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.

Equality Matters

A number of people have been asking about my views on inequality, so I thought I would share this post again, written after I took part in a debate at Fitzwilliam College about the extreme levels of inequality we’re seeing in the UK. It was partly my frustration with rising inequality after the financial crash of 2008 that drove me into politics:

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

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.

Budget today – Success for West Berkshire charity campaign

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Lobbying for the WBRRC, JB with (L-r): Lord Newby,
Tim Farron MP and WBRRC’s Andrew Sharp; JB accosting Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, last October.

Fingers and toes were crossed earlier this week for news in the Budget for one of West Berks local charities.  I am glad to report success for West Berkshire Rapid Response Cars. Their campaign has reaped a reward in this year’s budget. 

Back in 2012, Andrew Sharp, the Chair of Trustees for The West Berkshire Rapid Response Cars got in touch to ask if I could help with their long running campaign to get VAT relief on the purchase of new rapid response cars.

Each car costs about £20,000 and VAT relief would provide the charity with the £4,000 it takes to equip a standard vehicle as a car appropriately decked and equipped for emergency paramedic use.

All money for the cars comes from fundraising in and around West Berkshire on charity collecting days, crafts fairs, and the wonderful Greenham Common Trust.

IMG_2627 - Version 2Cars are operated by South Central Ambulance Service and driven by SCAS paramedics, like Jerry,on a volunteer basis during off duty hours. They are based in rural corners of West Berkshire, such as Yattendon and Kintbury, where it takes ambulances far too long to reach. The Service should not need additional help from the WBRRC to cover the more remote parts of West Berkshire, but they do, and as long as emergency cover is not reaching our residents fast enough, I am delighted to have been able to work with the charity to achieve this reform.

The WBRRC drivers attend crises across West Berkshire, giving emergency help, sometimes standing ambulances down, sometimes ferrying the walking wounded to hospital in Reading, Swindon.

After three years of letter writing and lobbying and watching Air Ambulance and Rapid response boats – both charities we heartily support – get tax breaks in two budgets, at the end of last year I finally got the ear of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, our Danny.

The budget announced this Tuesday includes the following phrase:

2.112 Rapid response vehicles – The government will provide a grant to support charities providing rapid response vehicles for medical purposes.

We understand that the grant is a sum of money set aside to go towards compensating rapid response car charities for the VAT they pay on cars and equipment and look forward to discussing the size of the grant with treasury officers as soon as possible. (Just can’t wait!)

Huge congratulations go out to Andrew, Deborah and everyone who has supported the charity and the campaign over the last few years.

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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.

Britain is a Better Place

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 Sharing a drink with Albert Tillen, at The Red House in Newbury 

 

This seems like the ideal time to share my favourite list – Liberal Democrat policies included in our 2010 Manifesto, which have been delivered by our team in Government.

The list includes some of the most socially democratic policies this country has seen for a generation – achievements which, for all the obvious reasons, do not get the press they deserve.

Please share this list with your family and friends. Let them know that while the Tories and Labour have been bickering away in PMQs, our team has been calmly getting on with the job. Britain is a better place for having Lib Dems in government:

  • Investing nearly £1 billion to crack down on tax avoidance, raising an extra £9 billion per year by 2015
  • 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
  • Increase Capital Gains Tax to 28% for higher rate taxpayers whilst keeping it at 18% for basic rate taxpayers
  • 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
  • Creating a new, simple single state pension – a Citizen’s Pension – set above the basic means test level
  • Restored the link between pensions and earnings, which had been scrapped by Margaret Thatcher
  • Reinvigorating Britain’s Apprenticeship programme
  • Phased out the compulsory retirement age
  • Investing around £400 million to make psychological therapies available for those who need them, including for the first time children and adolescents (England)
  • Increased funding for dementia research by 150%, reaching £66.3 million by 2014-15 (England & Wales)
  • Ensured the Government maintained the commitment to end child poverty by 2020
  • Banned private sector wheel-clamping to put an end to rogue clampers (England & Wales)
  • Scrapped the expensive and impractical ID cards programme
  • 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
  • Planted 1 million trees in England, the first government tree planting programme since the 1970s
  • Doubled Britain’s production of renewable energy
  • Created a Green Investment Bank, triggering an extra £15 billion of investment in green infrastructure by 2014-15
  • Introduced the Green Deal, letting people pay for energy efficient home improvements with the savings on their energy bills
  • Scrapped burdensome Home Information Packs and improved energy performance certificates to make them more user-friendly (England & Wales)
  • 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
  • Secured a judicial inquiry into Britain’s role in torture and rendition
  • End the routine detention of children for immigration purposes
  • 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
  • Ended the rule forcing people to buy a pension annuity at 75
  • Taking 3.2 million low earners out of income tax altogether through the key Lib Dem policy of raising the basic income tax threshold
  • 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
  • Introduced a banking levy so the banks pay a their fair share of tax

 

If you would like to join my campaign to represent Newbury and West Berkshire, please do contact me on judith.bunting@wbld.org.uk.