Tag Archives: Local government

Tory centralisation has failed us on Coronavirus. It’s time to consider the local alternatives.

We have seen how the government has acted too slow to implement a lockdown and not given councils enough resources to be able to help people locally.

Coronavirus has also shown us how the Tory government believes it is best to deal with the Coronavirus centrally rather than making more use of local government. As a Liberal Democrat I believe strongly in localism – one of the party’s founding principles.

In Ealing, despite the Council being run by the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats have managed to take a more active role than many opposition parties. Liberal Democrats in Ealing have been able to make decisions locally that affect the people we serve during the Coronavirus period.

To deal with Coronavirus effectively, we need money and support from the national government – not dictates. It is important there is trust in the local government partners. Yet this Tory government has done exactly the opposite of that.

Firstly, on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): if we had waited for the government’s supplies to arrive, our care homes would have run out very quickly. Instead we bought large supplies alongside other West London boroughs so that our care homes had regular supplies.

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Cllr Bridget Smith writes…..Lib Dems are the party of Business

It became apparent some weeks ago that South Cambridgeshire could not rely on the Mayor and the Combined Authority to lead on Business Recovery.  The reason being that South Cambridgeshire is a very rural district albeit wrapping completely around Cambridge City, with an extremely diverse business sector which includes not only the Cambridge Science Park and the world renown Bio Medical campus at Addenbrookes Hospital with the likes of Astra Zeneca but also the Wellcome and Sangar Institutes at Hinxton and the soon to be Huawei headquarters at Sawston. Every bit as important to us is farming, manufacturing, the service industries, tourism and the many thousands of SMEs, sole traders and home workers.  The role of the CA is obviously high level and strategically focused on the whole of the Peterborough and Cambridgeshire area and cannot be refined or nuanced enough to support the village based micro economies which ensures that the 103 villages and 1 new town are truly self-sufficient and sustainable.

When we took control of the council 2 years ago we immediately established Economic Development as one of our top 4 priorities and were in the process of recruiting a Business Support Team when CV struck – which has turned out to be fortuitous. Our original plan was to focus on inward investment, exploiting the potential of our enterprise zones and fulling the SME business support gap left when Business Link ceased to operate. This team will now obviously be focusing on business recovery.

I also recently established the role of Member Champion for Business which Cllr Peter McDonald has excelled at. Peter created a Business Recovery Strategy in the first couple of weeks of the crisis which has been critical for us as the situation has developed.

Economic growth has been more than healthy for the Greater Cambridge area (South Cambs and Cambridge City) and it is currently the government’s focus for their initial investment in the OxCam Arc with the recent announcement of the E-W rail link and the budget plans for 4 new DevCos in and just to the west of the district.

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Daily View 2×2: 7 May 2020

2 big stories

Who’d have thought it? The achievement of the testing target on 30 April is already looking deeply shady, with the inclusion of posted tests included in that figure, plus allegations that even those posted weren’t actually usable. And now, subsequent data shows that the numbers are going backwards, not upwards. The solution, a new target. The distraction from failure – some relaxations in terms of going out and about.

Meanwhile, the European Union is predicting that its economy will shrink by 7.4% this year, the worst performance since World War II, with the economies of Southern Europe worst …

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The journal of a new councillor (part 1)

Helen Burton was elected as a new councillor in Eastbourne last year. In this moni-series, she explains what led her to run in the first place…

I can’t believe it was a year ago I was elected as an Eastbourne Borough Councillor, the time has absolutely flown by. Who could have imagined a year ago that I would be writing this during lockdown in the middle of a pandemic, a crisis affecting local councils across the country?

My path to becoming a councillor in Eastbourne started with my volunteer role in the local community. I had already been a Parish councillor in …

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Daily View 2×2: 27 April 2020

I hope that you’ve all had a nice weekend, although I guess that, for some of you, each day is beginning to feel the same as the last. At Liberal Democrat Voice, our aim is to entertain, inform and engage, and so I’d better get on, hadn’t I?

