-controlled and haven’t in living memory had real freedom of action: “other economies can be successful while doing things differently” (4.1.5).

If we believe in devolution then what Whitehall compels councils to do, as minimum levels of statutory services, ought to be funded centrally – 100%, taking appropriate account of geographic and demographic differences in cost of delivering services. Councillors should only be held to account by local electors for how efficiently they use those external funds. 

Anything that democratically elected councils decide to do in addition should be 100% funded from local taxes, set locally using their local choice of tax bases, as was decided by Conference in 1999.

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ALDC By-Election report – 8 February 2024

There were 4 principal by-elections this week on a soggy and snowy Thursday. 

We start with a cracking result on West Northamptonshire Council where Councillor Carl Squires gained East Hunsbury and Shelfleys ward from the Conservatives. Carl overcame a 1000 vote Conservative majority and took the seat from 3rd place in 2021 – increasing the Lib Dem vote share by over 15%! Congratulations to Carl and the West Northamptonshire Lib Dem team. 

West Northamptonshire Council, East Hunsbury and Shelfleys
Liberal Democrats (Carl Squires): 820 (38.8%, +15.8)
Conservative: 746 (35.3%, -16.9)
Labour: 547 (25.9%, +1.1)

Thank you to Lib Dem candidate Andrew Joyce for standing in Criccieth ward on Gwynedd Council and giving voters a Lib Dem option on the ballot paper. Plaid Cymru gained the seat from an Independent councillor. 

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The importance of signing a Faith Covenant

I do love reading about the Census. To some people, it might be a “silly hobby”, however analysing and understanding data is hugely important in relation to mapping out the needs of our communities and facilitating adequate e.g. health, leisure, parking and social care provision.

 It was fascinating to see how much the UK has changed in the last decade. As a practising Christian, I found it really interesting that in 2011 in Welwyn Hatfield, 27% of residents reported no religion, however this number increased to 37% in 2021. Given that the population of Welwyn Hatfield, where I live and serve as a District Cllr, increased by around 10,000 (from 110,000 to 120,000), it is overall a significant change.

 I am aware that Britain, like many other European countries, is becoming more secular. However, I was personally absolutely delighted that the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has signed a Faith Covenant at the Full Council meeting on 15th November. Although it is not legally binding, I am also so pleased that the agreement was approved by the Council during the Inter-Faith Week, which took place across the UK last week.

 However, I hope that most people would agree if I said that we can’t underestimate the importance of faith communities and their contribution across the country and in our neighbourhoods. In my view, the Faith Covenant will only strengthen our collaboration with a wide range of groups and organisations in our district, but it will also help to build better understanding with residents as well as increase awareness of different faith groups in Welwyn Hatfield. Apart from providing places of worship, it is the faith communities, which run Food Banks, sport and youth projects and provide a regular platform for a successful integration. 

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ALDC’s by-election report -23 November 2023

It has been a relatively quiet week for principal council by-elections – but a very successful one for the Lib Dems. Of the 3 elections held we won 2 of them! With one hold and one gain we are the undisputable winners this week!

The first election was held on Wednesday on Powys County Council in Wales in Talybont-on-Usk ward. Congratulations to Councillor Raith Devlin and the team in Powys on

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LIb Dem led Powys County Council continues free school meal holiday scheme

In the middle of a cost of loving crisis, any extra demands on household income can be catastrophic for some families.

The Summer holidays should be a carefree time of play and fun for children. For parents on the lowest incomes, though, it can be incredibly difficult to find the money to provide an extra daily meal if their children are on free school meals.

In Wales, the Labour (just have a think about that for a minute) Government ended the scheme to give families entitled to free school meals vouchers during the Summer holidays. This policy was, of course, introduced during the pandemic by our own brilliant education secretary Kirsty Williams.

However, three Welsh Councils, including Lib Dem led Powys, have decided to take over the scheme so that children do not go hungry during the Summer.

Our Councillor Jake Berriman said:

The late notice that councils across Wales were given about this scheme stopping would have had a detrimental impact on low-income families. Not only would they lose out on the voucher scheme but they would also have had a very limited time to adjust their family finances accordingly.

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What does it mean to be a good Chair?

A week or so ago, I had an opportunity to Chair my first Grants Committee meeting. Not a big deal some people would say and I agree; it is not. Having said that, I felt the importance of “doing my part”, which meant being well prepared and ensuring that the meeting is run smoothly (Council Officers were very helpful!)

