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After this weeks tax credit debacle, Worcester Lib Dem, Adam Warner offers his perspective on the controversial proposals
Many will remember the haunting image of Iain Duncan Smith cheering in the House of Commons as Chancellor George Osborne announced welfare changes that will see tax credits cut for millions of working families.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said that it is ‘arithmetically impossible’ for ‘no-one to lose out’ whilst the Resolution Foundation says the average family will be £1,350 worse off even with the introduction of the so-called ‘national living wage’. Even Conservative MP’s have criticized the plans with Boris Johnson saying at the Conservative Party conference this week that more must be done to ‘protect the low-paid’.
Many on the left have condemned the changes entirely and some have marched against them. This is despite the fact that the principle behind them seem reasonable. Conservatives have repeated many times that the changes are an attempt to move the UK away from a low pay, high welfare economy to a high pay, low welfare economy.
There is no doubt that this would be a desirable result. The current system of central government subsidising low pay from exploitative big business is not only inefficient but just plain wrong. Surely a system where work pays more – which it will with the national living wage set to rise to £7.20 next year and to £9 by 2020 – is a better one?
The problem lies with the scale of the proposed tax credit cuts. As aforementioned, the overall package of reforms will see millions of what the Tories call ‘hard-working families’ losing huge amounts of money. In a society where the poorest have borne the brunt of austerity these changes will look like another attack on the most vulnerable.
There are certainly aspects of the changes that are not only positive, but necessary. However, yet again the Tories have decided to appeal to the minority who reside in the right of their party by sending out a message that they are ‘tough on welfare’ and ‘scroungers’ instead of doing what’s right for the millions of low paid workers in this country who do not earn enough to sustain a reasonable standard of living.
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Last Wednesday, Worcester Liberal Democrats met at the Cap N Gown in Worcester City Centre to discuss some prominent issues both local and national. This is something we plan to do more of in the future – below are some of the things discussed.
It was agreed that traffic congestion is one of the greatest issues threatening Worcester and its residents. With the multiple housing projects going on around the city the problem is only going to get worse. It was agreed that the proposed dualling of the Carrington Bridge was an idea we should get behind and it was acknowledged that the infamous Northern Link Road is something that will probably have to happen in the future – despite the huge cost.
There was also a consensus among us that an integrated public transport system is needed. The closure of the Perdiswell Park and Ride was condemned and the original council proposal of three park and ride sites around the city was supported. We also felt that the park and ride should have been publicised more effectively along with more encouragement for alternative forms of transport such as walking and cycling.
On top of the problems aforementioned we thought that housing developers ought to do more to contribute to the area in which they are building – i.e more local amenities and community facilities. We acknowledged that this already happens through Section 106 Planning Gain but still thought that their was room for it to be more effective. An example highlighted was the new bus lane near the Earls Court development on he west side of the city which has done little to improve traffic flow and is nearly always empty.
We agreed with national party policy that we should be doing more to help with the refugee crisis than is currently being offered. We acknowledged that there are many benefits to accepting migrants such as the professions and skills they have which can benefit the UK.
We are concerned about the state of our NHS. It was felt the government is not doing enough to cope with an increasing and ageing population. Worcester’s PFI hospital was mentioned as a particular concern along with the small size of it. Something will have to be done very soon to improve the service. We also thought that the amount of admin work hospital staff are required to complete is too high, contributed to worse care and worker stress. The cut in real terms to the mental health budget was also condemned.
There was concern at the relentless government financial cut backs to local government. Some services are effectively rationed. Again this can be very inefficient use of funds as much organisational time is wasted in juggling budgets and prioritising services.
For more info on the party locally and nationally follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and like our facebook page – its Worcester Liberal Democrats
The below article is purely an opinion based article and is NOT Lib Dem policy – any comments are welcome
The NHS is one of Britain’s success stories and is the envy of the world. However, we are continually told that the NHS is in crisis and unless we have significant spending increases it will cease to exist as we know. With a growing and ageing population and a reluctance to fork out more money in tax it is clear that this problem will not go away without radical proposals.
