Time for Change – our commitment on disability

Where disability is concerned, Theresa May isn’t listening and is taking people for granted.

People don’t have to settle for this cold, mean-spirited vision of Britain. A better future is available. The Liberal Democrats will stand up against a bad Brexit deal that will cost jobs and push up prices, and we will reverse Conservative cuts to benefits for people not fit for work.

The Liberal Democrats has a long history of working to raise awareness and understanding of disability across the country. We want to ensure that people living with disabilities are given the fair and just treatment they deserve.

Our manifesto has made several commitments to support and increase disability support, one of which will be increasing NHS funding. There is no doubt that our NHS is in crisis and we need to put better measures in place to support those most at need. Our pledge for a 1p tax rise on Income Tax would raise an additional £6 billion a year which would be ring-fenced to be spent only on NHS and social care services. Specifically we have allocated £2 billion for social care.

We will also:

  • Bring together NHS and social care into one seamless service – pooling budgets in every area by 2020 and developing integrated care organisations. We would make provisions for personal budgets so that people can design services for their own individual needs, which will help to combat the issues surrounding loneliness and isolation
  • Establish a cross-party health and social care convention, bringing together stakeholders from all political parties, patients groups, the public and professionals from within the health and social care system to carry out a comprehensive review of the longer-term sustainability of the health and social care finances and workforce, and the practicalities of greater integration.
  • Make sure that all disabled people who want to work are supported to gain meaningful employment.

We will seek to expand Access to Work, a publicly funded employment support programme that aims to help more disabled people start or stay in work.

An Access to Work grant can pay for practical support to help disabled people:

  • Start working
  • Stay in work
  • Move into self-employment or start a business.
  • Liberal Democrats will also continue Access for All, a programme aimed at improving disabled access on public transport.

I have personal experience of working with a company, which was owned and run by and largely staffed by people who are Deaf. When Access to Work was in force, people could pool their allowances to pay for interpreters who were shared among the team to help everyone when they needed to make phone calls – critical to all access work and the tv production we did for BSLBT and CBeebies.

Amy Campbell Nottage, one of the presenters of Magic Hands, teaching children signs from British Sign Language in Newbury Library. Magic Hands is one of the programmes I made with the team at Remark Media.

When Access to Work was replaced with PIP, the company crumbled. I saw our directors explaining themselves to PIP people over and over again, ‘Yes I am still deaf’. ‘Yes, my situation has not changed since my last short term contract finished two weeks ago!’. That company is now gone. Fewer of the team are employed. More are on benefits – full disability benefit, as they are no longer supported to work.

The Liberal Democrats has a long history of working to raise awareness and understanding of disability across the country. We want to ensure that people living with disabilities are given the fair and just treatment they deserve.

The current situation is cruel and defies belief.

“I think it is almost lemming like …”

lemming-cartoon

What could be done to minimise the potential impact of Brexit on your business?

Here is a selection of comments from the local business people who completed the Liberal Democrats’ West Berkshire Business Brexit Survey. Businesses are not named, as many prefer to to keep their worries anonymous:

(Thanks to Arranology for use of the cartoon, above.)

What could be done to minimise the potential impact of Brexit on your business?

