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).

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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

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

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

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.

Green in Government

key_greenwindfarm

Under Ed Davey’s determined stewardship in the department of energy, somewhat to the consternation of conservatives such as Michael Fallon and George Osborne, there has been massive investment in renewables:

  • Electricity generation from renewable sources has doubled since 2010 and now supplies 15% of the UK’s electricity.
  • The average annual investment in renewables has more than doubled since 2010.    
  • In 2013 alone, £8bn investment in renewables.
  • Solar PV 2011 – 2013: £6.4 billion. Rather wonderfully, the cost of installation has halved since 2010.
  • Biomass and Bioenergy 2010 – 2013: £6.3bn investment.
  • carbon capture and storage research supported to the tune of £1bn – not bad for research funding.  

New manifesto plans include legal targets for clean air and water, an end to dirty coal power stations and an ambitious decarbonisation target for the electricity sector.

We will introduce Five Green Laws to protect nature and fight climate change.

If you want to read more, take a look at: 

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/331071/DECC_Energy_Investment_Report.pdf

http://www.libdems.org.uk/electricity_generated_by_renewables_has_doubled_since_2010

Tax Dodging – actions taken in government

JB with VC 241112

I’ve had a lot of correspondence about Tax Dodging and thought it might be helpful to share my response more widely.

Letter to constituents:

The vast majority of people and businesses in the UK pay their taxes on time and in full, but there are always some who try to get away without paying their fair share. This is morally wrong and damages our economy and public finances. I have voiced my feelings on these matters on my website, here: https://judithbunting.co.uk/2015/02/13/taxation-is-payment-for-services-rendered and here: https://judithbunting.co.uk/2014/12/03/its-paying-tax-that-is-the-moral-duty/.
In government, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, and Vince Cable in BIS have been tackling tax avoidance as a top priority. They have made progress on many of the issues you raise. Since coming into Government in 2010 he has led a crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion that is closing loopholes and making more people pay up. I remember hearing Vince Cable talking about his determination to close loop holes in 2010 and am really pleased that he’s been able to follow through on many levels. The changes made include: 
  • the introduction of a General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR), which goes much further than the current anti-abuse rule and is well on the way to being the kind of Tax Dodging Bill you are after;
  • strengthening the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes (DOTAS) regime; 
  • introducing a tougher monitoring regime and penalties for high-risk promoters of tax avoidance schemes; 
  • investing almost £1bn in HMRC to tackle tax avoidance and giving them the power to collect disputed tax bills up front (thus removing the incentive for tax avoiders to delay and frustrate HMRC’s efforts to settle disputes) 
  • recruiting 2,500 extra members of staff to work on tackling tax avoidance 
  • opening a new Large Business Directorate last year to deal specifically with the tax affairs of the 2,100 largest firms in the UK. 
  • There is clearly much more to do at home and abroad, but I am proud of the work that Liberal Democrats have done in Government to close loopholes and force tax cheats to pay more of their fair share. Thanks to the steps we have taken, the tax yield for this year, alone, will be around £9bn more than when we came into Government in 2010. 
Our party is determined not to let up in the fight against tax cheats. If we are in Government again our aim is to make progress on this agenda in every Budget and every Autumn Statement of the next Parliament.
We will continue to invest in HMRC, as we have done in Government, to enable them to do more to tackle tax evasion and avoidance. We will also introduce a range of other measures, including a General Anti-Avoidance Rule, which goes even further than the current anti-abuse rule. 
 
I understand the Government has also taken specific action to get back money lost in Swiss bank accounts. HMRC is working systematically worked through all the HSBC data that it has received and has so far brought in more than £135m in tax, interest and penalties from tax evaders who hid assets in Swiss HSBC accounts. 
It’s not enough, though. We need a shift in society to see taxes as payment for services rendered, rather than some kind of penalty. Do please pass that message on to your friends and neighbours. 

 

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.

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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

 

photo 1

 

Thank you for signing.

 

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