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Time for Change – our commitment on disability

Where disability is concerned, Theresa May isn’t listening and is taking people for granted.

People don’t have to settle for this cold, mean-spirited vision of Britain. A better future is available. The Liberal Democrats will stand up against a bad Brexit deal that will cost jobs and push up prices, and we will reverse Conservative cuts to benefits for people not fit for work.

The Liberal Democrats has a long history of working to raise awareness and understanding of disability across the country. We want to ensure that people living with disabilities are given the fair and just treatment they deserve.

Our manifesto has made several commitments to support and increase disability support, one of which will be increasing NHS funding. There is no doubt that our NHS is in crisis and we need to put better measures in place to support those most at need. Our pledge for a 1p tax rise on Income Tax would raise an additional £6 billion a year which would be ring-fenced to be spent only on NHS and social care services. Specifically we have allocated £2 billion for social care.

We will also:

  • Bring together NHS and social care into one seamless service – pooling budgets in every area by 2020 and developing integrated care organisations. We would make provisions for personal budgets so that people can design services for their own individual needs, which will help to combat the issues surrounding loneliness and isolation
  • Establish a cross-party health and social care convention, bringing together stakeholders from all political parties, patients groups, the public and professionals from within the health and social care system to carry out a comprehensive review of the longer-term sustainability of the health and social care finances and workforce, and the practicalities of greater integration.
  • Make sure that all disabled people who want to work are supported to gain meaningful employment.

We will seek to expand Access to Work, a publicly funded employment support programme that aims to help more disabled people start or stay in work.

An Access to Work grant can pay for practical support to help disabled people:

  • Start working
  • Stay in work
  • Move into self-employment or start a business.
  • Liberal Democrats will also continue Access for All, a programme aimed at improving disabled access on public transport.

I have personal experience of working with a company, which was owned and run by and largely staffed by people who are Deaf. When Access to Work was in force, people could pool their allowances to pay for interpreters who were shared among the team to help everyone when they needed to make phone calls – critical to all access work and the tv production we did for BSLBT and CBeebies.

Amy Campbell Nottage, one of the presenters of Magic Hands, teaching children signs from British Sign Language in Newbury Library. Magic Hands is one of the programmes I made with the team at Remark Media.

When Access to Work was replaced with PIP, the company crumbled. I saw our directors explaining themselves to PIP people over and over again, ‘Yes I am still deaf’. ‘Yes, my situation has not changed since my last short term contract finished two weeks ago!’. That company is now gone. Fewer of the team are employed. More are on benefits – full disability benefit, as they are no longer supported to work.

The Liberal Democrats has a long history of working to raise awareness and understanding of disability across the country. We want to ensure that people living with disabilities are given the fair and just treatment they deserve.

The current situation is cruel and defies belief.

Free school breakfasts scheme an uncosted blow to schools, families and children

The Lib Dems have warned that Tory plans to scrap free school lunches, in favour of free breakfasts, is an uncosted scheme that will put pressure on barely managing families and schools, as well as contributing to the issue of childhood obesity.

The Conservative manifesto pledges to scrap universal free school lunches for primary school pupils under seven, one of the policies the Lib Dems authored during their time in the coalition, and replace it with a scheme to provide free school breakfasts for all primary school children. Universal Free School Meals cost an estimated £600 million a year. The Tory manifesto has pledged just £60 million a year for their breakfast scheme, saying the difference will help fund school budgets.

However, the Conservatives have set aside just 6.8p per pupil for its manifesto pledge to give all primary school pupils free breakfasts, in what food experts have labelled a “black hole” in the government’s manifesto calculations.

Aisling Kirwan, the founding director of the Grub Club, a school-based social enterprise that provides cooking lessons for pupils in poorer areas, said that a nutritious meal costs 25p  per pupil on average. Even then, this is only a bowl of porridge with milk. A more filling breakfast, which would include bacon, two sausages, one egg and bread, would cost 85p per portion.