The role of the Chairperson is actual vital, in any environment or any capacity. In my opinion, this role has a lot of critical components and it requires (some examples):

  • Good listening skills (a lot of improvement needed here in my case!)
  • Ability to set out clear instructions
  • Drive and commitment to empower participants by bringing them into a conversation during various parts of the meeting
  • “Emotional capacity”/ “behavioural adaptation” to “read the room” in order to help and engage all members of the group/ workshop/ Committee. Often, some meetings that we might attend, can be dominated by one or a small group of individuals
  • A sense of humour, a bit of energy and passion and knowledge for the subject
  • Ability to summarise key points and agreeing next steps
  • Time management

Let’s hope that my reflection will help me (and maybe others?) to get better at creating opportunities for dialogue in all circumstances and that constructive criticism will not put us off from bringing people together. In my view, this approach will help us more effectively to serve our towns, cities and neighbourhood in our various roles and capacities. In order to achieve this, we must always put people first. I know; easier said than done!

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How to find candidates

I note that Mark Pack is trying to persuade the party to run many more candidates in local elections. He’s quite right. No-one, as far as I know, has suggested how you do this. In this article I offer my take on how to get candidates from scratch.

So, what do you do to get candidates? Ideally, you would have started this process at least 6 months before the election, but the methodology is the same. September is also a good time to start because we often have a useful boost in interest because of the party conference.

Forget the phone, email, text or any other sort of social media. In 40 years of candidate hunting I have recruited only one person using all these approaches. You have to go and call on people, unannounced and ask them. If you try any other approach, they will say no. Lots of people have not accepted the no contact in advance rule and wonder why they fail. “Oh, but it’s rude not to phone in advance, they might not be in, we may be wasting our time” or similar are all guaranteed to result in the person saying no. Believe me, as one of the most successful candidate recruiters in the country, I really do know what I’m talking about.

But how do you know who to ask? Mostly, you don’t. Connect and EARS both have functions that enable you to create lists of people who have been canvassed LIB DEM and voted at least twice recently. It may not be a big list, but it works for me. Secondly, look for activists in local causes or clubs and societies. Thirdly ask everyone you call on if they can think of some else to ask. Of the 13 people I recruited in 2019, only 3 were active party members at the time of asking. 3 were activists in local charities or organisations and the rest came from the lists of people who we thought had supported us.

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Drama as Lib Dem budget passes in Edinburgh

Budget setting in Scotland’s Councils is challenging to say the least at the moment. The cumulative effect of a decade and a half of SNP Government underfunding makes for some very tough decision making.

There was unexpected drama in Edinburgh’s historic City Chambers this afternoon as the Labour administration’s Council budget was defeated and that of the Lib Dem group passed instead.

Labour’s budget was defeated due to tactical voting by the 10 Green Councillors, who split their votes amongst the opposition parties. In addition, a suspended Labour Councillor resigned from the group during the meeting, bringing their number of Councillors down to 12.

From the Evening News:

The successful Lib Dem proposals also include a council tax rise of five per cent, less than the 5.75 per cent proposed by Labour; rejecting £5m of education cuts proposed by council officials; an extra £11m for road and pavement maintenance; £3m for improvements to parks and greenspaces; an extra £2m for flood prevention; and £3m towards the refurbishment of the King’s Theatre. But there is no money to fund the continuation of free tram fares for under-22s or bring back a cycle hire scheme.

One element that meant a lot to one particular councillor was the saving of speech and language therapies, although his very personal speech was interrupted by a former Council leader.

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“Why would you stand again?”

Bonkers? You have nothing better to do? What’s the point? Don’t you feel that your efforts are worthless? I often wonder whether standing again, literally after being elected 12 months ago, sounds “sane”. It feels like only yesterday I wrote to readers of the Liberal Democrat Voice to introduce myself as a candidate in the May 2022 Local Elections. I wanted to share my story, challenge some of the stereotypes and prove that only the sky’s the limit if we passionately believe in something. This is why I was delighted to get elected and overall, I am enjoying every minute of being able to serve you as your local councillor.

The national and international political landscape is not helping; the war in Ukraine, cost of living crisis, sky-rocketing inflation. Who would have thought that 12 months later, members of the Conservative Party would have selected their third Prime Minister? Has much changed? Not in my opinion. Is this why some many people are fed up with the Government, political status-quo and feel completely disengaged?