2 big stories

Whilst the talk is of what happens next in the UK’s battle against Covid-19, elsewhere, the first steps towards normalisation have started;

In all four places officials caution that life is not going back to normal yet. For one thing, there can be no letting down their guard. The authorities have

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Covid-19 shows the benefits of Localism

As Charles Kennedy once said:

Liberal Democrats are the traditional exponents of localism. Localism is inextricably linked to our core values.

The belief in devolved power, strong local government, and a plurality of societal actors working together to enhance democratic accountability and maximising opportunity for innovation and experimentation lie at the heart of liberalism.

The population of not just the United Kingdom, but the whole world seem to be confined to a particular location. We are unable to take flights across the globe, or even visit friends and relatives in nearby towns. Families, businesses, institutions, and society are pulling together like never before. With this in mind, it seems like localism will never get a better workout than during the isolation phase of the covid-19 pandemic.  With this, there will be opportunities to observe how individuals, families, communities, businesses, and arms of government go about their day-to-day lives and jobs to make society function and altruistically help those in need.

We are already seeing networks of volunteers ready to help the vulnerable; MPs and local councillors working tirelessly answering questions from many of their constituents ranging from the Government’s furlough schemes to the importance of self-isolation. But it is noticeable that constituents are adjusting already and making choices that benefit not just themselves as individuals, but their families and society.

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WATCH: Kingston Lib Dem councillors supporting their community

Kingston’s Lib Dem councillors have put out a wonderful video showing what they are doing during lockdown to support local residents and to get through these very stressful times.

Enjoy.

It’s lovely to watch – emphasises the importance of staying at home, but has lots of suggestions for ways to get – and give – help.

And our councillors have some really, really cute animals.

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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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Conference Countdown: What local government needs from the Queen’s Speech

In last week’s spending review, we saw yet more smoke and mirrors.  Just half of the promised £3.7bn is new cash and £1.85bn will be coming from pockets of hard-pressed council tax and business rate taxpayers who are at breaking point. 

The money announced will help meet rising cost and demand pressures in 2020/21.  But not much more.

As I have said time and time again additional freedoms and flexibilities are all very well, but its new hard cash that local government needs.  This must be backed up a commitment that is not just for 12 months, but a sustainable three year plus funding settlement.  

You cannot keep kicking the “social care can” down the road, politicians have promised for more than 20 years and have still not delivered a way forward.

Equally so the crisis in children’s services keep being papered over and deferred to another day.  Local government needs the security and reassurance of a long-term settlement. 

There was some cash for homelessness – again, welcome – but no mention of investment to tackle its underlying causes.

Nothing for social housing, nor an end to the benefit freeze that is creating widespread housing insecurity.  With the loss of yet another DWP minister who knows what is going to happen.

Councils across the country are reporting to us an increase in people accessing their homeless services and are spending £1bn a year putting families in temporary accommodation enough is enough.

We heard about a youth investment fund to build and repair youth clubs, but no details.  I will put money on it that it will probably amount to a mere sticking plaster on the wounds inflicted by austerity on local youth services.

And as we all have an eye on a General Election; which just like Winter in Game of Thrones most certainly is coming; our own party’s manifesto needs to rise to these challenges as well!

Next year’s Spending Review must provide the long-term, sustainable settlement councils need in order to protect services into the next decade and beyond.  But it isn’t all about money.

As part of the Local Government Associations ongoing #CouncilsCan campaign, the LGA is also calling for the next Queen’s Speech to deliver a new localism settlement for England.  This settlement will need to reignite devolution, empowering councils to transform local areas.

With new powers, funding and long-term certainty, councils will continue to lead their local areas and improve the lives of their residents.  Giving councils the freedom and funding to make local decisions improves national outcomes. 

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ALDC’s by-election review – 7th March

A  quiet night of by-elections saw one by-election take place in Haddenham and Stone for Aylesbury Vale DC. The solitary election saw a big loss for the Conservatives to the Green’s who increased their vote share 34.6% to snatch the seat from the Tories. Jim Brown and the Aylesbury Vale Lib Dem team flew the flag well and took 333 votes increasing their vote share by 2.3% so a big thanks to Jim and the team.

