Worcester Lib Dem Policy Discussion – 09/09/2015

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.

Congestion

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.

Housing

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.

Refugees

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.

Health

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.

Local Government

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

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NHS Sustainability in the Long-Term

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.

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

Liberal Democrat Disability Manifesto

Below is an article taken from the BBC News website about the launch of new funds helping carers, some of the hardest working people in our society. 

The Liberal Democrats will launch a disability manifesto on Thursday pledging a £150m support package for carers.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will promise a raft of benefits for carers including a £250 holiday bonus.

One in eight adults across England and Wales provide unpaid care for family or friends, official figures show.

Mr Clegg said more must be done to reward the “unsung heroes of British society”.

Other measures to be announced at the launch in Brecon, Powys, include increasing from £110 per week to £150 the amount people can earn without losing their carer’s allowance.

Under the plan, the NHS will have a legal duty to identify carers and a new “carer’s passport” will offer privileges such as free hospital parking, gym sessions and cinema tickets.

The party would also consult with businesses to offer five days’ paid “care leave” a year.

The annual holiday bonus would start at £125 in 2017/18 and would be paid for by a levy on tobacco firms’ profits. It would rise to £250 by 2020 in line with economic growth.

The money is aimed at easing costs for people looking after family members needing weekly support of 35 hours or more.

The Lib Dems expect the measures to benefit more than a million people, costing the government £150m a year in 2017-18, rising to £300m a year by 2020.

Mr Clegg said: “More needs to be done to help carers get the support they deserve.”

He added: “Our new £150 million Carer’s Package will ensure society pays back the service that carers give to their loved ones and the community”.

For more on the Worcester Liberal Democrats follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and on Facebook – the page is Worcester Liberal Democrats.

Letter to Worcester News – Published March 2015

Below is a letter published on the Worcester News website a couple of weeks ago. Written by Adam Warner it highlights the positive contribution made to government by the Liberal Democrats.

The Conservatives don’t seem too keen to promote their record in government – hence the highly negative campaign. Liberal Democrats are proud of their record in government and will continue to highlight this over the course of our positive general election campaign.

Sir – Over the last government, the Liberal Democrats have been much maligned. The coalition with the Conservatives and the tuition fees saga has damaged the party’s reputation. However, it cannot be denied that they’ve made a worthwhile contribution over the last 5 years.

Only now are we seeing the true extent of the Tory’s plans. £30bn of cuts; £13bn of which from welfare will do unnecessary damage to those most vulnerable. This would have happened already had it not been for the Lib Dems, anchoring Cameron and Osborne to a more central position.

Additionally, the party have punched above their weight in terms of passing legislation. With only 9% of the seats in the legislature you would think it would be a small percentage of Lib Dem policies becoming law.

Not so – from the pupil premium to raising the tax threshold for the lowest earners and ensuring equal funding for mental health, the Lib Dems have done well.

Some of these are long-term policies – ones of which we shall bear the fruit of in years to come, but for me a moderating influence in Britain is required. That is why the Lib Dems should be given a chance in May.

Follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and like our facebook page – Worcester Liberal Democrats.

The War on Drugs Isn’t Working

The so-called ‘war on drugs’ is failing. Everyone knows it – but now, change is happening.

In a joint speech with Virgin tycoon Richard Branson, a drug reform campaigner, Clegg said that the current system was ‘idiotic’ and that the UK seemed ‘oblivious’ to the ‘tectonic shift’ in attitudes to drugs.

“If this was your child and you found those drugs would you go to a doctor or police officer to help them? I think nearly all of us would call the health expert. And, in the same way, I just don’t think it is right for us as a society to write off these young people who haven’t hurt anyone else, just made the wrong choice, so early. We need to put an end to this ludicrous situation. Our focus should be on getting them the help they need, not punishment, so they can go on to realise their ambitions and make a positive contribution to society”

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to end jailing people for possessing small amounts of drugs for personal use as young people should not be penalised in later life with a criminal record.

The Prime Minister David Cameron insists the current policy is working saying that number of people being prosecuted has been going down. He doesn’t recognise the millions being made by drug barons on the illegal market and the unnecessary harm a criminal record for something so small can cause.

If you want to see a change in drug law after the next election, vote Liberal Democrat on May 7th

For more information on the Liberal Democrats both locally and nationally follow us on Twitter @worcesterlibs.

