Local traders say Brexit is bad for business. Survey Results.

Version 2

  • “After the referendum result we spent six months absorbing cost increases. Since January we have had no choice but to pass these increases on to our customers”.Jon Gage, Rivar Sand and Gravel (see photo).

Two thirds of local traders and service providers who took part in West Berks Business Brexit Survey survey think their business is going to be hurt when we leave the EU and the single market.

The consultation was part of a national exercise for small businesses. Newbury and West Berks Liberal Democrats wanted to make sure that the views of our local traders and employers were properly represented in the national results. The consultation ran online from 19th October to 14th December 2016.

  • “If tariffs are introduced for British businesses trading with the EU,
    the effect on my business will be catastrophic!”

The news is that two thirds of local traders and service providers who took part in the survey think their business is going to be hurt when we leave the EU and the single market. Many report that their costs have gone up already and that they have no choice to but to pass these onto their customers through increased prices.

  • EU funding supports nearly 45% of the post 16 funding.
    There is
    nothing in the plans to show how this loss will be addressed.”  

The Liberal Democrats continue to believe that Britain is better off in Europe, but our immediate priority is to make sure small local businesses do not pay the price of a rushed withdrawal.

The results of the survey are being used to draw up a list of negotiating requirements, which the Liberal Democrats will call on the Government to achieve.

This report was first published in 2017. See the report from the Newbury Weekly News, here:
https://www.newburytoday.co.uk/news/home/20695/west-berkshire-business-bosses-reveal-fears-for-the-future-in-brexit-survey.html

RESULTS

Q: Do you expect Brexit to have a positive or negative impact on your business?

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66% of people who responded expect Brexit to have negative impact on their business

Q: Do you export to the EU?

q3-numbers

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27.08% say they export to the EU

Q: Do you import products or materials from the EU?

q4-numbers

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47.92% import products or materials from the EU

Q: Do you have suppliers or business partners who do business with EU countries?

q5-numbers

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81.25% of respondents have suppliers or business partners who do business with EU countries

More comments from the survey responses will follow
in separate posts, published in the next few days.

VIDEO: Newbury Lib Dem puts West Berks cuts on National Agenda

This post was first published on 12th March 2016

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3eP3tdoCwI&w=854&h=480]

