The Great Liberal Democrat Brexit Debate – Rural Affairs and Racing

On Tuesday 11th April, Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats hosted a panel discussion at East Garston Village Hall to explore the effect that Brexit is likely to have on rural affairs, including the racing industry.

Thank you to everyone who came along to join us – and to our speakers for the event who are all top notch in their field.

We were delighted to be joined by entrepreneur Ivan Massow, who made national headlines last year, when he defected from the Conservative Party to the Liberal Democrats. Tim Clement Jones, a former resident of East Garston, who now speaks for the Liberal Democrats on the Digital Economy in the Lords, also joined us, to sit alongside Cotswold businesswoman, Liz Leffman, who as the Liberal Democrat candidate in the recent Witney by-election slashed the Conservative majority from 25,155 to 5,702.

The audience included locals from East Garston village and Hungerford, as well as Remain and Leave supporters from Newbury, Thatcham and Pangbourne. I enjoyed the fact that the room was not all one sided, especially when debate is informed and good natured as it was here.

As a Liberal Democrat, of course, I believe Britain would be better off staying in Europe, but the more advice and information we can give West Berkshire businesses, the better they will be able to plan for the uncertainty ahead.

Discussion covered threats to University education and research, as well as the opportunities and issues Brexit brings for farmers and the agricultural industry. Tim Clement Jones spoke on worries raised by the racing industry, which is already suffering because of the fall in sterling and faces the likely loss of European Horse Passports as well as potentially significant increases in tariffs if the UK drops out of the single market without a deal.

The next Great Liberal Democrat Brexit Debate on Brexit and the Creative Industries is at 3pm on Saturday 13th May at Johannes von Stumm’s sculpture studio at Wellhill House, South Fawley. Discussion will be led by Baroness Jane Bonham Carter.

Please join us – whichever side of the debate you sit!

“It is the effect on access to European labour that worries us and the risk of inflation.”

im-so-angry-i-made-a-sign-_-fuck-brexit-roskilde-festiva-_-flickrIf the UK does not have membership of or full access to the single market, what impact would this have 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:

If the UK does not have membership of or full access to the single market, what impact would this have on your business?

  • It would significantly handicap our ability to deliver services and products to Europe. Considering Europe is where the majority of our business takes place, it is highly likely that we will leave the U.K.
  • It is the effect on access to European labour that worries us and the risk of inflation.
  • Risk of high value, time-sensitive goods being held up in customs, especially as much of our supply chain is non-EU. Late delivery to our key customer would result in contract termination, so we will have to assume customs delays & build early, increasing our inventory costs.
  • Higher prices.

  • Cost of raw materials would rise hence cost of product would rise.
  • Problems with customs delaying shipment. Tariffs also a concern. Medical devices regulated by the Medical Devices Directive from EU, with MHRA responsible for policing in the U.K. What happens after Brexit to these regulations?
  • I would lose business as my clients cut back on consultancy services.
  • Small businesses will have less money to spend. Large companies will remove their HQs from London. Our clients will not be interested in marketing to the British, they will look elsewhere.
  • Without EU membership our business is decimated

  • Very little.

  • Very little as we can operate under WTO rules.

  • Anticipate an increase in paperwork, more difficult shipping of products, and possible travel problems for visiting customers.

  • I would lose business as my clients cut back on consultancy services.

  • Deferred and lack of business confidence will effect commercial property market businesses relocating to Europe will suppress demand.

Local traders say Brexit is bad for business – Survey Results

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  • “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 above).

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.

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

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?

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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?

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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.

Lib Dems call for bus/rail interchange

Lib Dems call for bus/rail interchange as part of new Market Street development at Newbury Station

Getting a good transport system up and running is a strange operation where you have to put time and effort into putting the cart firmly before the horse. No one is going to promise – or even be tempted – to use a system until they can see it works. And it can.

My experiences with bus/rail interchange (and the rest) have been excellent over four decades and three different countries:

  • I visited Hamburg in 1976. To get to my penfriend’s secondary school we traveled by train, bus and boat. All beautifully coordinated, all using the same daily Fahrscheine/travelcard.
  • In 1982 I lived in Toronto. The discovery that buses might stop right outside of metro stations was a revelation. There really was no need for a car – the public transport system simply worked.
  • Moving to London, I travelled regularly by public transport from Twickenham to Shepherd’s Bush via Hammersmith tube station. I changed from tube to bus via a stop at the end of the Shepherd’s Bush Road, only a few mins walk from the tube station, but when you are gunning for work, dressed somewhat professionally, walking down the road and round the corner in the wind and the rain really took the shine off the idea of travelling in by public transport everyday.
  • Some years later, 2008, TfL opened the new bus station at Hammersmith, inside the underground complex. Access from the tube station took about 2 mins. What I saw was a massive increase in the number of people using the no 72. Other bus services are well used also – every time I see the crowds I think about all the cars that are not on the road.

Now, it’s 2015 and West Berkshire is looking to develop Newbury Bus Station, a new shopping centre, town centre accommodation, and it’s all near the railway station. What a wonderful opportunity!

Many railway stations around the UK have bus/rail interchanges. They are not remarkable or expensive. They do, however, require planning, thought and motivation.

Sadly, current indicative plans for the Market Street development in central Newbury show a)that the bus station in Market Street is to be moved further from the railway station (can you believe it!), b) that the Market Street development contains no provision for transferring from local bus services to the trains (extraordinary!). c) The possibility of rearranging the use of the council owned access road and land between the Council Offices and the station to enable a bus stop right outside the station entrance is not even being considered. This latter is only thing that will encourage commuters and other travellers to actually use bus services instead of their cars.