  • Stay in the EU.  Brexit will destroy our business.
  • Don’t do it! Seriously I think a raft of guarantees have to be forthcoming IMMEDIATELY from the government.
  • Not leave the EU.
  • Clarity is needed on the long term support for farming and conservation in the UK. Investment in farm infrastructure is costly and needs the ability to plan for the long term. Uncertainty and the lack of planning is a real risk to our charity and to many local farm businesses.
  • Remaining in the EU, keeping single market and freedom of movement.
  • Stay in single market and allow free movement of people across Europe.
  • Stay in the EU! Full membership of Single Market and Customs Union essential if this is not possible.
  • Remain within the free market and avoid putting limits on EU workers.
  • Gov’t to stop imposing austerity measures and new initiatives that mask the impact of change – personally I think it is almost lemming like and we look set to leaping off the White Cliffs of Dover before the dangers are realised – which will be an extreme disappointment!
  • Get on and pull us out as soon as possible.
  • Leave eu as soon as possible.
  • Less project fear from remoaners.
  • Nothing, lets just look forward to a brighter and independent future trading with the world.
  • Negotiate in good faith and show goodwill.
  • Sourcing UK products. We can do little else. We are reliant on consumers having enough weekly spend to continue to purchase our products and use our services.
  • No Visas, no clamping down on immigration, a lot of people I employ and work with are from the EU and it would be difficult to replace them. People looking down on Britain for the decision and our standing in the world.
  • Beyond the effect of the falling pound.  We have products to EU trading standards – our producers will not want to get involved in UK standards as well and we have not got the resource for expensive lab testing.
  • Staying in customs union is critical to us. Also, v important to keep access to EU science & engineering funding/research programmes such as Horizon 2020.
  • Change as little as possible from status quo – stability is key. EU Workers a key source of Workers, there is already a shortage of labour with the right skills from this country and even the EU.
  • Tax reduction.
  • Not go ahead with it! Brexit is a business nightmare and to push ahead when only a quarter of the population choose it, (and a mainly elderly quarter at that, whose working lives are over) is utter folly. Not quite sure where they think their pensions are going to be coming from, or how we will fund the NHS to keep looking after them when the get ill and face end of life. Business is this country’s lifeblood and Brexit threatens to chop it off at the roots.
  • Stay in the single market.

Reasons to vote Liberal Democrat


While in government the Lib Dem team has put through some of the most common sense, socially democratic policies this country has seen for a generation. 

If I am elected to Westminster, whether we are in Coalition with Labour or Tories or no one, I will work with our team to do more of the same. 

My Manifesto priorities are below. If you would like to browse the whole document, pls click here:

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A World Class Education:  Education is the top priority for Liberal Democrats.  In government, we will guarantee education funding from nursery to 19 and qualified teachers in every class.

The only way we will achieve greater equality in the country is to make sure everyone has the chance to make the most of what they were born with, whether you’re a high achiever or work with special educational needs.

Prosperity: We want to balance the budget fairly. To do this we will cut some, but no where near as much as the Tories, who are planning £12bn out of welfare (compared to our £3.5bn of cuts). We will raise the additional funds by extending Council Tax bands – let’s have the same rule for all.

Once we’ve caught up with the deficit, we look forward to investing to build a high-skill, low-carbon economy.

Quality health care: We have a clear plan to allow us to invest £8 billion in the NHS by 2020. We are already investing large sums and have a plan for £3.5bn for mental health treatments in the next year. We will continue our campaign to guarantee equal care for mental health.

Fair taxes: Raising the Personal Allowance from £6,800 to £10,600 has been a huge change that only happened because Lib Dems were in the coalition. Isn’t it great that all the other parties have taken the policy on board? A fundamental change to British society that’s benefitting 45,600 people in West Berkshire. 

In the next parliament we would continue the plan  £12,500, cutting your taxes by an additional £400.

Science: A Liberal Democrat government would introduce a package of measures supporting innovation in UK businesses. The manifesto also includes ringfencing of the science research budget and introducing a green innovation arm to the British Business Bank.

Environment protected: We will continue protecting nature and fight climate change with five green laws. In the past 5 years we fought day by day to protect the green agenda. We have doubled investment in renewable energy and almost tripled renewable energy generation. 15% of all UK power now comes from renewables.

Climate change is critical and we will continue this focus, with the target of having 60% UK energy coming from renewables by 2030.

Housing: Locally and nationally Lib Dems will work to bring empty properties into use, speed up housebuilding and introduce new Help to Rent and Rent to Own schemes for youngsters in work without the means to afford deposits for rental or home purchase.

We would pursue a plan of building Garden Cities in parts of the UK where they are welcomed. We would double council tax on second homes to discourage the buy to let market. This is a very tempting investment while bank interest rates are so low, but it’s helped accelerate the boost in house prices and in rents.

Lib Dems will cut youth unemployment

judith bunting  thatcham 099

Above: With Courtney from Thatcham, an apprentice at the Thatcham Automotive Academy, which trains youngsters from across the UK for the motor repair and insurance industries.

The Liberal Democrats aim to see an extra 100,000 young adults into work through on the job training such as an apprenticeship or full-time education. This week, Nick Clegg outlined a plan which focuses on cutting youth unemployment cut to its lowest levels since records began.