Today, at the Liberal Democrat National Spring Conference Judith Bunting spoke about the need for sound and stable public finances at local and national level, and the devastating effect that that Tory cuts are having on our young people:

~~~           ***           ~~~

Good morning, Conference.  I want to highlight the link between the need for sound and stable management of public finances and the devastating effects the current Conservative drive to kill off local authority funding by central government is having on the education, training and aspiration of young people around the UK.

George Osborne’s commitment to reduce government funding of local councils to zero by 2020 has not received enough attention in the press. That’s one for the journalists in the hall – the Conservatives have not been challenged nearly enough on what result this draconian change of funding is going to have.

I was the parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Newbury in West Berkshire in 2015. We currently have a Tory MP and a horribly Tory Council – they lead the council 48 to 4.

Last week, they imposed £10m of cuts on our public services. In a few weeks time they will be making a further £6m of cuts. They are closing bus routes, school bus subsidies, children’s centres, funding for charities like Mencap and Time to Talk, and they are about to close 8 out of 9 of our libraries.

There are other cuts as well, but so much of the damage is falling on the back of our children, that I worry for the future. I really do. I am not convinced that many Tories, including our MP and our Council, have given a second’s consideration to how this mis-management of public finances is going to affect our young people.

Whatever happens in the future, however, we are unlikely to ever be able to turn the clock back and restore the funding that Richard Benyon’s government is removing from local authorities, so how will Councils in the future achieve sound and stable management of public finances at a local level without a government settlement.

To answer this, I look to Liberal Democrat led Councils such as Eastleigh, now, and Portsmouth, as was. These teams set up additional income streams some years ago now to take the pressure off their public services. For example:

  • In Portsmouth, the council has for a long time had external businesses that they run to make a profit. It now owns and lets a number of extensive buildings to the HMRC and other commercial operators.
  • Eastleigh Council is part-owner of the Ageas Bowl cricket ground, hotel and spa, a profitable enterprise, which supports their schools, libraries and community centres
  • This £150m asset management plan has enabled 13 years of real term cuts in council tax and no front line service cuts.

If a small council like Eastleigh can find ways to raise money without increasing the very unfair council tax and can still provide the services people need, why can’t West Berkshire Council?

Ambitious and imaginative councils can run good services without pushing up the council tax. A senior source at the LGA recently vouchsafed to me that the only way Councils are going to manage in the future is going to be to own and let property. What is West Berkshire and other Conservative Councils doing, but selling off property for short term gain.

Since 2013 Local Authorities have also had the power the power to keep up to half of any business rate growth in their area. West Berkshire Council’s response to this is to lose Bayer to Reading, lose Hitachi, lose Amec and force numerous local traders out of business.

We sorely need a Liberal Democrat hand on the tiller. In government, to halt the mean-spirited cutting of George Osborne, and at the local level, in West Berkshire, to put some vigour and commitment into the funding of our public services.

The only way to achieve this is to develop strong, clear policies, like this the Economic Policy before us today and to restore some good sense and sound management to public finances in government and in local authorises across the UK.

Newbury and West Berkshire March for Europe

This post was first published in 2017.

West Berkshire was well represented at the March for Europe in London, with members of West Berkshire Stronger Together EU (WBSTEU) and Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats on the move.

We joined with many thousands of people to march from Marble Arch, down Pall Mall to Trafalgar Square, then along Whitehall to Parliament Square. We heard rousing speeches from Tim Farron on Park Lane, before the march began. He was in front of the crowd again at Parliament Square with the Guardian reporting (at 14:10) as follows: ‘Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron cemented his growing role as the political leader of the Remain movement with a well-received address to the Unite For Europe march in Parliament Square.’

Many speeches followed, with excellentt contributions from Alistair Campbell, Peter Tatchell and David Lammy. The big finish came with Nick Clegg, who was excellent, as ever: “Sadness has given way to a perpetual sense of anger about the choices that Theresa May and her government have taken since [the EU Referendum].”