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An “existential crisis” for English Councils

It has been many years since Councils have felt they had enough funding to provide the services that their residents need. For most of this century they have been cutting many non-essential and non-statutory services, such as youth clubs, and they have been outsourcing some essential services to cheaper and, in some cases, inexperienced and inadequate providers. And the cuts have happened year on year, so what seems unthinkable one year becomes a reality the next.

The core Council services are around housing and social care, for adults and children, plus a number of environmental services such as recycling and waste collection. Social care supports the most vulnerable, from essential care for the elderly and those with disabilities, to support for families in crisis and providing for looked after children. Most Councils also support an active volunteer sector with its increasing provision of food banks, as sure indicator that all is not well with society.

Throughout all this the Westminster government has been adding extra responsibilities to local government, but not the funding needed to meet them, all the while passing the blame onto Councils.

Councils get the bulk of their income from Council tax, business rates and central Government grants. The latter consists of the main revenue support grant, plus ring-fenced grants which simply pass through the Councils accounts and directly out to recipients, such as housing benefits and school funding. The formula for allocating the revenue support grant is shrouded in mystery, but seems to be based on historical assessments of need rather than current need.  It has also reduced on average by 50% in recent years, and some Councils get precisely zero in revenue support.

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We should be talking about Lib Dem Councils Building new homes 

One of the achievements of Lib Dem controlled  Councils  has been a focus on building social and affordable housing – but it’s not one the Party has made much of. Given that access to housing is one of the key issues in our society that seems a  pity.

In York for example the Lib Dem run council is focused  on increasing the number of  affordable homes  – 447 have been delivered in the last 3 years – and the numbers are increasing year or year. The Council is planning to have delivered  no less than 600 affordable  homes in it’s 4 years term and to have done so while protecting the local Green Belt.

Even better many of these are being delivered to ‘Passivhaus ‘ standards meaning that they are  much  better for the environment.

In Kingston we are doing something most Labour councils say is impossible – building new council  housing – and new housing build to the highest environment standards. .As the Portfolio Holder for Housing , Clr Emily  Davey says -“providing homes which meet our residents needs is a priority for us.”

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Lib Dem Eastleigh wins Council of the Year award

Eastleigh Council has won the prestigious “ Council of the Year” award from the  Association for Public Service Excellence,  recognising its excellent performance in delivering front line council services. The awards receive hundreds of submissions every year and only outstanding councils, that have met the stringent criteria of the expert judges, are shortlisted for Council of the Year.

There are 22 Categories of award and as well as Council of the year. Eastleigh’s  Direct Services team won the  award for Transport and Fleet Maintenance and  the Council was  shortlisted in 4 other categories.

Accepting the award  on behalf of the Council, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Policy, Councillor Tonia Craig said:

Being recognised as Council of the Year is a superb accolade and reflects the commitment of our staff to deliver truly excellent frontline services. I would like to pay tribute to all our teams who work so hard to support communities and improving lives in our Borough – and to thank APSE for this recognition.

Eastleigh is one of the Party’s flagship Councils with has 34 Lib Dem Councillors  out of 39 and we have been in control since 1995.

You can see the Eastleigh Team receiving the award here:

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17 August 2022 – today’s press releases

  • Inflation figures: People will never forgive this Government for abandoning them
  • Thames Water hosepipe ban: slap in the face for millions of people
  • “Nasty party”: Kwarteng must clarify Truss’s shameful ‘graft’ comments
  • 75,000 A-Level grades set to be deflated under Government’s exam plans
  • Councillor Sykes welcomes change in law barring sex offenders from standing for or holding elected office

Inflation figures: People will never forgive this Government for abandoning them

Responding to inflation reaching 10.1% this morning, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

Britain is heading for the worst economic crisis in a generation, yet the Prime Minister has clocked off early whilst Sunak and Truss are too busy squabbling amongst themselves.

Families and pensioners will never forgive this Conservative Government for abandoning them in the middle of a cost of living catastrophe.

The answer is staring Conservative MPs in the face but they refuse to act. Energy bills must be frozen immediately or else millions of people will be plunged into financial devastation this winter.

Thames Water hosepipe ban: slap in the face for millions of people

Responding to the news that Thames Water will enforce a hosepipe ban, Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson Tim Farron MP said:

This is a slap in the face for millions of people when Thames Water is losing a quarter of all their water to leaks.

Their gross negligence to fix leaks is set to inflict hosepipe ban misery across the South. We wouldn’t be in this mess if Thames Water bothered to invest properly. Instead, water companies are choosing to pay themselves billions of pounds in profits and reward their CEOs with insulting bonuses. Thames Water is putting profit above the public and environment.