Next week we have a busier week with 3 by-elections taking place with Lib Dem candidates standing in all. See below our list for next week and how you can help.

Croydon LB, Norbury & Pollards Hill
Labour Seat. Cause: Death
LD Candidate: Guy Burchett
Get in touch – https://www.croydonlibdems.org/contact_us

Durham UA, Wingate.
Lab Seat. Cause: Death.
LD Candidate: Edwin Simpson
Get in touch – https://durhamlibdems.mycouncillor.org.uk/get-involved/?purpose=get%20in%20touch#page-content 

Southampton UA, Coxford Ward.
Ind Seat. Cause: Resignation.
LD Candidate Candidate: Sam Chapman [email protected]

Contact (campaign manager): Colin McDougal [email protected]

Good luck to all our candidates standing next week!

If you have a spare hour you can find contact details of who to ring to help out on our website.

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£8 billion funding black hole by 2025 will swallow up popular council services

Communities may suffer the loss of leisure and cultural facilities, fewer bus services, unkempt parks and green spaces and see fly-tippers go unpunished without government investment in under-pressure council services.

On Friday the cross-party Local Government Association launched its campaign to influence the forthcoming government Spending Review by warning about the growing risk to vital local services if the Government does not take action to secure the financial sustainability of councils.

However, the LGA said that, with the right funding and powers, councils can continue to lead their local areas, improve residents’ lives, reduce demand for public services and save money for the taxpayer.

Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 the Government had provided for services. 

Some councils are being pushed to the brink by this unprecedented loss of funding and an ongoing surge in demand for children’s services, adult social care services and homelessness support. This is on top of having to absorb other cost pressures, such as higher national insurance contributions, the apprenticeship levy and the National Living Wage.

More and more councils are struggling to balance their books, facing overspends and having to make in-year budget cuts.

Councils provide more than 800 services to residents in their local area – some of these are legal duties they have to provide whilst others are optional powers they can use depending on local priorities.

Money is increasingly having to be diverted from these optional services, which help build communities people want to live in, to plug growing funding gaps, while some councils have already been forced to cut their services back to the legal minimum “core offer”. 

With councils in England facing an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025, local government leaders fear many more will have to take similar action.

That could mean many cherished local – but discretionary – services such as the maintenance of parks, improving food hygiene and safety, certain bus services, cultural activities and council tax support for those in financial difficulty – face being drastically cut back by councils across the country.

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31 January 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Govt must follow evidence not chase headlines in fight against knife crime
  • Moran: Rough sleeping shames our whole country
  • Tory Govt woefully unprepared for no deal Brexit
  • Cable: Cancelled recess shows extent of Tory chaos
  • Davey: Shocking new figures expose prison crisis
  • Pharma giant stockpiling emergency trauma packs
  • Huge increase in part-time and postgraduate graduates
  • Cash-strapped councils asked to prepare for no deal is an insult to local services

Govt must follow evidence not chase headlines in fight against knife crime

Responding to the Home Secretary’s plan to give new powers to the police to tackle knife crime, Liberal Demcorat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:

The UK is in

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Celia Thomas: Every disabled person should be able to live a life of dignity and respect

Last week, the House of Lords debated the future essential services run by local authorities. As local government is so important to Liberal Democrats, it’s no surprise that several Lib Dems took part in the debate.

Celia Thomas talked about two critical issues – social care and, first the provision of public toilets and the impact that cuts have on isolation of people with continence problems.

She warned against the idea that we need to provide support for disabled people so that they can work as this can promulgate the idea that there are deserving and undeserving disabled people. Every disabled person, she said, should be able to live a life of dignity and respect:

My Lords, I shall concentrate on the provision of social care but, before that, I want to mention something that I would call an essential service but which turns out to be discretionary. Here I shall lower the tone of the debate so I hope noble Lords will not mind; I am talking about the provision of public conveniences, lavatories, toilets or loos throughout the country. Those that are left are now often maintained by town or parish councils, but for how long? In 2010, there were over 5,000 public toilets; now, there are 4,486. Is it right that fast-food chains, supermarkets and coffee shops have now virtually taken the place of public toilets? What happens when these places are closed, when managers are reluctant to let everyone use their facilities or when there are no accessible toilets? We should not forget the silent number of people trapped in their homes because of continence problems.