This announcement is critical for Newbury and West Berkshire. Our high achievers here do well, and we are rightly proud of what they achieve. The increasing number of NEETS in our area is worrying, however (Youngsters Not in Education, Employment or Training).

If I am elected to Westminster, I am determined to see the number of unemployed youngsters in our area drop.

Liberal Democrats believe in spreading opportunity to everyone, no matter what your background. The opportunity to work and have a fulfilling and rewarding career is crucial to this.

In a future government, Nick will launch a Youth Unemployment Action Plan. He will also set up a new Youth Unemployment Task-force within the first 100 days of government to fast-track getting young adults back into work.

In Government we created two million new jobs and two million more apprenticeships. We have reduced youth unemployment, but it’s still too high and there is much more to do.

I remember hearing Vince Cable talking about the importance of apprenticeships long before we were in government. Now we want to double the number of businesses taking on apprentices, open up work experience opportunities, transform careers advice and, across the UK, invest millions into mental health services.

Youth unemployment was rising long before the financial crash. It increased by a third under Labour. The Conservatives risk making things much harder for young people by stripping them of jobseeker’s allowance and housing benefit. 

Only the Liberal Democrats have a comprehensive plan to tackle the scourge of youth unemployment.

BUSINESS Backs Lib Dems …

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Today the Financial Times published a letter from UK business leaders with an uncompromising heading:

To have the Lib Dems back in government is in the whole country’s interests

I have extracted a few excerpts from the letter, below. If you would like to read it in full, please go to: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/03f1cdd8-e485-11e4-a4de-00144feab7de.html#ixzz3XYx9yf00

You will have to register to read FT content, but access is free to all comers (for a while).

>>>>>>>

Sir,

As we approach the general election with the UK’s economy growing stronger, a record number of jobs and with living standards rising, it is easy to forget how far the country has come in the past five years.

In 2010, the UK and Greece had similar deficit levels; we were teetering on the brink of a complete economic disaster. It was widely asserted that the coalition would soon collapse and be the cause of uncertainty. But the opposite has been the case. We have had five years of stable government which has been good for business and has seen a steady improvement in the country’s fortunes. The coalition has achieved a tremendous amount in addition to economic recovery, notably in the areas of education, apprenticeships and pension reform.
In view of their track record in sustaining the present government and their positive role in it, we believe it is essential to have enough Liberal Democrat MPs in the new parliament to provide a clear and sensible voice for the centre ground.

If there is to be a new coalition government or other multi-party arrangement, we hope it will include the Liberal Democrats. We believe such an outcome is in the interests of the whole country.

Peter Bennett-Jones
Founder, Tiger Aspect

Andrew Dixon
CEO, ARC InterCapital

Helen Pitcher
Chair, Advanced Board Excellence

Richard Reed
Co-Founder, Innocent Drinks

Richard Steer
Chairman, Gleeds

Alice Weightman
Founder and CEO, The Work Crowd and Hanson Search

David Alliance
Co-founder, Coats plc

Alistair Arkley
Chairman, New Century Enterprises

Ray Auvray
Chairman, Prospects Group

Dennis Bacon
Chair, Norfolk Independent Care

Professor Chris Bones
Joint Managing Director, Good Growth Ltd

Anthony Bunker
Consultant, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP

Jules Coleman
Co-founder, hassle.com

Peter Crystal
Founder, Memery Crystal LLP

Stephen Dawson
Co-founder, Impetus Private Equity Fund

Alex Depledge
Co-founder, hassle.com

Alain Desmier
Founder, e-finity Leads

Dinesh Dhamija
Founder, Ebookers

Don Evans
Joint Managing Director, Springdew

Gi Fernando
Technology entrepreneur and investor

Craig Fletcher
Founder, Multiplay

John Forbes
Founder, John Forbes Consulting LLP

Ben Gateley
Co-founder, Eleven Enterprises

James Goddard-Watts
Owner, Group Silverline

Stephen Goldstein
Chairman, Alexander Stevens

James Hammersley
Joint Managing Director, Good Growth

Tony Harris
Entrepreneur

Ian Hudson
Deputy CEO, Penguin Random House

Sven Hughes
Founder, Verbalisation

Heather Jackson
Founder, An Inspirational Journey and The Balanced Business Forum