“It was a choice to pull us out of the customs union, it was a choice to embark on that demeaning bout of transatlantic obsequiousness,” Clegg explains, as he accuses the prime minister of “threatening to turn our country into a bargain basement cowboy economy”. (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2017/mar/25/brexit-protest-thousands-march-in-london-to-unite-for-europe-live?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other)

If you would like to join your local Liberal Democrats and work with us,
please sign up online and drop me a line at judith.bunting@wbld.org.uk.

EU rally in Newbury

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 17.31.00.jpgSite under construction. This post was first published in 2017.

The recent West Berks Stronger in the EU  rally, saw a good cross-party crowd gather and march through in Newbury town centre.

Speakers included Paul Field of the Greens and Jonny Roberts from Labour, and myself representing Liberal Democrats across Newbury and West Berkshire.

Before the rally, I was asked by a couple of people why we were bothering, given the Brexit process is underway now and the Article 50 bill has been passed by parliament. For me the answer is clear and was put perfectly by Andrew Rawnsley in this Sunday’s Observer:

“The hard Brexiters … did not stop campaigning when the referendum result came in. They continued agitating and with a burning ferocity that was amplified by the Brexit press at its most megaphonic. They did so to ensure that they could impose their interpretation of what the referendum meant.”

Meanwhile, the views of area’s like Newbury and West Berkshire and other places and people who voted Remain are being drowned out. Local businesses are being hurt, prospects for employment are worse and EU funding that supports local charities, farmers and work-place training is on the line. None of these are academic worries, they add up to hundreds of jobs, hundreds of lives.

Remain MPs, like our own, Richard Benyon, have caved in and voted to support Article 50 and against the amendment that would have ensured that all EU citizens legally living in the UK on June 23 – the date of the EU referendum – would have their right to stay protected. I have met people on the doorstep who moved to Newbury and Thatcham years ago – some 15 to 20 years ago – to work for great businesses like Vodafone and Stryker, who have married, had families and are happy here, part of the local community. And now, they have no idea whether they will be allowed to stay.

If Remainers do not keep up the pressure, the UK is going to be hit with the hardest of hard Brexits, which was not on any ballot paper I saw on 23rd June.

So join us. We may not be able to change the direction of travel, but we can influence the Brexit destination where this ends. 

General election June 2017: Comment on results

Judith with supporters in Newbury Marketplace

Support in Newbury constituency for Liberal Democrat candidate Judith Bunting has grown significantly since the 2015 election. Polling 13,019 votes in last week’s June 8th General Election, Judith’s share of the vote soared from 15 per cent to 21 per cent.

Commenting on result, Sue Farrant, Chair of the General Election campaign in Newbury said:

“Judith Bunting fought a very positive and energetic campaign for the Liberal Democrats in Newbury and was an outstanding Parliamentary Candidate who presented real vision for change and a strong voice against Conservative cuts to our schools, hospitals and public services.

“The substantial increase in vote share for the Liberal Democrats in Newbury is testimony to a hard-working and popular candidate. Judith Bunting achieved this despite a national swing to Labour which may in Newbury prove to be short-lived.”

Judith Bunting said:

“It was an honour to contest this seat on behalf of a strong Liberal Democrat team. I would like to congratulate Richard Benyon on his re-election and thank voters in Newbury for supporting me in increasing numbers. It’s been a very exciting campaign that has moved us forward on the ground with a huge number of new members and volunteers lining up to support the party here boding well for the future. The strong showing here alongside the fantastic election victory for Layla Moran who took Oxford West and Abingdon from the Conservatives suggests that the party is moving forward once again in our region.

The Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up to a bad Brexit deal that will cost jobs and put up prices and in Newbury and West Berkshire we will continue to fight for a better deal and more money for the NHS, schools and public services.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuts to police service unacceptable

Judith out with the Newbury street pastorsAs recent events in Manchester and London have shown, terrorism and violent extremism threaten us all. As liberals, we must have an effective security policy which is also accountable, community- and evidence-based, and does not unduly restrict personal liberty.

This why the Liberal Democrats would:
• Continue cross-border co-operation between security forces across Europe.
