Hustings update

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LOCAL NEWS:

Last week saw parliamentary candidates in our constituency taking part in the Hungerford Question Time, always an important staging post in election campaigning.

The usual suspects were on the panel, with Paul from the Green Party replacing UKIP Katherine who was indisposed. Proceedings were well chaired by Greg Furr.

Questions ranged from rail electrification (supported by all parties) , to business rates (Lib Dems launched wide ranging review last week), to plans for the NHS (lots of vague promises, Lib Dems only party with a costed plan to provide £8bn a year extra funding for NHS by 2020).

There will be further opportunities to quiz your representatives on:

  • Sun 19th April – 19:00             Streatley Hustings
    The Morrell Room, Church Lane, RG8 9HT
  • Weds 22nd April – 17:45         Newbury Political Debate, hosted by Buzz Magazine
    St Bart’s School, Andover Rd, RG14 6JP
  • Thurs 23rd April – 07:45         Economy, Taxation & Business hosted by Grant Thornton
    I will be debating with Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, at a Thames Valley hustings  in Reading
    Madejski Stadium, Junction 11, M4, Reading RG2 0FL

If you are able to come along to any of these debates, I look forward to meeting you. Do come and say hello at the end of the event.

Equality Matters

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EQUALITY MATTERS:

The inequality we are seeing now began, in our country, in the eighties with Big Bang. The Greed is Good and the Loadsamoney mentality permeated the Thatcher years. The same attitude continued in certain circles through the Banker Worship of the Blair era and lies behind the crippling costs of social welfare in our country at the moment. I never got with that programme.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to penalise those who do well. The Liberal Democrats are the party of success and achievement. When the richest one percent of Britons own the same amount of wealth as 54 percent of the population, however, something has to change.(1)  

Economist, Thomas Piketty, warns that if inequality in the West continues to grow at the current rate, society as we know it will collapse. At present, the state is being required to make up in benefits for the poor salaries some companies pay to their lowest paid employees. We cannot afford to continue to do this. (2) . 

Let me offer you an example: Over the two years between 2011 and 2013 the CEO of SSE a received a 79% pay rise. His actual remuneration increased from £1.45m to £2.6m. Meanwhile, average wages did not rise at all and 10.6 million individuals in the UK were living in absolute poverty. (3) Funnily enough, trickle-down does not seem to be working.

Of course, many smaller companies have simply not been able to increases wages over the past five years. Understand that. Other larger companies, though, the kind who have been increasing shareholder dividends and executive pay, seem to have forgotten that if you increase the wages of your lowest earners, you will be rewarded with more loyalty and better work. Paying a decent wage takes away your staff’s need to worry on your time about when/whether they will receive their housing benefit, problems they may have with heating their homes, paying food bills or how they are to afford the school uniform. It’s that basic. Take those worries away and you get more focus, better attention to detail and a more efficient and effective job done. The political Philosopher Elder Shafir talks movingly on how just a little extra security helps increase people’s ‘mental bandwidth‘, which makes for a better life, better work and a better society.

From the point of view of the UK, as a whole, paying people a living wage releases low paid individuals from the bonds of in-work benefits, which releases pressure on the welfare system and so releases funds to pay for the schools, NHS, police, roads, army etc etc, essential services, shared by us all – including the people who run successful large businesses in the UK.

In government, the Liberal Democrats have smuggled through some of the most socially democratic policies for a generation and softened the blow of austerity a little, but there is still far more do to.

…..

Picture: Judith Bunting with Nicola Padfield, Master of Fitzwilliam College.

In 1869, Fitzwilliam opened its doors as a rooming society for students who could not afford Cambridge College fees. There after it continued to encourage students from modest backgrounds and support them through a Cambridge education. In the seventies, the College became one of the first in Cambridge to offer A level entry to students of state schools. In 1979 they opened their doors to women (including Judith Bunting). In 2014 the College welcomed its first female master, Prof Nicola Padfield. Equality Matters – Shout about it!

1    Oxfam – the The Relentless Rise of Food Poverty in Britain, June 2014

2    Capital in the 21st Century

3    Absolutely poverty is defined as earning 60% or less than median income ie: £13,728 pa at that time.

Stop the Cuts to Children’s Services

  • help for looked-after children;
  • mentoring in the community;
  • support for young people leaving care;
  • childcare classes;
  • job clubs;
  • life-skill clubs; and
  • groups to support children with Special Educational Needs.

For more detailed  information and to make longer conmmets on the cuts,  go to http://info.westberks.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=30699.

With 1500 signatures on this petition, we can force a public debate at West Berkshire Council.


Please sign our petition below to stop these cuts: 

http://westberkslibdems.org.uk/en/petition/stop-the-cuts-to-children-s-services

 

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Thank you for signing.

 

http://westberkslibdems.org.uk/en/petition/stop-the-cuts-to-children-s-services

THANK YOU – Petition against Cuts to Youth Mental Health Services

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HUGE THANKS go out to everyone who stopped to sign the petition in Northbrook Street in Newbury today. The petition is against the cuts proposed by the Council in West Berkshire to Mental Health Services for children and adolescents.