“Clearly there’s a huge disparity between the realistic costing and that put forward by the Tories,” she said.

Dr Rebecca Allen, director of think tank Education Datalab, said in SchoolsWeek, that schools were looking at a bill in the region of £400 million once costs of paying a teaching assistant to oversee the breakfast club were included.

Scrapping free school lunches in favour of free breakfasts could also have a significant nutritional cost, Nick Clegg has warned, saying Theresa May should take “her inspiration from Jamie Oliver not Oliver Twist”.

Clegg said scrapping the lunches, which will be replaced by free breakfasts, could mean thousands of pupils no longer receive a single portion of fruit or vegetables on a daily basis.

No nutritional guidelines exist for school breakfasts, though schools are expected to provide two to three of the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day in school lunches.

Judith Bunting said this week that:

“This scheme is an uncosted disaster that will hit children, families and schools hard. At a time of unprecedented school cuts, schools will be expected to fund staff to cover free breakfast clubs. Families who are barely managing with stagnated incomes and rising costs will struggle to fund the extra £440 a year per child for lunches – or send them to school with a less nutritious packed lunch.

Half of low-income pupils go hungry at breakfast, and a further fifth eat breakfasts with little or no nutritional value. Providing them with a bowl of sugary cereal is not going to help this. When we know we have issues in this country with both childhood obesity and food poverty, this scheme is ridiculous.”

Business leaders clear that Tory policy on Brexit is against wishes of majority

Lib Dem Business policies on Europe vs Tory policies

More than 50 business leaders have backed the Lib Dems as the only party which is “speaking for the majority of Britons” by campaigning to stay in the European single market, saying that the Conservatives policy on Brexit is bad for business, bad for the economy and against the wishes of the majority of Britons

Richard Reed, the co-founder of Innocent Drinks and board member of Britain Stronger in Europe, Dinesh Dhamija, the founder of the Ebookers travel site and the businesswoman Nicola Horlick are among the signatories, calling for Britain to stay in the European single market and customs union.

They have warned, in a letter to The Times, that Britain’s departure from the EU is being run by “hardcore Brexiteers” who have failed to recognise public support for staying in the single market or customs union.

The 53 signatories, who say they intend to vote Lib Dem, include senior players in the investment and IT sectors, two industries that could be hit by a poor Brexit deal. They represent small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) rather than FTSE 100 companies.

“The Conservatives’ failure to even mention a transitional deal threatens Britain’s status as one of the best countries in the world with which to do business,” the letter reads. “While we may not have voted Liberal Democrat in the past and we may not agree with the party on all issues, they are now the only party speaking for business and the majority of Britons on the key issue at this election.”

It comes after the Conservatives scrapped the election tradition of organising a letter signed by business leaders to demonstrate support.

Vince Cable, a Treasury spokesman for the Lib Dems, said: “The Liberal Democrats now have support from a large number of serious figures in the business community showing that we are rapidly emerging as the party of business, big and small. Theresa May’s determination to take us out of the single market would devastate our financial sector while taking us out of the customs union would cause incalculable disruption to our manufacturing sector.”

The full text of the letter is below…

LIB DEMS AND THE SINGLE MARKET

Sir, We represent a broad range of businesses across the UK collectively employing tens of thousands of people. As business leaders and owners, we believe that leaving the single market and the customs union would be destructive to the British economy and to our businesses.

At present, we have full access to a market of 500 million customers and the best and most skilled workers across the EU. If we leave the single market, thousands of businesses would lose their competitive edge.

We cannot stand by while our country’s future is hijacked by hardcore Brexiteers who do not represent the views of the majority. Polls show two thirds of voters believe staying in the single market should be the priority, and three-quarters want EU citizens working in the UK to continue to be allowed to do so.

The Conservatives’ failure to even mention a transitional deal threatens Britain’s status as one of the best countries in the world with which to do business. While we may not have voted Liberal Democrat in the past and we may not agree with the party on all issues, they are now the only party speaking for business and the majority of Britons on the key issue at this election.