Sue Lawton
Global expert on women and enterprise

Paul Lucraft
Business advisor and entrepreneur

Tilly McAuliffe
Owner, Think Publishing

Surinder (Max) Mongia
Chairman, Strongfield Technologies

Turi Munthe
Founder, Demotix

Gary Noon
CEO, Clinical Insights

B J Ord
Chairman, John Livingston & Sons

Jo Owen
Social entrepreneur

James Palumbo
Chairman, Ministry of Sound

Robert Perlman
Chairman, CRU Group

Neil Phoenix
Founder, Conrad Phoenix Properties

Alex Proud
Founder, Proud Group

Richard Pym
Chairman, Allied Irish Bank

Raj Ramanandi
Founder, #1seed

Rodney Schwartz
CEO, Clearly So

Colin Sharman
Former chairman, Aviva Group and KPMG

Nick Silver
Director, Callund Consulting

Timothy Smit
Founder, Eden Project

Daniel Steel
Founder, Esdevium Games

Susan Tobbell
Director, MRH (GB)

Anthony Ullmann
Founder, Autofill Worldwide

Rumi Verjee
Founder, Domino’s Pizza

Jonathan Webbe
Director of International Trade and Development, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

Mark Wilson
Managing Director, Taylor Rafferty

Andy Wood
CEO, Adnams

Lib Dem Manifesto 2015 – in full

key_complete-manifesto

Today we published the Liberal Democrat Manifesto for 2015.

Our five top priorities are: 

  • A World Class Education for all: Guarantee education funding from nursery to 19 and qualified teachers in every class.
  • Prosperity for all: Balance the budget fairly and invest to build a high-skill, low-carbon economy
  • Quality health care for all: Invest £8 billion to improve our NHS and guarantee equal care for mental health.
  • Fair taxes: Raise the Personal Allowance to £12,500, cutting your taxes by an additional £400.
  • Our environment protected: Protect nature and fight climate change with five green laws.

The full manifesto also gives details on our policies on housing, policing, security, foreign policy and equal rights.

Read the full manifesto, herehttp://bit.ly/1IKxqKZ.

Tory attitude to housing is a scandal.

Taceham House in Thatcham, empty for ~6 years. With Owen Jeffery, Dep Leader, Thatcham Town Council, and David Rendel, Cllr for Thatcham Central.
Taceham House in Thatcham, empty for ~6 years.

Today the Conservative party announced plans to extend the right to buy to Housing Association properties. This proposal will lead to longer waiting lists for homes and fewer social houses.

In February 2015, 1,092 qualifying households were on the Common Housing Register for West Berkshire. 1,569 non-qualifying households were also on the list. I know, I checked with WBC.

That’s 2661 people/families waiting for suitable accommodation in West Berkshire, while the infamous 37 affordable flats in Parkway and social housing sites such as Taceham House, lie closed and unused. Taceham House has stood empty for 6 years.

According to Government figures, only 220 affordable homes were built in the  West Berks district between 2010 and 2012. That puts the council 48th out of 55 unitary councils in England. The lack of care shown by this administration in West Berkshire is a scandal.

Now the Tory administration supported by our own MP is proposing to extend the right to buy to Housing Association properties. This proposal will lead to longer waiting lists for homes and fewer social houses. It should not be allowed.

Local housing is controlled by the Council, but I believe the MP has an important role in standing up for residents’ needs. If I’m elected to Westminster I will not turn my back on local matters. I want to make sure young people in our area all get the best start in life. Over the past five years, our MP has been sleeping on the job.
..
On 7 May we decide who should take care of West Berkshire in parliament and on our local Council.
 

Should we elect a Liberal Democrat MP who will fight for fairness or send a Conservative MP back to Westminster for more of the same?

 

DECENT HOMES FOR ALL: For more information about Lib Dem Housing Policies, please see the full report, below, Decent Homes for All:

http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/libdems/pages/2012/attachments/original/1390841965/104_-_Decent_Homes_for_All.pdf?1390841965

The Importance of the Rural Bus

East Ilsley and Compton (bus shelter + water table full) 010413 010gd

I recently visited Ivy in Ashmore Green. A woman in her eighties, Ivy is still bright and lively. When I met her, she had recently given up driving and was still reeling from discovering that her local busservice, the 76, that connects Ashmore Green to the rest of the world, runs once a week.