I turn now to social care. As the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, said, we are no nearer to seeing the Government’s Green Paper; as late as October, we were told it would be with us by the end of the year. The funding issue is a fiendishly difficult problem because social care encompasses so much and is so little understood. We need a different term; I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Patten, about language. The word “social”, according to the dictionary, means,

“marked by friendly companionship with others”.

But, in local government terms, it has a much sterner face to cover the state’s obligation to help care for children, including those with mild or severe learning difficulties, as well as disabled and elderly adults. It may have to cover playschemes for disabled children, personal assistants, aids and equipment, care at home and residential care.

Not only are we all living longer, but there is now a better survival rate for people with serious health conditions. I believe that the dictionary definition of the word “social” is one reason why so many people think the service is free for council taxpayers rather ​than means-tested, or partly means-tested. Anyone who thinks the answer for even quite severely disabled people is NHS continuing care should think again as it is very difficult to get. As for delays in hospital discharges, these are still causing a problem due to care packages having to be negotiated or re-negotiated. Can the Minister say how the Government have evaluated the impact of health and well-being boards in tackling the increasing number of these delays?

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Paul Scriven: We need to fund Councils properly and give them the powers to create great communities

Local Government is an issue of paramount importance to Liberal Democrats. Last week in the Lords, Liberal Democrat peer Paul Scriven led a debate on the essential services that local authorities provide. He outlined how chronic underfunding of local government, combined with rising demand for services was creating unsustainable problems.

Here is his speech:

I am very pleased to be leading this debate because to me it is a vital issue that affects every village, every town, every city and every region: local government has a positive power to change people’s lives. Just think of the older person who is becoming vulnerable and possibly losing their independence. With good public health, good housing services and good social services that person can continue to lead an independent life with dignity. Just think of the young man who might be on a crossroads between violence and going forward to have a fulfilling life. With good youth services and education services that young person can be supported to make the correct decision and have a successful life.

Local government can facilitate enterprise and business locally with good business development services, planning and support services provided by local authorities. They can help to create vibrant, successful and sustainable communities: libraries, parks, clean air, shared spaces and bringing people together to give them opportunities to achieve. That is the vision that I think most people have of a good local service: bottom up and delivering for people—not just a service provider of last resort but a local democratic hub that facilitates and brings opportunities for people and businesses to succeed.

I will mention my own journey in Sheffield in the local authority, first as a back-bench councillor helping individual constituents, then as leader of the opposition, ​many times clashing with the then chief executive, the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake—I am not sure whether he will raise that—then as chair of scrutiny, holding the executive to account, and then having the great pleasure of leading that great city and that great council. I was then put on early retirement when I lost my seat and am now back again as a local councillor. I saw the power that local authorities can have to affect individuals and communities and make a real difference to people’s ability to succeed in their life.

That is what the situation should do, but we must look at what it has now become in many cases. Sadly, in some cases local authorities have not just become the provider of last resort but are struggling to be even that—we only have to look at Northamptonshire, Somerset, Norfolk and Lancashire County Councils, and the National Audit Office warning that reserves are running out. In some cases they are not just unable to provide the opportunities that I talked about but are unable to provide the very statutory services that they are there to provide in an emergency as a safety net.

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In War: Resolution, In Defeat: Defiance, In Victory: Magnanimity, In Peace: Good Will.

As Remainers, we have lived by the first two parts of Churchill’s famous saying from World War Two in our fight against Brexit. We have been by turns both resolute and defiant.

Now, on the verge of victory (not yet certain I know but looking more likely) we need to start looking at how we can be magnanimous and promote, hopefully, good will. To do this, we need to look at the reasons why some many areas outside the main metropolitan areas voted to leave the EU.

The lack of affordable housing, the concentration of economic development in the Home Counties …

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Ros Scott’s closing speech to ALDC Kickstart

The newly elected President of ALDC, Baroness Ros Scott, closed the ALDC Kickstart event yesterday afternoon. She has kindly made available the text of her speech…

I hope that you have all had a wonderful weekend.