The simple fact is that we can’t have both a hard Brexit and a strong economy. We choose a strong economy. That’s why we will be voting for the Liberal Democrats.

David Angell, director, Peter Bennett-Jones, PBJ Management, Roger Billins, director, RB Law Limited, Lee CameronProfessor Chris Bones, chairman, Good Growth Limited, Simon Clement-DaviesGeorge CoelhoJeremy CookSimon Curtis, senior maritime lawyer, Peter Crystal, senior lawyer, Stephen DawsonAlex DaleGuy De Selliers, vice-chairman of group board, Ageas, Dinesh Dhamija, founder, Ebookers, Jay Dias, founder and managing director, Leela Capital, Andrew Dixon, managing director, ARC InterCapital, Craig FletcherJohn Forbes, partner, John Forbes Consulting LLP, Jessica Frankopan, co-founder, Curious Group of Hotels, Kevin Gibson, founder, Hanzo Archives, Stephen Goldstein, chairman, Alexander StevensPeter Guilford, co-founder and executive chairman, G+ Europe, Tony Harris, angel investor, Paul Hennemeyer, managing director, Tom Hogg, chairman, Cheshire Datasystems Limited, Nicola Horlick, CEO, Denmark Square Limited, Leslie Hurst, Melissa Johnson, director, Cheshire Datasystems Limited, Phillip Kerle, co-founder, Tranzacta Ltd, Adam Knight, co-founder and board director, Social & Sustainable Capital, Robert Laurence, CEO, Resolution Property, Paul LucraftTilly McAuliffe, co-founder and non-executive director, Think, Carl Michel, chairman, Firedrop.ai, Turi Munthe, partner, Jo Owen OBE, Tim Parlett, co-founder, Zopa, Mark Petterson, executive director, Warwick Energy Limited, Neil Phoenix MBE, founder, FRICS, Alex Proud, CEO, The Proud Group, Professor Nathu Puri, founder, Purico Group of Companies, Richard Reed, co-founder, Innocent, Mark SainsburyRodney Schwartz, co-founder and CEO, Clearlyso, Rahul Sharma, CEO, Careline Lifestyles, Richard Steer, chairman, Gleeds, Peter Tuvey, managing director, Fleximize, Justin Urquhart-Stewart, co-founder and head of corporate development, Seven Investment Management, Madeleine Weightman, co-founder, The Work Crowd, Ben Whately, co-founder and COO, Memrise, Joseph Zammit-Lucia, CEO, Clinical Insights

Pushchairs & Politics

Image about Pushchairs & Politics event

Image about Pushchairs & Politics event

West Berks Lib Dems are hosting a ‘Pushchairs & Politics’ event on Wednesday 31st May (half term week) in Victoria Park, giving families and those with small children a chance to come and meet Judith Bunting and ask any questions they may have.

Judith’s team have had feedback, from lots of people with small children, that evening events don’t work for them. This is a chance for those people to come and meet Judith, say hello and ask any questions you may have, in the relaxed surroundings of Victoria Park.

When: Wednesday 31 May 10-11am

Where: Victoria Park bandstand

PS. Judith loves kids and they (usually!) love her.

Judith Bunting discusses Brexit and local businesses with Catherine Bearder MEP

Judith Bunting, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Newbury, Judith Bunting, welcomed Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder to Newbury on Monday (22nd May) to discuss the future of Newbury’s business sector, with particular reference to leaving the European Union.  

Judith Bunting with local businessman Richard Deal & Catherine Bearder MEP
Judith Bunting with local businessman Richard Deal & Catherine Bearder MEP

Richard Deal, who owns Deal Varney a property management company in Newbury and describes himself as politically neutral, was pleased to have the opportunity to lobby an MEP and to discuss the Liberal Democrat manifesto commitments that will affect the local economy, including the referendum on the terms of Brexit. He told Judith and Catherine:

 Our work here (at Deal Varney) is closely associated with local businesses. If they are succeeding, we will succeed”.