Now, all credit to Jacs Minicoaches for running this service, but abus that runs just once a week is not something around which you can build a life. A thriving community depends on more than just driving-age adults.

* How are youngsters supposed to get to school or take part in after-school sports clubs, revision sessions, dance, drama and music, if buses are cut?

* How are young people who can’t afford driving lessons or insurance supposed to get to work?

* How are our older residents, no longer confident with driving but still keen to visit friends, do their shopping and generally get involved in our local communities supposed to manage without buses?

A National Survey about bus services by Passenger Focus highlighted the how those living in countryside villages like East Ilsley and Inkpen as well as towns like Hungerford and Thatcham, regard better public transport as lifeline. If busservices were not available around half the people who responded to the survey say they would have been unable to make their journey. One third of respondents said the option to drive or get a lift was either impossible or very inconvenient. Not everyone has a Mum or Dad, or son or daughter standing by with a car to hand.

Rural pubs and shops benefit from good local bus services, but protecting rural transport is about more than economics. Keeping people connected builds community, and community builds health and happiness.

The government has introduced a scheme where Local Authorities can apply to become Better Bus Areas, which come with funding attached. These BBA grants are designed to provide an effective way of growing local bus markets, and so ensuring the survival of bus services. The deadline for our Council to apply for West Berks to become a Better BusArea is 21st June 2013.

How are people in our rural towns and villages meant to manage without public transport? Let’s cherish the services we have and help them extend and expand.

To keep up to date with Judith’s Views and activities around West Berks go to:http://www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury

To follow her on Twitter, go to: https://twitter.com/JudithBuntingLD

Let me tell you a story … Tax Cut for 45,000 people in West Berks

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Raising the amount we earn before we start paying any tax is a key Lib Dem policy. The changes we have made in government mean our kids now don’t pay tax until they earn £10,000. After April this year, it will be £10,500. By the time the election hits, it will mean people hardest hit by austerity have had a cushion of £800 a year to help cope. Indeed, the idea of taking the worst off in society out of tax is so reasonable, logical and popular it’s been taken up by all the major parties for their 2015 manifestos.

But where did the idea come from? Let me tell you a story ….

ELIZABETH JEWKES  is the woman you need to thank. Elizabeth was the parliamentary candidate in Chester, in 2009. She felt that the government of the time (Labour) should have been supporting working people more. Her local party reports what Elizabeth said at the time as follows:

” ‘No one who only earns the Minimum Wage should be paying income tax’ she says. ‘The government recognises that people cannot live on the Minimum Wage. So we have the nonsense of the government taking taxes from people, only to give some of it back in the form of Working Tax Credits. Wouldn’t it make more sense to allow people to keep more of their hard earned wages? If the Income Tax threshold was raised to £11,174 then every adult who works full time would be £20 a week better off. Putting £1,000 a year back into the pockets of working people and helping to improve their quality of life.’ ”

Elizabeth discussed the idea with Vince Cable when he visited Manchester in the October of 2008 and he agreed it was excellent idea. With support from Vince and Jo Swinson, MP, Elizabeth presented her policy suggestion at the Lib Dem policy conference at the London School of Economics the following January, where it received an enthusiastic reception.

The idea was adopted by the Lib Dems at the Conference in Bournemouth in 2009. And then, we had the chance to deliver the policy in government … 

The result of the change is that 3 million people across the UK have been taken out of tax since 2010. When we arrived in government the tax threshold for most people was £6,475. After April 2015 no one will pay any tax until they earn £10,500. Not bad, eh?

Personally, I am glad that when times have been so hard we’ve been able to offer this little help to lower earners. Middle income earners also benefit. In West Berkshire, by the time the election hits, ~45,000 people will have benefited from Elizabeth Jewkes’ good idea. 

This is Lib Dem Values in action.

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This story goes to show that party members can shape and influence the party’s direction. If you have good, liberal ideas I’d like to hear. If you’re not already a member, you can join us here.

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The original story from Chester Lib Dems: http://chesterlibdems.org.uk/2009/02/04/elizabeth-jewkes-calls-for-lower-taxes-for-the-low-paid/

Caron Lindsey’s report in Lib Dem voice: http://www.libdemvoice.org/why-its-worth-being-a-member-of-the-liberal-democrats-33779.html