These are the most difficult and unpredictable political times that I can ever remember. There’s no way of knowing what the backdrop to next May’s elections will be.

But some things never change.

When I joined in 1991, I was a community campaigner in my home town of Needham Market. The only political party who were really engaged with the community were the Lib Dems, and that’s …

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LibLink: Cllr Robert Aldridge: Whatever happened to joined up thinking?

This Budget has meant that local government is going to be taking even more of a hit in England. In Scotland, too, councils bear the brunt of SNP cuts.

A Lib Dem Councillor in Edinburgh, Robert Aldridge, who, for five years from 2007-12 was the city’s finance convener, has written an article for the Edinburgh Evening News about what a total mess the Labour/SNP coalition is making of running Scotland’s capital.

Their cuts have not been done in a  strategic way and, in fact, generate more costs in the future:

He set out the problems:

As the scale of council cuts grows we are seeing fewer and fewer staff struggling to try to provide the same level of service with smaller and smaller budgets. More and more we see staff having to focus on their part of a task rather than the best way of achieving the best service for the citizen.

And the impact they have on people’s lives:

For the want of a janitor in a community centre we are likely to see more people having to move to residential care, at enormous expense. We are focusing limited resources on those with highest needs, but at the expense of low-level support which prevents problems becoming acute. We are facing an obesity crisis amongst our young people. But we are increasing the costs for voluntary groups to use council facilities in the evening, making it likely that they will either have to increase charges (excluding young people from poorer families) or meet less frequently, or for a shorter period.

And what’s the solution?

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Power for people and communities

I am very pleased to be presenting the policy paper Power for People and Communities at Conference, having chaired the group that developed the paper.

The proposals set out a strong agenda for devolution and localism within England. We are arguing for greater financial autonomy for local authorities, STV in local elections, making it easier to establish Town or Community Councils in urban areas, strengthening the powers of local government over issues from education to health to planning, and also reforming the Social Value Act to encourage the use of public or not-for-profit providers when commissioning local services.

Judging by the amendments submitted, a focus of the debate will be on devolution within England. The paper develops and strengthens existing policy on this since the last major policy debate in 2014. We set out a clear ambition to achieve a comprehensive devolved tier within England, while recognising that the appetite for devolution is different in different areas and we need to take people with us.

Our approach is to enact permissive legislation to empower groups of local authorities to come together to establish devolved governance in their areas. We will proceed by consensus as far as possible, but will not allow one local authority to veto a coherent proposal.

The geographical makeup of the devolved authorities should reflect local opinion. The decision should reflect local views, traditional boundaries and community identification as well as economic units, current council boundaries and travel-to-work areas. In some areas this could be city regions, in others sub-regions or a whole region as one unit. 

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My first 100 days as a Councillor

When I joined the Lib Dems in April 2017, little did I know that a year later I would be the first BAME Lib Dem councillor elected in Merton.

I have many people to thank for my journey, but essentially this happened because I was trusted by my new Lib Dem family to help lead our success in Merton and show our values by the way I serve – which is what I’ve tried to do.

The election campaign was intense and emotional. West Barnes was a top target ward and a lot rested on us winning. But it wasn’t easy. Early on the two sitting Conservatives were still confident, delighting in using social media to patronise and ridicule us. Labour brought out their big guns: the neighbouring MP, local parliamentary candidate, Momentum activists and the Leader of the Council who made our ward his second home. He claimed he would ensure there were no Lib Dems on Merton council. This was a battle!

At times it was nasty. I was shouted at by Labour activists when I talked to residents, and people who declared they would vote for us were heckled in the street.

But our campaigns were local, relevant and consistent. We listened and acted on what we were told, committed to real change, and a fresh start. As candidates we were on the streets nearly every day for nearly 2 years, building on years of work by our sitting and former councillors and others. We were not here just to win, we were here to serve.

