Trip to Leadership Hustings in Stratford-Upon-Avon (03/07/2015)

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.

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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 warneradam0@googlemail.com.

Hope to see some of you on 3rd July!

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Five Reasons For Lib Dems to be Optimistic

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

Tories Must Come Clean About Welfare Cuts

Interesting article in the Independent yesterday about the Conservatives proposed £12bn welfare cuts – difficult to see where they are going to come from.

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When the Conservative manifesto confirmed plans to cut £12bn from welfare, some senior Tories thought the party would never have to implement them.

They did not expect to win an overall majority and knew that the Liberal Democrats would accept only about £3bn of social security cuts in another coalition.

There was a natural deal to be done under which David Cameron backed down from £12bn of welfare savings and, in return, Nick Clegg let him have an in/out referendum on Europe. George Osborne could have filled the hole by raising taxes for the better off – and blaming it on the Lib Dems.

But now the Prime Minister and Chancellor have no excuses and must trim welfare by £12bn. It will not be easy. And it could revive memories of the “nasty party” just when Mr Cameron, with an eye on the 2020 election, is relaunching the Tories as a “One Nation” party which champions working people.

Indeed, one of the cuts already planned would undermine that. Mr Osborne announced last October that most working-age benefits would be frozen for two years from April next year, which is likely to hit 11 million families. It would save £1bn.

 The Queen’s Speech on 27 May will include a Bill to reduce the cap on benefits that can be claimed by one household from £26,000 to £23,000 a year. Opinion polls show that this headline- grabber is popular with voters, but it would not save very much – about £135m a year.

The plan to remove housing benefit from jobless 18 to  21-year-olds, who will be expected to live with their parents unless there are exceptional circumstances. This would save about £100m. They have also pledged to replace Jobseeker’s Allowance for 18-21 year-olds with a youth allowance limited to six months.

So Mr Osborne has found only about £2bn of the £12bn he needs. During the election campaign, Labour and the Lib Dems accused him of having a “hidden agenda” of cuts but Iain Duncan Smith, who has been reappointed Work and Pensions Secretary, was almost certainly telling it straight when he said the Tories had not yet done the work on finding the rest of the savings.

Their room for manoeuvre is limited. About £121bn of the £220bn welfare budget goes on pensioners and is protected. The state pension is covered by a “triple lock” under which it rises each year by prices, earnings or 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest (and 2.5 per cent is generous at a time of low or zero inflation). Mr Cameron did not join Labour and the Lib Dems in pledging to axe perks such as winter fuel payments and free bus passes and television licences from better off pensioners.

So what could the new Government do? According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the ring-fencing of spending on pensioners means the Tories will have to lop about 10 per cent off the budget for other benefits – most of which goes on working age households in the bottom half of the income scale. Hardly very “One Nation”.

The IFS said options could include saving £5bn by abolishing child benefit and compensating low-income families through universal credit, which will merge six benefits including tax credits. Reducing the child element of universal credit by 30 per cent could save £5bn. Although Mr Cameron promised not to cut child benefit and tax credits during the election campaign, Labour claims he did not rule out some changes. One option would be to mask the cuts by reducing tax credits instead of launching a full-frontal attack on child benefit, which could alienate middle income families. Mr Duncan Smith has floated the idea of limiting child benefit to the first two children. Mr Osborne is said not to be keen. This change might eventually save £1bn a year but would almost certainly not apply to existing children, which would be very controversial.

Housing benefit, which costs £19bn a year, is a likely target. Making all claimants pay at least 10 per cent of their rent would raise £2.5bn.

A more controversial option would be to pare benefits for the disabled. Taxing disability living allowance, personal independence payments and attendance allowance would save about £1.5bn. But Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne hinted during the election that the most vulnerable would be protected, and hitting the disabled would hardly chime with “compassionate Conservatism”.