GE2015: The Choice Could Not Be Clearer

The upcoming General Election is set to be one of the most closely fought in a generation. The UK’s two-party system has been blown out if the water and many parties, who for years could only dream of getting elected, are now relishing the prospect of having the balance of power in what is looking like an inevitable hung parliament. The choice you make will have a huge impact on the country. The following article should help you make your decision.

There are 6 parties who could realistically be in government, in one way or another, after the 2015 election. These are the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP and the SNP. You probably already know which one I will be voting for (Look at the web address!). This article is designed to help you, the voter, make an informed choice.

Conservatives – A party who seem to be hell-bent on making life worse for most people whilst maintaining the wealth of the rich. They claim to be making ‘difficult decisions’ which include, incidentally, changing the highest band of tax from 50% to 45% whilst cutting sure start centres and welfare payments for the most vulnerable. George Osborne recently set out what he would do if he were allowed to set his own budgets without a Lib Dem influence which includes a further £50 billion of ideological cuts which would see the state shrink to a size last seen in the 1930’s. A chunk of this would come out of local government, effecting local services such as buses and walk-in health centres.

Recent revelations also suggest a party in complete disarray with Home Secretary, Theresa May reportedly ignoring orders from Cameron after he fired two of her special advisers. It has resulted in a stand-off with May trying to gather support for a leadership challenge, should the Tories lose the election. Can we trust these people to govern us?

Labour – A party trying to distance themselves from the previous Labour regime, but oddly containing many of the same members – Miliband, Harman, Balls, Burnham, Alexander and Benn were all part of the Cabinet that lead the country into the deepest recession in living memory. Do you want to go back to those dark days? More worryingly, the party seems void of new, innovative ideas. On the economy, they have no credible plan to balance the books, only the current account. There is no doubt, that under Labour, borrowing would increase and the UK’s economic recovery put at risk.

They also claim to be the guardians of the NHS, saying that they are the only party that can be trusted with it. Seems very strange considering that the first privatised hospital was Hinchingbrooke in 2007, under the Labour government. They also gave sweeteners to private firms looking to invest in the NHS, something reversed as a result of Lib Dem policy in the current government.

UKIP – A party beautifully described as ‘angry men in suits’ this week by Nick Clegg. Everything seems to be the fault of Eastern European, congestion, housing shortages, unemployment (which is falling!) among other things. On top of this they do seem to attract a wide variety of ‘interesting’ candidates with antiquated views including Roger Helmer, an elected MEP who once supported gay conversion therapy and is against same-sex marriage, along with Kerry Smith, a PPC who was recorded using offensive language towards Asians and homosexuals. Whilst these views are not necessarily the views of the party, the prospect of being governed by people like this is a worrying one indeed.

Greens – A party that has taken over the far-left, abandoned by Labour in the late 1980’s. They make big promises which upon further inspection are unachievable, At council level, they pledge to install cavity wall insulation in ALL houses, without suggesting how to pay for it. They promise to make the ‘living wage’ legislation, against the advice of the independent Low Pay Commission, thus effecting employment numbers. Whilst in principle, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats have quite a lot in common, we recognize that the economy and reducing public expenditure is as vital as maintaining public services.

SNP – A one cause party in denial. Their dream of Scottish independence appeared to over for another generation, but Alex Salmond has other ideas. Even though Scotland voted against independence, he is willing to jeopardise the prospects of businesses again by pushing for greater autonomy, through Westminster, pushing Scotland further away from the UK. No does not mean no to this party and voters should be aware that every move they make is geared towards one thing; independence.

So this leaves only one party…..the Lib Dems. Whilst mistakes have been made, largely due to only having 1/6 of the power in the cabinet, many of the policies set out in the 2010 manifesto have been carried out. The pupil premium, free school meals, taking 26 million out of tax the list goes on. When a pledge was broken, Clegg offered an unreserved apology – when have you ever seen a politician do that! In addition, Lib Dems ensured that average monthly repayments for graduates fell! So if you want a government that works for a stronger economy and a fairer desire without the ideological austerity of the Conservatives or the irresponsibility of Labour then voting Lib Dem is the way to go.

For more news on the Worcester Lib Dems follow our Twitter page, @worcesterlibs