Explaining the Liberal Democrat demand for a second referendum, Catherine Bearder said:

“Contract negotiations often include a cooling off period. That is all the Liberal Democrats are asking for. If the deal the Conservative team negotiates with Brussels is not good enough, the British people deserve an opportunity to change direction of the UK and a vote on whether to Remain within the EU.  

Judith Bunting briefed Catherine Bearder on the local economy and the needs of the local business sector. Referring to the Al Shaqab Lockinge Day meeting at Newbury Racecourse, which she attended on Saturday, she told Catherine Bearder how last year the event drew an audience of 13,000 racegoers into the town. 

Judith Bunting at the Al Shaqab Lockinge Day race meeting
Judith Bunting at the Al Shaqab Lockinge Day meeting at Newbury Racecourse

Judith Bunting said:

We have a diverse economy in Newbury and West Berkshire with major employers such as the racing industry and high tech global businesses. All are dependent on a strong infrastructure whether transport or rural broadband.

“But as well as the need for public infrastructure investment, the role of entrepreneurs and small businesses in delivering a thriving economy is fundamental I believe there is a vital need for access to finance for new businesses, and those wishing to scale up.

“Creating true competition means allowing new businesses to rise and challenge established companies. There are also many well-established small businesses and traders which form the backbone of our local economy in West Berkshire. Our priority in supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses is to ensure that they have access to the funding they need, and in particular long-term capital.”

The Liberal Democrat manifesto for business includes plans to:

  • Expand the activities of the state-owned British Business Bank, enabling it to perform a more central role in the economy by tackling the shortage of equity capital for growing firms and providing long-term capital for medium-sized businesses.
  • Create a new ‘start up allowance’ to help those starting a new business with their living costs in the crucial first weeks of their business
  • Support fast growing businesses seeking to scale up, through the provision of mentoring support.
  • Review business rates to reduce burdens on small firms, and make them the priority for any future business tax cuts.
  • Reform the Regulatory Policy Committee to remove unnecessary regulation, reduce regulatory uncertainty, and support new markets and investment, particularly in low-carbon and resource-efficient innovation.

Find out more about the Lib Dem manifesto commitments here.

Judith meets local entrepreneur Ruth Headon

Judith Bunting with Ruth Headen at Rio's Burger Bar

Ruth Headon is a local woman who has turned her life around. Judith went to meet her and hear her story and her plans for the future, growing a business in Newbury.

Ruth’s life spiralled out of control a few years ago, in a few short months she lost everything, her home, family, her child and friends to alcoholism and addiction. With the help of a great friend, Dave, she pulled herself through it and is now celebrating 3 years sober. 

Ruth found herself looking at a window sign in Rio’s Burger Bar asking for till staff, and she hasn’t looked back. She is now the manager there and has been there for two and a half years. 

Rio’s is now being sold and Ruth’s determined and entrepreneurial spirit has given her the motivation to want to take over Rio’s herself, and continue her efforts to support those who are going through similar experiences to her. Calling herself lucky, Ruth is now giving back to the community and is teaching others how to complete forms and how to read. With a desire to do whatever she can to help people and make a difference she has completed both Peer and Facilitating Training. 

Ruth describes the team at Rios as ‘a team of amazing people, my own little family. This is my recovery community. People come to Rio’s for food and advice’. 

Judith Bunting with Ruth Headen & her team at Rio's Burgers
Judith with Ruth (far right) & her team at Rio’s Burgers

Judith said: “I support Ruth and her venture; looking to the future and not backwards – we need more of this. Ruth has overcome a great deal to get to the position she is in now and she says people should “have pride at where you are now, not shame about where you have been”.” 

Ruth is now looking to buy Rios burgers in Newbury where she has worked for 2.5 years and is currently successfully managing. Ruth has set up her own crowd funding page to support her efforts of buying Rio’s and enable her to continue her charitable support of those who are suffering. http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/rios-for-ruth

The Liberal Democrats have announced policies to support local businesses and entrepreneurs in their 2017 manifesto. Judith says: “Backing local businesses is very important to me as a local person, as when small businesses thrive they strengthen our economy and provide local jobs.”