• Permit intercepts where justified and permit surveillance of those suspected of serious crime and terrorism with proper judicial oversight.
• Scrap the flawed Prevent strategy and replace it with a scheme that prioritises community engagement and supports communities in developing their own approach to tackling the dangers of violent extremism.

Judith out with the Newbury street pastors
Judith out with the Newbury street pastors

Judith said today:

“I have enormous respect and appreciation for the police teams who work here in Newbury, in the Met and across the UK. The swift response achieved at London Bridge last weekend was remarkable. Police forces are under hugely increased pressure, however, because of reduced funding. In our manifesto, we have laid out specific steps to help the police in their work.

As I mentioned in the hustings last night, community police with the resourcing to go to community events, to go into schools, make real connections with local people, are what is needed, to fight both crime and the threat of terrorism.

A member of the Met Police came into our HQ recently to discuss the cuts to policing. He said they are simply decimated. 20,000 people have been lost from the police, across the board. This is not acceptable.”

The most important changes proposed are:

• An end to the 1% cap on police pay rises and all public sector pay, and uprate wages in line with inflation. The cap has been in place for far too long already. The change across all the public sector is estimated to cost £2.7bn and is fully costed in our manifesto.
• An additional £300 million a year for local police forces to use as they see fit. Let’s put the support in the hands of the experts on the ground.
• An increase in community policing. This is the best way to reverse the increase in violent crime, boost community confidence and increase the flow of community intelligence.
• As part of our fight against hard Brexit, we would maintain cross-border co-operation in combatting serious organised crime, including international fraud and child sexual exploitation, by retaining the European Arrest Warrant, membership of Europol and access to EU information databases.
• Finally, we would do away with Police and Crime Commissioners, elected at great expense in elections with very low turnout, and replace them with accountable police boards made up of local councillors.

You can read the full proposals in the section ‘7.3, Crime and Policing’, on page 72 of the Manifesto. Our manifesto is available online here.

Free school breakfasts scheme an uncosted blow to schools, families and children

The Lib Dems have warned that Tory plans to scrap free school lunches, in favour of free breakfasts, is an uncosted scheme that will put pressure on barely managing families and schools, as well as contributing to the issue of childhood obesity.

The Conservative manifesto pledges to scrap universal free school lunches for primary school pupils under seven, one of the policies the Lib Dems authored during their time in the coalition, and replace it with a scheme to provide free school breakfasts for all primary school children. Universal Free School Meals cost an estimated £600 million a year. The Tory manifesto has pledged just £60 million a year for their breakfast scheme, saying the difference will help fund school budgets.

However, the Conservatives have set aside just 6.8p per pupil for its manifesto pledge to give all primary school pupils free breakfasts, in what food experts have labelled a “black hole” in the government’s manifesto calculations.

Aisling Kirwan, the founding director of the Grub Club, a school-based social enterprise that provides cooking lessons for pupils in poorer areas, said that a nutritious meal costs 25p  per pupil on average. Even then, this is only a bowl of porridge with milk. A more filling breakfast, which would include bacon, two sausages, one egg and bread, would cost 85p per portion.

“Clearly there’s a huge disparity between the realistic costing and that put forward by the Tories,” she said.

Dr Rebecca Allen, director of think tank Education Datalab, said in SchoolsWeek, that schools were looking at a bill in the region of £400 million once costs of paying a teaching assistant to oversee the breakfast club were included.

Scrapping free school lunches in favour of free breakfasts could also have a significant nutritional cost, Nick Clegg has warned, saying Theresa May should take “her inspiration from Jamie Oliver not Oliver Twist”.

Clegg said scrapping the lunches, which will be replaced by free breakfasts, could mean thousands of pupils no longer receive a single portion of fruit or vegetables on a daily basis.

No nutritional guidelines exist for school breakfasts, though schools are expected to provide two to three of the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day in school lunches.

Judith Bunting said this week that:

“This scheme is an uncosted disaster that will hit children, families and schools hard. At a time of unprecedented school cuts, schools will be expected to fund staff to cover free breakfast clubs. Families who are barely managing with stagnated incomes and rising costs will struggle to fund the extra £440 a year per child for lunches – or send them to school with a less nutritious packed lunch.

