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 Manifesto 2015 – in full

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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.

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

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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