Judith Bunting: Standing up for Local Business

 

Judith Bunting announces Lib Dem plans for funding boost to give children in West Berkshire a brighter future

Judith reading to preschool children
Judith reading to preschool children

This week, at Park House School, Newbury, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate Judith Bunting launched the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto policies for young people and children.

Under the plans, 3-4 year-olds in Newbury and West Berkshire would benefit from Liberal Democrat plans to triple funding for the early years pupil premium, which gives extra cash to nurseries, pre-schools and school receptions when they take on children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The cash would triple the funding to £1,000 per pupil per year – up from £302 in 2015-16.  This will increase the allocation for West Berkshire Council from around £75,000 (£74,591) to £223,773, and will pay for every disadvantaged child who benefits to receive 570 hours of state-funded early education. This forms part of a series of policies the Liberal Democrats are announcing with a focus on giving children and young people a brighter future.

Judith Bunting said: “I was delighted to be able to tell the 6th formers today about key Liberal Democrat policies that will significantly improve the lives of young people.”

These include:

  • Helping people buy their first home for the same cost as renting, with a new model of ‘Rent to Own’ homes
  • Restoring housing benefit for young people
  • Creating a discounted bus pass for 16-21 year olds, giving a 66% discount
  • Introducing votes at 16 for elections and referendums across the UK

As well as:

  • Investing almost £7bn in our schools and colleges
  • Doubling the number of businesses that take apprenticeships
  • Tripling the early years pupil premium
  • Extending free school meals to all primary school students

Judith Bunting added: “We will give children in Newbury and West Berkshire a brighter future, by investing in those from more deprived backgrounds to give them the best possible chance in life.

“This forms part of a package to build a fairer Britain and ensure no child or young person is left behind. Education is at the heart of everything I stand for, as a Liberal Democrat.

“I want the opportunity to help the Liberal Democrats provide a strong opposition to this Conservative government and to give the people of Newbury and West Berkshire a voice in standing up against the cuts to our local schools, hospitals and regional funding.

“A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for a brighter future for people across Newbury and the surrounding area.”  

“Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has let us all down by voting with Theresa May and UKIP on Brexit. “The Liberal Democrats will stand up to Theresa May and give the people the final say on Brexit, with the choice to remain in Europe if they don’t like the deal on offer.”

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Lib Dem Judith Bunting unveils manifesto plan to fund more nurses, teachers and police in West Berkshire

The Liberal Democrats have launched their manifesto plans today for a brighter future, with pledges to reverse Conservative cuts and increase funding for the NHS, schools and police.

The Party’s landmark policy would give the people the final say on the Brexit deal which would include the option to remain in the EU.

The Liberal Democrats would put a penny on income tax for health and care, which would raise £8m for the NHS in Newbury and District Clinical Commissioning Group – enough to fund 48 more nurses.

An additional £28,953,046 of funding for schools in West Berkshire paid for in part by reversing Conservative cuts to corporation tax, would be enough to pay for 159 more teachers.

Meanwhile an additional £8.3m funding for Thames Valley Police would pay for 166 more officers, helping to cut crime and ensure a stronger police presence in the area.

Other key policies in the Liberal Democrat manifesto include plans for a £100bn infrastructure fund to build more homes, improve road and rail links and install fibre-optic broadband across the country.

The Liberal Democrats will also give the people a chance to change Britain’s future by holding a referendum on the final Brexit deal, with the option to remain.

Liberal Democrat candidate for Newbury, Judith Bunting said:

“These plans would build a brighter future for people in Newbury and West Berkshire and reverse Conservative cuts to our schools, hospitals and police.

“We want to build a fairer Britain, with good schools and hospitals, a clean environment and an innovative economy.