The petition will keep running for a few months and will be available online soon.

Our aim is to gather 1500 signatures and so force a debate in West Berks Council. You don’t put vulnerable kids on the front line.

We hope to have an online version of the petition up and running soon. In the meantime, here’s the link to contact West Berks Council directly if you would like to make your views known: http://info.westberks.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=30699

Thanks also go to the volunteers who came out this chilly day to help gather signatures on the stall.

Remembrance Sunday: The Poppy Factory

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REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY:

Remembrance Sunday seems a nice time to share photos from the visit I made earlier this year to the Poppy Factory, with Stephanie Steevenson of Thatcham’s British Legion.

If you haven’t visited The Poppy Factory, I do heartily recommend it. This is where so many of the poppies we are wearing today will have been made. The human side of the Factory is positive and up lifting. I also found that seeing the so familiar poppy shapes being cut and assembled amazingly poignant.

The vision of The Poppy Factory, a separate charity from the Legion, is that “no disabled veteran who wants to work should be out of work”. As well as providing work for disabled veterans at the Factory HQ, the team uses its unique expertise to help its clients find work with many commercial organisations all over the UK. Sometimes salaries are covered by the charity for their first year of employment. If you think you could welcome a veteran onto your team, please contact the team on 020 8939 1861 or see http://www.poppyfactory.org/ current-employers-3.html for further details. The Poppy Factory says: “Having valiantly served their country, we think they deserve it.”

 

THE  BRITISH LEGION IN NEWBURY AND THATCHAM

The Legion groups in Newbury and Thatcham are both very active. The club is open to everyone* not just current or ex-service personnel. Under 65 – £27.50 per person per year. Over 65   – £23.50 per person per year: Newbury Royal British Legion

The Thatcham branch of the Royal British Legion meets in the Thatcham Football Club on the third Tuesday of the month. New members are always welcome: Thatcham Royal British Legion.

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Cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance

 

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In the studio with the Magic Hands team. Most of the team is deaf.

In the recent reshuffle David Willetts has been succeeded as Minister for Universities and Science by Dr Greg Clark, whose portfolio also includes a Cabinet Office cities and constitution brief, which is a worrying dilution of attention. I will be writing to Greg Clark to ask him to scrap the recent changes to the Disabled Students Allowance. 

Earlier this year, David Willetts set out to “modernise” the DSA. What he seems to have achieved are measures that simply guarantee deaf and disabled students will not be able to perform as well as others.

There is no doubt that people with dyslexia will be affected by these changes to the DSA. Many will fall into the category of having a ‘mild’ disability. Universities are now required to take on the provision of their support and I am concerned that institutions do not have sufficient knowledge and experience to provide what’s required. How, also, are we to decide who has more complex needs and who’s needs are ‘mild’?

I also work with a number of young deaf colleagues. Many of them, as students, received the DSA, as was, and benefitted hugely from the help it gave. The new changes will be very discouraging to those with disabilities who are keen to enter higher education. This is to be regretted by everyone.

In the recent reshuffle David Willetts has been succeeded as Minister for Universities and Science by Dr Greg Clark, whose portfolio also includes a Cabinet Office cities and constitution brief, which is a worrying dilution of attention. I will be writing to Greg Clark to ask him to scrap the recent changes.

More information about the changes can be found on the following websites:

https://www.gov.uk/disabled-students-allowances-dsas/overview
https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/studyhere/educationaladvisorsandschools/stem/blog/blogentries/proposedcutstodisabledstudentsallowances(dsa).aspx

There is an official e-petition against cuts to the disabled students allowance which will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100 000 signature threshold. If you would like to join the campaign, please sign here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/63748

 

Dyslexia in West Berkshire

 I was delighted to join with dyslexia specialist, Jacqui Flisher (below) to organise the Dyslexia – The Big Picture event at Sheepdrove, recently. Many thanks to everyone who came along. The evening kicked off with a showing of James Redford’s documentary, The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia and this was followed by a panel discussion. It was great to hear about the successes of high flyers and to be reminded that people living with dyslexia span the full ability range.

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Sheepdrove Dyslexia Event, Panel line-up, L-R: Lord Addington, VPres the British Dyslexia Association; Gary Smith, CEO of Brainbook Ltd; Jacqui Flisher, local Dyslexia Specialist; Judith Bunting, Chair; Inspector Chris Ward, Training Manager at Thames Valley Police; Claire Malpas, Institute of Mechanical Engineers.
I also recently had the opportunity to visit the Accelerated Education Unit at Trinity School and to meet Gaynor Davies and the amazing teaching team there. The unit is open to all students with dyslexia, from all across West Berkshire. The work the students I met were putting in and results they’re achieving are impressive.
It is vitally important that services like these exist so we can continue to create opportunity for all children, no matter who they are or what their background is.
I was delighted to meet Cathy Howells, teacher at the Trinity School Accelerated Education Unit, and some of the students, there.
I have signed a petition asking the government to save Disabled Students’ Allowance, which affects students with dyslexia, who are deaf, as well as those with a physical disability. 
If you would like to sign also, click here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/63748