Half of low-income pupils go hungry at breakfast, and a further fifth eat breakfasts with little or no nutritional value. Providing them with a bowl of sugary cereal is not going to help this. When we know we have issues in this country with both childhood obesity and food poverty, this scheme is ridiculous.”

Business leaders clear that Tory policy on Brexit is against wishes of majority

Lib Dem Business policies on Europe vs Tory policies

More than 50 business leaders have backed the Lib Dems as the only party which is “speaking for the majority of Britons” by campaigning to stay in the European single market, saying that the Conservatives policy on Brexit is bad for business, bad for the economy and against the wishes of the majority of Britons

Richard Reed, the co-founder of Innocent Drinks and board member of Britain Stronger in Europe, Dinesh Dhamija, the founder of the Ebookers travel site and the businesswoman Nicola Horlick are among the signatories, calling for Britain to stay in the European single market and customs union.

They have warned, in a letter to The Times, that Britain’s departure from the EU is being run by “hardcore Brexiteers” who have failed to recognise public support for staying in the single market or customs union.

The 53 signatories, who say they intend to vote Lib Dem, include senior players in the investment and IT sectors, two industries that could be hit by a poor Brexit deal. They represent small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) rather than FTSE 100 companies.

“The Conservatives’ failure to even mention a transitional deal threatens Britain’s status as one of the best countries in the world with which to do business,” the letter reads. “While we may not have voted Liberal Democrat in the past and we may not agree with the party on all issues, they are now the only party speaking for business and the majority of Britons on the key issue at this election.”

It comes after the Conservatives scrapped the election tradition of organising a letter signed by business leaders to demonstrate support.

Vince Cable, a Treasury spokesman for the Lib Dems, said: “The Liberal Democrats now have support from a large number of serious figures in the business community showing that we are rapidly emerging as the party of business, big and small. Theresa May’s determination to take us out of the single market would devastate our financial sector while taking us out of the customs union would cause incalculable disruption to our manufacturing sector.”

The full text of the letter is below…

LIB DEMS AND THE SINGLE MARKET

Sir, We represent a broad range of businesses across the UK collectively employing tens of thousands of people. As business leaders and owners, we believe that leaving the single market and the customs union would be destructive to the British economy and to our businesses.

At present, we have full access to a market of 500 million customers and the best and most skilled workers across the EU. If we leave the single market, thousands of businesses would lose their competitive edge.

We cannot stand by while our country’s future is hijacked by hardcore Brexiteers who do not represent the views of the majority. Polls show two thirds of voters believe staying in the single market should be the priority, and three-quarters want EU citizens working in the UK to continue to be allowed to do so.

The Conservatives’ failure to even mention a transitional deal threatens Britain’s status as one of the best countries in the world with which to do business. While we may not have voted Liberal Democrat in the past and we may not agree with the party on all issues, they are now the only party speaking for business and the majority of Britons on the key issue at this election.

The simple fact is that we can’t have both a hard Brexit and a strong economy. We choose a strong economy. That’s why we will be voting for the Liberal Democrats.

David Angell, director, Peter Bennett-Jones, PBJ Management, Roger Billins, director, RB Law Limited, Lee CameronProfessor Chris Bones, chairman, Good Growth Limited, Simon Clement-DaviesGeorge CoelhoJeremy CookSimon Curtis, senior maritime lawyer, Peter Crystal, senior lawyer, Stephen DawsonAlex DaleGuy De Selliers, vice-chairman of group board, Ageas, Dinesh Dhamija, founder, Ebookers, Jay Dias, founder and managing director, Leela Capital, Andrew Dixon, managing director, ARC InterCapital, Craig FletcherJohn Forbes, partner, John Forbes Consulting LLP, Jessica Frankopan, co-founder, Curious Group of Hotels, Kevin Gibson, founder, Hanzo Archives, Stephen Goldstein, chairman, Alexander StevensPeter Guilford, co-founder and executive chairman, G+ Europe, Tony Harris, angel investor, Paul Hennemeyer, managing director, Tom Hogg, chairman, Cheshire Datasystems Limited, Nicola Horlick, CEO, Denmark Square Limited, Leslie Hurst, Melissa Johnson, director, Cheshire Datasystems Limited, Phillip Kerle, co-founder, Tranzacta Ltd, Adam Knight, co-founder and board director, Social & Sustainable Capital, Robert Laurence, CEO, Resolution Property, Paul LucraftTilly