Ministers are to blame for letting profiteering water companies get away with it. Under this Government, our rivers have become polluted with sewage and water pipes rusting with leaks.

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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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We need to ensure our ‘Green Spaces’ are protected at all costs

I’ve recently read the agenda items that my local council have put on their website and I’m dismayed that the term ‘Open Spaces’ is being adopted instead of ‘Green Spaces.’

This for me is far more than simple semantics. I don’t doubt that our Borough does indeed have many Open Spaces, but the desire to treat these as synonymous with Green Spaces is an hugely cynical move. This I feel would make it far easier and clearly more palatable for residents when our cynical council sells off our Green Spaces and makes way for the latest housing development. When challenged, selling Open Spaces sounds far less damaging or controversial.

Of course I understand the need to balance the planning and housing needs of my area, but I’m hugely concerned that far too often our planning for houses and developments is pushed through to appease big business and make money, at the expense of the health and well-being of local residents. Opposition to such plans, even when 2,000 residents oppose something, is seemingly paid lip service.

Greater emphasis should be placed on social housing. Is 10% for each new development really sufficient? Why not 50%? If there really is a ‘housing crisis’, is this really going to be solved by making developers and builders richer? Our current model of planning is clearly unsustainable?

As part of our ongoing strategy and policy for building a fairer Britain we need to be much more radical in our approach and stricter on our commitment to plans that we have a negative impact on our long term health and well-being. Should building for sustainable homes therefore always be carbon neutral and therefore enshrined in law? The risk to these Green Spaces and therefore an ongoing legacy for our children/grandchildren is at stake.

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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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Real recovery starts with local government

I’m sure that some of you may see my name and the title of this article and think: “There he is, banging on about local government yet again”. Guilty as charged, Your Honour. The reason for my ‘banging on’ again has been prompted by an article in today’s Guardian by one of its leader writers, entitled ‘Local Politics is cutting a path for Labour’. Being the Guardian, the answer would of course be Labour. Wouldn’t it? However, the writer’s sudden discovery that there IS political life outside the Westminster bubble is welcome. However, some of us have been well ahead of him down the road to Damascus and, having served as councillors for many years – in my case thirty – we know most of the pitfalls.

What I have discovered is that you can succeed in local government by dint of your personality rather than the colour of the rosette you wear. If Labour is waking up to the potential of local government, why isn’t the party that turned community politics into an art form?

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New Lib Dem mayor of Truro: I’m working out how to use my platform to make others suffer less

Last week, Liberal Democrat Steven Webb became Mayor of Truro.

A Lib Dem since his teenage years, he was first elected to Truro City Council in 2017.

In 1991, he was paralysed in an accident.

The BBC has done a profile of Steven.

He talked about what he hopes to achieve as Mayor:

In a time where clinically vulnerable people have had to isolate for so long, I see it as an opportunity to make sure there are no groups left behind and we rebuild from the pandemic together.

There are so many people who have self-isolated and have hardly left their flats.

We’ve got to make sure everybody is included – that will help businesses, that will help Truro and that will reduce suffering.

It’s time we had a vision to keep the amazing heritage of cobbled streets and granite pavements but make it open to everybody.

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Lib Dem Amanda Hopgood to lead Durham County Council

Great news from Durham. Liberal Democrat Councillor Amanda Hopgood has taken over as Durham County Council leader after Labour lost their majority (and 21 seats) in May’s local elections. 

From the BBC:

The alliance, made up of Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, independents and a Green councillor, officially took over at the council’s annual meeting on Wednesday.

Ms Hopgood, who leads the Liberal Democrat group, said she was “honoured and privileged” to have been elected leader.

She said: “County Durham is a fantastic place, not just for those of

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Building back neglected communities

Embed from Getty Images

Behind the future economic and political relationship between the UK and the EU, and the (mis)management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of how to revive the towns and cities of the north of England (and its other marginal communities) will loom in 2021 as one of the key issues in UK politics.  Resentment of industrial decline, followed by cuts in funding for local government, education and transport, fuelled support first for leaving the EU and then for deserting Labour.  Boris Johnson has pledged to invest in bringing prosperity back to former industrial communities.  Keir Starmer is feeling his way towards regaining their support, more by embracing their conservative values than promising massive spending.  But what do Liberal Democrats have to offer them?