By the count I was exhausted, and there were moments I felt we may have lost. By midnight as the votes piled up it was clear it was between us and the Tories. By 4am, a recount. The Tories just couldn’t believe we had beaten all their candidates for the first time in 18 years. But we did! We won all 3 seats in West Barnes and had a real breakthrough with our first wins in Dundonald and Trinity wards too. Our best results ever, with a group of 6 councillors.

My first week in I did as I promised and started to make a difference. I organised an inter-faith Iftar (the meal Muslims have to end the day’s fast) during Ramadan – the first ever organised by Merton Council – for local community and faith groups at our local library. At my first Council meeting I proposed a plan to keep local parks free for a football charity, following a big campaign we had run in the election. Residents came to the meeting and brought banners and posters in support. We lost the motion but the next day we were on the front page of the local paper, and more importantly we’re still fighting!

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Upset in East Herts, solid hold in Cornwall…

Another Thursday, another unlikely result…

Yes, that’s a 51.7% swing, for the aficionados out there.

For the Conservatives, who had previously held all fifty seats on the council, they’ll just have to get used to having an opposition in the Council chamber. Well done to Sophie Cook, one of our younger members, and her team in a part of the county where success has been traditionally hard won.

Elsewhere, a solid defence in Bude, on Cornwall Council…

See, not all gammon is bad… Again, congratulations to David Parsons and the North Cornwall crew – a lovely bunch from my memory as Presidential consort.

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ALDC Campaigner Awards 2018

The annual ALDC Campaigner Awards provide a way for us to recognise the outstanding work of local Liberal Democrat campaigners and campaign teams. And nominations for 2018 are now open (closing 26 August), sponsored by our print partners, Election Workshop. You don’t have to be an ALDC member to enter (but you can find out about membership here).

THE CATEGORIES:

Best local election campaign – We’re looking for local parties that have fought effective and strong 2018 local election campaigns – how did you win, what innovative new ideas did you use, …

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Devolution to the English Regions is not just a good thing – it’s absolutely essential.

The problems of the UK will never be solved while the whole of the Country is dominated by Westminster and Whitehall. I have believed that for all the 51 years I have been a member of our Party (or its predecessor!) I believe it now and that is why I am more than a little disappointed with the policy paper and motion being sent from the FPC to Party Conference. It just isn’t strong enough, urgent enough or angry enough!

Whilst still a Liberal member I was asked on Radio 4 to respond to the parody often created then of the average Liberal member being a long-haired, real ale drinker in sandals. My parody is somewhat different. I said then and I say now of our Party we protest with a campaign song which goes:

“What do we want?”

“Gradual Change”

“When do we want it?”

“As soon as possible please if that’s all right with you old chap”.

I’m afraid that is just not good enough for me. For almost all political life I have been a campaigner in Liverpool. I have held all sorts of positions when we controlled the Council and for my first 22 years as a Councillor represented some of the poorest communities in the Country. I have always been aware during that time that the needs of the poorest of our communities have been held back by policies devised by nice people, often well meaning, in Whitehall and Westminster but who have absolutely no ideas what it is like to live in a ‘Toxteth’ or a ‘Sparkbrook’.

Policies are created to look at the needs of those who live in the London Evening Standard catchment area – and not even the poorest bits of that.

The centralisation of power in London has dragged many of the brightest, most capable and most articulate away from using their talents in the great Northern Cities and Towns. This has reduced our capacity to create good jobs in good businesses. The creative talents of the North fuel what has been an overheating economy of the South East. This is not good for the South-East. Staggering house prices; long commutes and a poor environment are the price paid for that overheating.

At Conference we will be debating a motion supported by a policy paper that I have had a hand in creating. The motion is looking at the way that the UK is governed with a particular look at the way England is governed. It’s not that there is anything in the paper that I disagree with. It’s just that it’s all a bit anaemic. It’s just not angry enough about the Stalinist control that Westminster and Whitehall have over ‘the provinces’.

Arguably, England is the most centralised state in Western Europe. Bureaucrats in Whitehall and politicians in Westminster micro manage communities throughout the country. They do it by the creation of laws and Statutory Instruments and enforce their rule through a series of inspectorates and regionally based bureaucrats such as Children’s Commissioners.