McAuliffe, co-founder and non-executive director, Think, Carl Michel, chairman, Firedrop.ai, Turi Munthe, partner, Jo Owen OBE, Tim Parlett, co-founder, Zopa, Mark Petterson, executive director, Warwick Energy Limited, Neil Phoenix MBE, founder, FRICS, Alex Proud, CEO, The Proud Group, Professor Nathu Puri, founder, Purico Group of Companies, Richard Reed, co-founder, Innocent, Mark SainsburyRodney Schwartz, co-founder and CEO, Clearlyso, Rahul Sharma, CEO, Careline Lifestyles, Richard Steer, chairman, Gleeds, Peter Tuvey, managing director, Fleximize, Justin Urquhart-Stewart, co-founder and head of corporate development, Seven Investment Management, Madeleine Weightman, co-founder, The Work Crowd, Ben Whately, co-founder and COO, Memrise, Joseph Zammit-Lucia, CEO, Clinical Insights

Pushchairs & Politics

Image about Pushchairs & Politics event

Image about Pushchairs & Politics event

West Berks Lib Dems are hosting a ‘Pushchairs & Politics’ event on Wednesday 31st May (half term week) in Victoria Park, giving families and those with small children a chance to come and meet Judith Bunting and ask any questions they may have.

Judith’s team have had feedback, from lots of people with small children, that evening events don’t work for them. This is a chance for those people to come and meet Judith, say hello and ask any questions you may have, in the relaxed surroundings of Victoria Park.

When: Wednesday 31 May 10-11am

Where: Victoria Park bandstand

PS. Judith loves kids and they (usually!) love her.

Judith Bunting discusses Brexit and local businesses with Catherine Bearder MEP

Judith Bunting, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Newbury, Judith Bunting, welcomed Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder to Newbury on Monday (22nd May) to discuss the future of Newbury’s business sector, with particular reference to leaving the European Union.  

Judith Bunting with local businessman Richard Deal & Catherine Bearder MEP
Judith Bunting with local businessman Richard Deal & Catherine Bearder MEP

Richard Deal, who owns Deal Varney a property management company in Newbury and describes himself as politically neutral, was pleased to have the opportunity to lobby an MEP and to discuss the Liberal Democrat manifesto commitments that will affect the local economy, including the referendum on the terms of Brexit. He told Judith and Catherine:

 Our work here (at Deal Varney) is closely associated with local businesses. If they are succeeding, we will succeed”.

Explaining the Liberal Democrat demand for a second referendum, Catherine Bearder said:

“Contract negotiations often include a cooling off period. That is all the Liberal Democrats are asking for. If the deal the Conservative team negotiates with Brussels is not good enough, the British people deserve an opportunity to change direction of the UK and a vote on whether to Remain within the EU.  

Judith Bunting briefed Catherine Bearder on the local economy and the needs of the local business sector. Referring to the Al Shaqab Lockinge Day meeting at Newbury Racecourse, which she attended on Saturday, she told Catherine Bearder how last year the event drew an audience of 13,000 racegoers into the town. 

Judith Bunting at the Al Shaqab Lockinge Day race meeting
Judith Bunting at the Al Shaqab Lockinge Day meeting at Newbury Racecourse

Judith Bunting said:

We have a diverse economy in Newbury and West Berkshire with major employers such as the racing industry and high tech global businesses. All are dependent on a strong infrastructure whether transport or rural broadband.

“But as well as the need for public infrastructure investment, the role of entrepreneurs and small businesses in delivering a thriving economy is fundamental I believe there is a vital need for access to finance for new businesses, and those wishing to scale up.

“Creating true competition means allowing new businesses to rise and challenge established companies. There are also many well-established small businesses and traders which form the backbone of our local economy in West Berkshire. Our priority in supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses is to ensure that they have access to the funding they need, and in particular long-term capital.”

The Liberal Democrat manifesto for business includes plans to:

  • Expand the activities of the state-owned British Business Bank, enabling it to perform a more central role in the economy by tackling the shortage of equity capital for growing firms and providing long-term capital for medium-sized businesses.
  • Create a new ‘start up allowance’ to help those starting a new business with their living costs in the crucial first weeks of their business
  • Support fast growing businesses seeking to scale up, through the provision of mentoring support.
  • Review business rates to reduce burdens on small firms, and make them the priority for any future business tax cuts.
  • Reform the Regulatory Policy Committee to remove unnecessary regulation, reduce regulatory uncertainty, and support new markets and investment, particularly in low-carbon and resource-efficient innovation.

Find out more about the Lib Dem manifesto commitments here.