The Prime Minister and Chancellor have played down the hard task ahead, pointing to £20bn of savings in the last parliament. But the low-hanging fruit has been picked. For example, about half the savings since 2010 have been achieved by curbs such as raising benefits in line with the consumer price index rather than the higher retail prices index. There are no soft options left.

Piece written by Andrew Grice for the Independent on Friday 15th May 2015.

For more info on the Lib Dems locally and nationally follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and like our facebook page – it’s Worcester Liberal Democrats

Counter-Extremism Laws Will Be Anything But

Less than a week into the new government and we are already beginning to see the signs of a Conservative party moving sharply to the right now that the Lib Dem shackles are off.

Announcing proposals for counter-extremism legislation yesterday, Home Secretary Theresa May said that she would implement ‘banning orders for groups’ who are ‘actively trying to promote hatred ‘ and ‘undermine British values’. Prime Minister David Cameron added that we have been a ‘passively tolerant society for too long’.

A similar piece of legislation was proposed 3 times during the coalition but was rejected every time. Lib Dem MP Tom Brake today said that they were blocked because they were ‘ill thought through, illiberal and will not tackle the problem they are supposed to’.

For starters, the proposal is flawed in principle. It is undoubtedly the case that these proposals undermine the key British value of freedom of speech. Whilst the Lib Dems hugely disagree with the views of radical fundamentalists like Anjem Choudhry, we will always defend their right to say it. That is a fundamental principle of democracy. If you partially stop freedom of speech, as these proposals do, you set a very dangerous precedent which can border on censorship and risks allowing a government to silence any voice of which it does not approve.

Pragmatically it is also hopelessly flawed. It is common knowledge that if you ban something it sends it underground where it cannot be regulated so effectively. Extremist views are best defeated by free speech. The demise of far-right groups in the UK such as the BNP and the EDL was largely down to an increased media exposure which highlighted the bigotry and extremism of their views. Had we, as a country, allowed this to fester underground without confronting it, it would remain unresolved.

To conclude the proposals do absolutely nothing to tackle the root causes of the problem of radicalisation and are instead a weak attempt at regulating the results. They are wrong in principle and will not work in practice. Expect a lot more of this over the next 5 years!

For more info on the Lib Dems both locally and nationally follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and on Facebook – Worcester Liberal Democrats

Worcester: A Green and Pleasant Land?

Our party’s constitution, amongst other things, holds the following. ‘We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms.’

Now I have only lived in this city for 4 years, but having visited friend here many times before that I was well aware that I would be moving to what has to be one of the UK’s most pleasant city’s to live in. The architecture is dominated by the Cathedral and historic buildings that gives an air closer to a picture postcard market towns than sprawling industrial cities like London, Birmingham or Manchester. All of this framed in a landscape dominated by the river and the heart warming sights of tranquil fields and countryside that still lie on our very doorstep. Having seen a lot of our country I have no doubt in my mind that living in Worcester & St Johns is something of a privilege. But those of us who live here know it has it’s challenges.

Traffic here like anywhere else can be a nightmare at times but with the heritage of our city’s layout and the river it can’t be easy to plan a solution. To add to which the needs to develop housing, commercial and civil projects as our population grows all put pressure on the little space we have. Even during my short time in the city I have seen development around the edges of the city along Nunnery Way and Swinesheard Way. Furthermore I have recently heard rumours of attempts to develop farmland the other side of the M5 along the B4636 Pershore Lane. I have seen for myself that hedgerows have been cut down. To the gradual loss of our green spaces is heart rending.

So where do we go from here? How do we protect what we have while accommodating the needs of our people? It’s definitely something we need to look at closely. The city could maybe look at building a third bridge to ease traffic flows or carefully bringing in renewable energy generation schemes to add to other energy saving initiatives. We could look at improving public transport links and make it more convenient for people to leave their cars behind. Any development though would obviously costs money and with the election giving the Conservatives a majority it seams likely that they will push ruthlessly onwards with their version of austerity, hacking and slashing at public budgets in line with traditional Tory agendas, so I wouldn’t expect our council to have a lot of funds to spare any time soon.