This is rigorously enforced by the financial controls that Westminster imposes. The theory of localism and do what you think is right is supplanted by ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’.

Liberal Democrats think that this centralisation is wrong. Liberal Democrats believe that decisions over policies and spending should be made at the lowest possible and practical level. These levels will be different for different types of activity. 

A more muscular liberalism would want urgently to break the power of Westminster and Whitehall over issues of a domestic nature which should rightly be decided by those who have a clear understanding of the nature of problems and can devise local solutions.

  • The lowest level would be the neighbourhood perhaps 5,000 people
  • Then the district around 100,000 people
  • Then the Town or City – between 250,000 and 750,000 people
  • Then the County or Conurbation – between 750,000 and 2,500,000 people
  • Then the region which, following the devolved governmental system could be up to 5 million people.

I recognise that this will mean systems that look different in different parts of the Country. This is right. The way you provide services in a heavily rural area should look very different to the way they are provided in a heavily urban area.

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In praise of being a by-election candidate

It’s 18 months since Jamie Reed resigned as the MP for Copeland, forcing a very unexpected by-election.

I’d never intended standing for parliament.  I was very content running my own business and being a local (lowest level – unpaid) Councillor, campaigning on a local issue I was passionate about (keeping our maternity services).

Copeland was not a winnable seat (we had no Lib Dem councillors there and all the Lib Dems were in Stoke fighting Nuttall) but by-elections command a lot of party and media attention, so being the candidate gave me the chance to do many things I couldn’t have done in an unwinnable seat in a general election for example:

– Copeland contains Sellafield – the hub of the nuclear industry.  Our nuclear experts were very worried about the consequences of the UK pulling out of the Euratom agreement as part of Brexit.  Lord Teverson and Baroness Featherstone helped me get this issue rapidly on the Westminster agenda.  Because I was raising it in Copeland, the main party candidates had to know about it so their parties had to help them and this issue quickly gained cross party attention.

– I was also very concerned about a particularly toxic academy issue we faced.  The other candidates didn’t properly understand it but by raising it again and again and explaining it in depth at hustings I was able to make sure they did.  To her credit, Trudy Harrison (the elected Conservative MP) has got herself onto the Education Select Committee and is working hard on this issue.

– I was able to drive forward my work on our maternity issues with the help of Norman Lamb, Baroness Brinton and the local media.

 – I was able to be a role model for the kind of evidence-based inclusive democracy I believe in, for example I was able to set up hustings in areas that felt neglected.

I got high level training on working with the media and plenty of experience.  I got the support of very experienced politicians and my fantastic agent Andy Sanger and so was able to learn a great deal very quickly.

The credibility I gained during the by-election meant that I was elected to Cumbria County Council last May.  From there I’ve been able to continue to protect maternity services and I’ve been able to have a positive impact on more issues than I can count.  

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Have you ever thought of becoming a Parish councillor?

Now I fully accept that, for many of our readers, the idea of Parish Councils is all a bit redolent of “The Vicar of Dibley” (albeit the cause of confusion between Parish Councils and Parochial Church Councils), but they can be a key element of rural campaigning.

I ought to declare an interest first, in that I’m a Parish councillor in mid-Suffolk, and have been for about six years. Mine is a small Parish, population about 270, with an annual precept of less than £6,000. But this tier of local government is widely varied, ranging from the likes of Hereford City …

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Devolution – what is it good for?

The idea of devolving power to the “lowest possible level” is about as unifying an idea as there is for Liberal Democrats. But, as often happens with the best ideas of politicians, the current system of devolution to the regions is failing spectacularly.

This is because politicians, across both old parties, who become mayors, when they fail to deliver an improvement, have the get out clause of claiming its all the fault of central government for not funding them properly.

The latest example of this trend is the recent declaration by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, that the blame for the current …

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Lib Dems lead in Portsmouth, confidence and supply with Labour in Trafford

Gerald Vernon-Jackson is back in charge of Portsmouth City Council tonight, leading a minority administration. He served in this role from 2004-14 so he certainly knows the ropes. He now leads a minority administration with Labour backing:

From the BBC

“I will work as hard as I can to make sure the city of Portsmouth always comes first,” Mr Vernon-Jackson said.