This raises existential problems for all three parties.  Johnson’s promises imply a larger state, with higher taxes, engaging in rebuilding local and regional economies – anathema to the small-state libertarians who now crowd the Conservative backbenches.  Starmer is struggling to reconcile the metropolitan liberals who provide much of his activist base with the social nostalgia these communities cling to.  But we, too, are a party of university towns and graduates, liberals in the widest sense: we cannot follow Starmer in attempting to embrace rediscovered ‘working class values’, which in any case many of the younger generation in such communities do not share.

We do however have determined local activists in many of these neglected communities, with hopes of winning local elections in May or June.  So what should our platform be, consistent with our values?  Can we make the future of local democracy itself an issue that will appeal?  The Conservatives clearly despise local government: their preference for awarding contracts to multinational companies rather than partnering with local authorities to handle responses to the pandemic has been an expensive disaster. Bullying local government on school closures has been as bad.  Moving bits of central departments to ‘red wall’ seats while keeping power in London is a poor substitute for devolving power.  But we need to think carefully how best to present a case for stronger local government and less direction from London, if we want to win over discontented voters.

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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 registering to vote is good for your wealth and health

You will almost certainly be registered to vote if you are reading Liberal Democrat Voice, as you are a politically engaged individual. But are all your neighbours, friends and family also on the electoral roll?
Feel free to share this article with them, as adapted for your local Council.
If you are not registered to vote, you could be harming your chances of getting credit when you need it, and even your access to a home-delivered COVID-19 test.
You are not automatically registered to vote, (included on the electoral roll), even if you have lived here for many years. You should register to

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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

Posted in Local government and News | 7 Comments

An interview with Cllr Gareth Roberts

Gareth Roberts, Liberal Democrat Leader of the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames (LBRUT), tells York Membery about the challenges he’s faced in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, the specific Lib Dem approach he’s sought to pursue, and his misgivings about the Johnson government’s response to the pandemic…

How has the LBRUT coped with the fallout from the pandemic?

Reasonably well. Every local authority has been hit in one form or another but in terms of keeping infections down, limiting the number of deaths in the borough, keeping residents and businesses supported and, vitally, keeping residents informed we’ve performed well. And that’s not me being some Town Hall Trump; we conducted a poll of residents recently. 63% of respondents said Richmond was doing a good job in responding to the pandemic, whereas 61% thought the Tories at Westminster was doing poorly.

What are the biggest covid-linked challenges that the council has faced?

School closures was a biggie. I think people have largely forgotten how contentious that was. Some residents thought it was entirely wrong, some wanted us to move far more quickly and there was a real lack of direction from the Tory Government. More recently, the real challenge has been anti-social behaviour – before the pubs reopened people would meet friends in their local parks and green spaces and though most behaved themselves there was a hardcore of people who stayed far too late, were far too rowdy and used the parks (and even neighbouring front gardens) as toilets.

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2020 – The year the housing was hit by a maverick algorithm 

Alongside Planning for the Future White Paper (see previous article), ministers published without fanfare a second consultation on changes to the planning system. Council housing targets will be set centrally using a crude formula that distributes responsibility for the government’s ambition for 300,000 new homes a year round the country. But the formula will allocate more housing to higher priced areas such as the south and east, while reducing ambitions for the Northern Powerhouse. A ‘short-term’ waiver of S106 requirements for most small sites could cut affordable housing delivery by up to 20%. A quarter of affordable housing delivered will be for sale at a 25% discount at the expense of social and affordable rented homes. 

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2020 – The year government took planning away from the people 

2020 will be remembered for many things. The pandemic and flooding among them. It will also be remembered as the year they took planning away from the people. 

The government’s proposals in the white paper Planning for the Future and associated documents are bold. They will transfer many local planning powers from councils and communities to Whitehall and the planning inspectorate in Bristol. Ministers want planning by checklist instead of considered, albeit sometimes difficult, planning deliberations that lead to quality developments. 

There are sensible ideas in the government’s proposals but they are countered by its determination to take democracy and localism out of planning. 

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5-6 September 2020 – the weekend’s press release

Government must support local councils instead of imposing top down reorganisation

Ahead of the Government’s motion on the Local Government Boundary Commission tomorrow, Liberal Democrat Local Government spokesperson Tim Farron said:

The Chair of the Local Government Boundary Commissions looks like they’re going to have a lot on their plate. Just last week the Tories proposed abolishing nearly every council and replacing them with larger, less accountable, ‘super-councils.’

At a time when local authorities and the government are struggling to tackle the pandemic, it is not the time for a reorganisation of deckchairs on the titanic.

Liberal Democrats believe change should come from the

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