Now, truth be told, we probably all know that we lost a lot of good people nationally in the last election and things may seam bad with little chance for us to affect change, but there is reason to have hope. As I am writing this in the latest count published by the party we have gained over 9000 new members since polls closed. We have recaptured hearts and minds and the party has regrown to 54,000 nationally. It’s amazing to see us rebound so fast and I believe we should look to try and capitalise on it. If we can bring more and more Lib Dems together within the city using our combined news letters, websites and social media to reach out and act along side our parties local officials then we have the chance to establish a firm presence in the city once more. Furthermore I believe that we should look outside our own party members cooperating with all our cities differing communities, find all those willing to work along side us for mutual ideals and aims so we have a stronger, shared voice. If we can manage this then, hopefully, together we can generate good ideas and plan carefully for the future to protect the cities architecture and environment as part of our legacy for generations to come.

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This article was written by Worcester Lib Dem member Steven Mather

For more on the Lib Dems both locally and nationally follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and like our Facebook page – it’s Worcester Liberal Democrats.

GE2015 : What Went Wrong

The 2015 election is certainly not one to remember for the Liberal Democrats. Losing many great MPs like David Laws and Vince Cable will certainly take a long time to recover from, but what exactly went wrong and why did we do much worse than forecast.

  1. Triumph of fear over hope.

There is no doubt that the Conservative tactics of pitting England against Scotland worked for them. The idea of a Labour-SNP coalition was too much for many centre ground floating voters who voted tactically for them. Instead of defending their record and talking about the real issues the Conservatives instead spent the campaign promoting English nationalism and spreading fear. This tactic did for many of our MPs in Tory-LD marginal in the southern regions of England. Whilst it has worked in the short term it will cause problems for David Cameron over the course of the next parliament as he governs a hugely divided country with little support north of the border.

  1. SNP Success

The unprecedented success of the SNP north of the border was too much for both ourselves and Labour. Swings of up to 39% (Portillo in 1997 was 17%) meant that virtually no one was able to survive the SNP tide. Huge credit has to go to Alistair Carmichael in Orkney and Shetland who managed to hold on to his seat. The Scots have inadvertently let David Cameron back in to Downing Street. The double whammy of a reduced opposition force of Lib Dem and Labour MPs and the aforementioned scare tactics employed by the Tories in England mean that the success of the SNP has directly led to a Conservative majority – ironically the thing they were trying to stop at all costs.

  1. Lack of campaign clarity

It certainly seemed at times that we were unsure of how to position themselves against Labour and the Conservatives. On one hand they were defending the record of the coalition government which alienated many of the left-leaning supporters who voted for us in 2010 and on the other we distanced ourselves from it which persuaded many centre-right voters to ditch them for the Conservatives. Whilst promoting the balanced and sensible approach is certainly a credible and sensible position to take, it left many not knowing what the party stands for other than limiting the excesses of the others.

In spite of the hammering we got last night we know that Liberalism and values of fairness and liberty will never die. It will take a long time to recover from this but there is no doubt that we will. Over the next parliament it will become apparent that much of the work done by Lib Dem MPs was sensible and worthwhile and a Tory government lurching off to the right will show the electorate that they made a mistake this time.

Why Vote Liberal Democrat!

The General Election in 2015 is the most unpredictable in a generation.

It is fairly likely that there will be a hung parliament, with no party having an overall majority, but past that it is impossible to say what the result will be. Many of the potential combinations or coalitions would create uncertainty and threaten all the hard work done over the course of the last parliament to rectify the damage done to the economy during the financial crisis of the late noughties. A Conservative-UKIP government promises a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, leading to uncertainty, particularly among business and instability whilst a Labour-SNP coalition would lead to an increased nationalist agenda and the politics of division and blame, increasing tension between England and Scotland. Only the Liberal Democrats in government, limiting the extremes of both left and right, can provide Britain with the stability it needs to create a stronger economy and a fairer society for all.