“We need to be building more council houses and affordable homes for local people… I want to make sure we make the city a better place in terms of transport,” he told the meeting.

He added that for family reasons, his leadership

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Former Conservative Councillor joins Liberal Democrats

Former Torbay Conservative Councillor Mark King has joined the Liberal Democrats. He left the Conservative group on the Council 6 months ago and has now joined us. From Devon Live:

He said: “It is about the failures of the Conservatives to understand the impact of their policies on the bay and the fresh start the Liberal Democrats promise in Torbay and across the UK. I want to see them take control of the bay in 2019.

“I am very concerned about the increasing economic decline of the resort, the increased poverty and deprivation and the growing housing crisis I have tried hard to counter in an Executive role.

“The Liberal Democrats understand the need to generate business and build economic success from the grassroots while ensuring council services meet community needs with the protection of the vulnerable being paramount.

“Anyone who agrees that Torbay needs to see change will know that only the Liberal Democrats can beat the Conservatives under our electoral system. Votes for anyone else just help the Conservatives win.”

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ALDC’s Kickstart Weekend: my experience attending as a newbie

Adam Bambrough, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Clock House, Bromley Council in May’s local elections, has shared his experience of attending November 2017’s Kickstart Weekend.

I am fairly new to the party and I’ve been fast-tracked to be the candidate in May for the Bromley Council seat of Clock House in Beckenham. I have always been full of determination and drive, but before attending Kickstart, I was unsure whether my instincts in this new environment were correct. I also lacked the knowledge, strategy and technique to win my ward.

However, the training delivered everything I had hoped for and more. I left the weekend feeling more enthused than ever; knowing that my hard-work could now be channelled in the most effective ways.

I learnt to trust my instincts, which I have begun to do, and it helped me write my ward’s campaign plan and develop a coherent message to send to voters. The weekend also taught me to know my ward, which although seems obvious now, I had neglected a little at the time and have spent the months since getting to know every road!

My two mentors were so knowledgeable and went above and beyond the call of duty to help me and my team. I also met so many lovely fellow attendees over the course of the weekend. People I will be friends with and support for a long time.

I cannot speak more highly of my time on the course and I’ll certainly be recommending that other people from my local party go along this year. So don’t delay, if you have elections in 2019 and beyond, book on today to ensure your campaigns have the best chance of being successful.

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Former Conservative Camden Council Deputy Leader joins Liberal Democrats

Welcome, Andrew Marshall.

Andrew, who is still a Councillor in Camden but who resigned from the Tories last year, explained his reasons to the Ham and High

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Tories require senior Lib Dems to stand down from Council Executive pending investigation

There’s trouble in the Council administration in York as the Conservative leader of the Council required two senior Liberal Democrat coalition members to stand down temporarily pending an investigation on which there is precious little detail. The rest of the Lib Dem group boycotted a meeting of the Executive in protest on Thursday night.

From The Press:

Cllr Andrew Waller, a one time council leader who is now executive member for the environment, tweeted: “Lack of meaningful response to questions today following the actions of Cllr Carr&snr officers mean that I will not be at Executive tonight.”

A statement from the Lib Dem group confirmed that Cllr Waller and the party’s other remaining member on the ruling executive had sent their apologies.

“Councillors Waller and Runciman sent their apologies to this evening’s Executive Meeting. Councillor Runciman briefly attended the meeting to speak to one item relating to her portfolio,” the statement said.

It said that following the day’s events, Liberal Democrat Councillors were “pressing for assurances as to how the joint administration will continue to function in the best interests of the city.”

“The Liberal Democrat Group will now meet to decide the best way forward and we will continue to work hard representing our residents,” the statement added.

Watch this space for further developments. It certainly seems odd that no details of the alleged issues under investigation have been made public.

The Liberal Democrats have clearly been doing a lot of good work in York, Keith Aspden, one of the suspended councillors, wrote here last month about efforts to tackle homelessness, not notably a priority of the Conservatives.

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