It seems that finally we are getting somewhere. Yesterday (Wednesday 3rd June) Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS, said that it was a ‘no brainer’ to try and prevent illness rather than simply treating the effects. He said that the NHS needs to ‘pull out all the stops on prevention, or face the music’.
For years it has been clear that the lifestyle choices made by millions of ordinary people in Britain is getting worse. It is estimated that binge drinking costs the NHS £5 billion a year and with obesity levels rising sharply, the cost of conditions such as diabetes and heart failure, to name a couple, are only going to rise with it.
It is therefore time for some radical solutions, which I believe the Liberal Democrats should aim to be at the forefront of. One potential idea would be limiting the number of fast food takeaway restaurants. In Worcester there are many such outlets but the problem is far worse in more deprived areas particularly in inner city areas. Legislation to put a cap on the number of fast food outlets within a certain distance of each other may help solve this issue.
A so called ‘sugar tax’ may also be a solution. It has been the case for a long time that it is cheaper to buy processed foods than fresh foods. Reversing this may provide the incentive for many people to use fresh produce once again.
However, I think the main way to tackle the issue of poor lifestyle choices is through public education campaigns. From teaching basic nutrition to young children at schools to television adverts it is vitally important that people understand what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. As a country we have been far too passive on this issue. Look at smoking for example where a long campaign has seen numbers taking up smoking fall and the idea of smoking itself become far more socially unacceptable.
I realise that restrictions and taxes are not very liberal policies but I believe that if we are ever going to save our NHS this is the only long term option. Throwing more and more money at it will provide only a short term fix. The time to act is now.
For more info follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and like our Facebook page – Worcester Liberal Democrats.
Worcester Liberal Democrats are planning to organise a trip for members old and new along with anyone who has a general interest in the contest.
The event starts at 7pm and goes on until 9pm so a meet up at around 5:45pm on the Friday should give us enough time to travel. Lifts can be arranged if neccessary.
If you wish to travel yourself the address is the Stratford School, Alcester Rd, CV37 9DH.
If you are interested contact myself by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to see some of you on 3rd July!
The May 7th General election results were shattering but not unexpected. However here are five reasons why I am optimistic about our future.
1) There was no major surge in Tory support.
Although they won by a clear majority, the Tory national share of the vote only increased fractionally from 36.1% in 2010 to 36.9% in 2015 an increase of just 0.8%
In contrast the Lib Dem vote decreased by 15.2%. From 23.1% in 2010 to just 7.9% in 2015. So the loss of so many seats was due to our own vote going to, Labour, Green, UKIP and the Nationalists with very little going to the Tories.
2) UKIP, GREEN, Labour and Nationalist Support has peaked.
These parties all took a substantial share of the Lib Dem vote. They all received massive press and media coverage during the run up to the election. However I think their support has peaked. UKIP support actually peaked in 2014 and support has been drifting down since. They failed to make a breakthrough and are riven by infighting at the moment. Likewise for the Labour party, who will spend years looking inwards whilst trying to re align itself.
3) Lib Dems are now free from the Tories
Although the coalition provided stable government and achieved much, it was never directly endorsed by the voting public and joining with the Tories and breaking promises was seen as a betrayal to many voters. In many areas in the North and Scotland the Tories are seen as unrepresentative and toxic.
4) Over 12 000 New Members
This is a massive vote of confidence for the Lib Dem cause. I think many people thought the Lib Dems had been too harshly punished and they wanted to support its values. Many of these new members are young people who will provide a dynamic force to help rebuild our party. In Worcester our new members, will help us get our message across more effectively. This will to help us win Council seats and provide better representation throughout the City.
5) There must be an opposition.
I have confidence that the voting public will try to ensure there is an effective opposition. The Lib Dems have benefited from this in the past. But any party has to be united, professional, realistic and have clear and distinct policies. In many areas of the country the Lib Dems still provide this opposition. Hopefully with time and effort we can strengthen our voice and expand these areas and maybe one day replace Labour as the main opposition.
This article was written by Worcester Lib Dem Chairman Mike Mullins.
For more info on the Lib Dems both locally and nationally follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and like our Facebook page – Worcester Liberal Democrats