Once again, West Berks Council is ignoring the experience of others and ploughing their own intransigent, irrelevant furrow.

You can’t help wondering whether any of the current elected front bench has ever depended on public transport and whether they are actually concerned much about the people who do.

NOTES:

1/Indicative plans for the Market Street development can be found on West Berkshire Council’s website herehttp://info.westberks.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=38413&p=0  page 32

2/ A comment on the Newbury Forum notes: “With the present road layout this [a bus/rail interchange] would be simply daft.” The whole point is that this is an opportunity to exercise vision and change the road lay out. It would really not be that hard.

3/ The number of people using Newbury railway station each year is:-
2009/10    1.436 million
2010/11     1.494 million
2011/12     1.558 million
2012/13     1.628 million
2013/14     1.664 million

Green in Government

If you support the environment and green policies, please have a read of the post below. While in government Liberal Democrats doubled renewable energy generation in the UK and planted 1 million trees,  extended the coastal path and set up nationwide schemes to promote home insulation. 

Read on for more information about the amazing work done by Ed Davey on renewable energy:

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10th March 2015

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

Lib Dem Policies – Delivered

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I thought I would share my personal list of policies that were included in our 2010 Manifesto and have been delivered by the Lib Dems in Government.It’s a wonderful list, including some of the most socially democratic policies this country has seen for a generation. Not bad for 57 MPs.

  • Investing nearly £1 billion to crack down on tax avoidance, raising an extra £9 billion per year by 2015
  • Increase Capital Gains Tax to 28% for higher rate taxpayers whilst keeping it at 18% for basic rate taxpayers
  • Providing £400 million to give respite breaks to carers who work over 50 hours a week
  • Delivered on the key Lib Dem pledge of a £2.5bn Pupil Premium to bring extra funding to disadvantaged students. Its rate has now been increased further and is £1,300 per eligible pupil in primary schools and £935 per eligible pupil in secondary schools in 2014-15
  • Taking 3.2 million low earners out of income tax altogether through the key Lib Dem policy of raising the basic income tax threshold
  • Introduced a banking levy so the banks pay a their fair share of tax
  • Created a Green Investment Bank, triggering an extra £15 billion of investment in green infrastructure by 2014-15
  • Scrapped the expensive and impractical ID cards programme
  • Increased funding for dementia research by 150%, reaching £66.3 million by 2014-15 (England & Wales)
  • Investing around £400 million to make psychological therapies available for those who need them, including for the first time children and adolescents (England)
  • Introduced waiting times for mental health treatment
  • Introduced targets to ensure mental health treatments on a parity with physical health
  • Ensured the Government maintained the commitment to end child poverty by 2020
  • Phased out the compulsory retirement age
  • Creating a new, simple single state pension – a Citizen’s Pension – set above the basic means test level
  • Banned private sector wheel-clamping to put an end to rogue clampers (England & Wales)
  • Secured a judicial inquiry into Britain’s role in torture and rendition
  • Mapped out the Government’s path to renewable energy to 2050, including massive investment in low carbon electricity
  • Banned new coal-fired power stations that don’t have Carbon Capture and Storage technology
  • Ensured the overseas aid budget was protected from cuts – and hit the international 0.7% of GDP target from 2013
  • Scrapped burdensome Home Information Packs and improved energy performance certificates to make them more user-friendly (England & Wales)
  • End the routine detention of children for immigration purposes
  • Introduced the Green Deal, letting people pay for energy efficient home improvements with the savings on their energy bills
  • Improved our libel laws, including making it harder for companies to silence their critics and improving freedom for academics to publish their research (England & Wales)
  • Strengthened freedom of speech by removing the offence for using ‘insulting’ language from Section 5 of the Public Order Act
  • Switched off the controversial ContactPoint database for school children (England)
  • Removed innocent people’s DNA from the police database (England & Wales)
  • Vetoed the Snooper’s Charter plans to monitor everyone’s online activity
  • Ensured there is no replacement of the costly Trident nuclear weapons system this Parliament
  • Delivering an £800 tax cut to 25.4 million people by raising the income tax threshold to £10,500 in 2015, with 3.2 million low paid people being taken out of having to pay income tax at all
  • Restored the link between pensions and earnings, which had been scrapped by Margaret Thatcher
  • Ended the rule forcing people to buy a pension annuity at 75
  • Established the Equitable Life Payment Scheme and begun payments to people who lost their money, ending years of stalling under Labour
  • Agreed to the Vickers Report recommendation to separate retail and investment banking

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

Protecting Pensions

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Judith with Albert Tillen, at the Red House in Newbury city (Hampton Red). 

Thanks to the Liberal Democrats in government, pensions are now tied back to the cost of living. The link was first broken by Margaret Thatcher, back in the eighties, and never restored during the Labour years.  Now Steve Webb and his team have pushed pensions back towards an even keel. If we are in government again, we will legislate to fix these changes in law. 

We have:

  • Guaranteed the state pension will rise each year by the higher of earnings growth, price inflation or 2.5 per cent.

  • Abolished the default retirement age-making it illegal for people to be sacked simply because they became a pensioner.

  • Guaranteed 9m people a workplace pension, which their employers and the government pay in to, giving everyone the confidence to save.

  • Introduced a new simple, single state pension to help people save for a better retirement.

  • Authored the freedoms announced at the budget to allow people with annuities the freedom to sell on their existing annuity.

Neither Conservatives nor Labour would have taken these steps. The Lib Dems have worked hard in this government to make sure our stronger economy has funded a fairer society than would have happened under a Tory government, and we will do the same again.

We will always fight the ideological Tory cuts that go far beyond the balancing of the national budget.

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.