“You don’t have to accept Theresa May and Nigel Farage’s cold, mean-spirited vision of Britain.

“The Liberal Democrats will stand up to a bad Brexit deal that will cost jobs and put up prices and give you the final say.

“As your Liberal Democrat MP, I will fight for a better deal on Europe, more money for the NHS and schools and a brighter future for Newbury and West Berkshire.” 

Judith Bunting outside West Berkshire Community Hospital
Judith Bunting outside West Berkshire Community Hospital

The Lib Dem Manifesto (and Easy Read, BSL and Braille versions) can be found here.

Judith Bunting calls for end to injustice on mental health and social care

Judith Bunting outside West Berkshire Community Hospital

Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Newbury constituency, has outlined Lib Dem plans to end the “injustice” against people with mental ill health.

Speaking at the start of Dementia Awareness Week, ahead of a visit on Wednesday (17th May) to West Berkshire Dementia Action Alliance’s event at Newbury Corn Exchange, Judith Bunting said:

“Under this Conservative Government, NHS services have been stretched to breaking point. This is at a time when the prevalence of mental ill health appears to be rising.

She said: “Neither Labour nor the Conservatives have explained how they will fund mental health services. Our priorities are clear and will be funded by the injection of £6bn a year into the NHS with an additional penny on income tax.

“We want to in improve waiting time standards for mental health care in the NHS, end the degrading use of force against people with mental ill health and prioritise action to reduce the number of people who take their own lives.

“The Lib Dems want this country to be a world leader in mental health care. These are not just empty words – in Government it was the Lib Dems who introduced a legal duty on the NHS to promote parity of esteem for mental health and invested £400m to increase access to talking therapies.

“I am well aware of the pressures our wonderful local NHS teams are under both at GP level and at our fantastic West Berkshire Hospital which is struggling to keep up. On top of this, mental health and social care issues are a ticking time bomb for West Berkshire. Our Lib Dem commitment to healthcare will give the NHS in West Berkshire the investment it needs NOW.”

Lib Dems Our Plan for Health: Save the NHS by putting a penny in the pound on income tax to give the NHS and social care services the cash they need. Make waiting times for mental health care match those for physical health care. Limit the amount elderly people have to pay for social care.
Summary of the Lib Dem plan for Health & Social Care. Find out more: http://www.libdems.org.uk/health

Judith supports the Mencap Campaign for Easy Read manifestos

 

FriendshipSkillsc
Judith at the local Friendships Skills group

Message from Judith…

I am delighted to support the Mencap Campaign for Easy Read manifestos for the 2017 General Election.

Over 1.4 million people in the UK have a learning disability. About 1 million of these people will have the opportunity to vote in the General Election. Research for Mencap’s Hear my Voice campaign in 2015 showed that people with a learning disability have a political appetite and want to vote.

I have met with our local Friendship Skills group for a political grilling twice, now, and the questions asked by the group are often just as tough as those from the audience at public hustings.

The support given by groups, such as the Mencap Friendship Skills group is excellent. Nonetheless, many feel excluded from the political process due to the inaccessible language and jargon used in politics. Providing Easy Read manifestos can change that.

The Liberal Democrats provided an Easy Read manifesto in 2015, alongside the standard version.

An image of the Lib Dem Easy Read manifesto from 2015
Part of the 2015 Lib Dem Easy Read manifesto

Easy Read means using simple language and pictures to make information easier to understand for people with a learning disability. By providing an Easy Read manifesto you are making sure that people with a learning disability feel included and that their vote is valued and counts.

I am delighted to report that the Liberal Democrats were one of the first parties to commit to do the same for 2017.

Links to the standard and Easy Read Manifestos will be posted here, as soon as they are available.

Please sign up below, if you would like me to forward the link to the Liberal Democrat manifestos when they are available (should be Wednesday). 

Please send me a link to the manifesto

Judith Bunting at Newbury Friendships Skills group
Judith at the local Friendships Skills group

For more information on this issue, this podcast may help.