It is also important to recognise the vital contribution made by Liberal Democrats in government. Many of our achievements have been overlooked by the media, but will certainly provide long-term benefits to the country. Some of the most important changes made by Liberal Democrats have come in education. We have ensured that all pupils in Key Stage 1 (Reception-Year 3) receive a hot and healthy school meal, free of charge, saving parents an average of £437 per year. The £2.5bn pupil premium scheme,

Nick Cleggdesigned to reduce attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds, has been implemented despite strong opposition from then education secretary, Michael Gove. This will ensure that all children, regardless of their financial or ethnic background will have an equal start in life. We have also restructured the tuition fees system, which has already started to have an effect. In 2014, more people than ever applied to attend university, including more from disadvantaged backgrounds and more from ethnic minorities. This shows that the change, lambasted by the media and political opponents alike, has not had the drastic effects on university applications as they predicted. Despite the rise in overall fees from £3,000 to £9,000 a year, the poorest 30% of graduates actually pay back less than they did under the old system. This is because the threshold at which you start repaying has risen from £15,000pa to £21,000. This means that all graduates pay back less per month than before (see table), and the lowest earning 30% of graduates actually pay back less overall as the dStudent_finance_tableebt is wiped after 30 years.

Healthcare, in particular mental health has also been a priority for the Liberal Democrats in government. Putting mental health on an equal footing with physical health is one of the key barriers in overcoming the long held stigma attached to such conditions. That is why Liberal Democrats have changed the NHS constitution to reflect this, putting us on a pathway to better understanding and funding of mental health issues. This has already begun to take place; with a 160% increase to £66 million in funding for dementia research and a £440 million investment to ensure psychological therapies are available to all, including children and adolescents. Liberal Democrats have also made progress in improving social care standards, something which is vital in ensuring the elderly and the most vulnerable in our society are looked after humanely and compassionately. This is why we have embarked on a professionalistaion of the industry. As of March 2015, all care workers must have a certificate proving that they are qualified within 12 weeks of starting work. This will ensure that atrocities such as those at the Rose Villa care home in Bristol in 2011, where patients with mental illnesses were physically abused, never happen again.

The Liberal Democrats have also done a lot of work to counter the politics of fear spread by the likes of UKIP over Britain’s position on Europe and on immigration. When times are tough for many people, due to extensive Tory cuts which punish those at the bottom with policies such as the so-called ‘Bedroom tax’ whilst giving a tax cut to rich (top rate of tax down from 50% to 45%), it is human nature to try and find a simple solution to a complex problem. UKIP and Nigel Farage have exploited peoples fears for electoral gain, saying that everything; from lack of school places and affordable housing to traffic congestion is a result of eastern Europeans settling in Britain. There is also a portrayal in the media of Poles and Romanians as benefit cheats and as people who do not pay their way. Both of these are untrue as statistics show that immigrants actually pay more into the tax pot than they take out and immigrants are also less likely to claim benefits than people who were born in this country. During every ‘wave’ of immigration experienced in the UK, from the Indians and Pakistanis of the 1950s and 60s to the present day, doom-mongerers have proclaimed that Britain will be irreversibly affected for the worse. On each and every occasion they have been proved wrong; immigration has culturally and economically enriched this country and will continue to do so. Liberal Democrats are proud of our pro-European, pro-immigration stUnknown-1ance and will continue to support hard working people, wherever they are from.

So there is the Liberal Democrat perspective on three key election areas; education, health and immigration. For information on other areas such as the economy, environment and welfare among others visit the website www.libdems.org.uk.

For more on the Worcester Lib Dems follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and like our Facebook page – it’s Worcester Liberal Democrats