Liberal Democrats quadruple seats on West Berkshire Council

In the local elections this week Liberal Democrats regained control of Newbury Town Council, Thatcham Town Council and quadrupled representation on West Berkshire Council from 4 to 16 seats.

Fantastic results for the team and for everyone who lives in this fantastic district.

Congratulations to the team who has worked hard, even when not elected, to make sure that the message got out. We can Demand Better.

Thank you to everyone who voted Lib Dem.

For full results in your area:
District Council Results 2019: http://decisionmaking.westberks.gov.uk/mgElectionResults.aspx?ID=9&RPID=9798865

Town and Parish Council results – Newbury and Thatcham: http://decisionmaking.westberks.gov.uk/mgElectionElectionAreaResults.aspx?EID=10&RPID=9581271

And please stick with us – there is more fun to come on May 23rd. Now we work together to Stop Brexit.

Message to voters in Newbury and West Berkshire

#YourVoiceMatters

This General Election is the Best Thing for Britain.
It Gives us a Chance for Change.

The Conservatives are hell bent on a ‘hard Brexit’. We now understand the future of our country is at stake. The national press suggests that the number of Leave voters who still want to exit from Europe is shrinking:

  • ‘Leave’ voters who did not realise Brexit could lead to the break up of the UK.
  • People who chose not to vote who now regret that decision.
  • ‘Leave’ voters who feel they were lied to during the Referendum Campaign.
  • 17 year olds who have had a birthday since last June and now want a say in their own future.

Add these to the 48% who feel the narrow margin of victory last June is being casually disregarded. Yes, this general election is the best thing that could happen to the UK right now.

If you want to stop a hard Brexit, you need an MP who will fight for you.

  • If you are a Remain Tory voter, please lend me your vote for this election.
  • If you are a Labour voter who does not want to leave the single market, please support us.
  • If you are angry at the potential break up of the UK, vote for us.
  • If you want to live in a country which is open, tolerant and united, vote with us.

#YourVoiceMatters

If you would like to join our local campaign team to work to stop this hard #Brexit in its tracks, please write to us at westberkslibdems@yahoo.com.

If you would like to join the Liberal Democrats – it only takes two minutes: http://www.libdems.org.uk/fightback 

 

EU promise to protect the NHS

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Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about TTIP and the NHS. I couldn’t agree more that the NHS needs to be protected and Liberal Democrats have a strong record in this area.

I have been delighted that Lib Dem ministers have successfully pushed for extra investment in the NHS. We have secured an additional £2bn funding for the NHS, beginning in this April. We have also called for the Conservatives and Labour to match our ‘£8 billion a year by 2020’ funding commitment for the NHS.

Liberal Democrat ministers have also listened to people’s concerns on the issue of TTIP and the NHS. I have personally passed particular messages from a number of local correspondents to Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, and Catherine Bearder, MEP for the South East of England. They have pushed for reassurances from the EU that TTIP will have no effect on the powers of the NHS at a local level. I am glad to report their recent success:

After determined negotiations, we now have a clear guarantee from the EU that member states’ rights to provide public services directly, are enshrined in TTIP explicitly, including the case where outsourcing had previously taken place.

A letter from EU Trade Commissioner Malmstrom received by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable specifically mentions the case of the NHS in Britain as an example of the rights of member states that are over and above TTIP. 

The letter categorically states that under TTIP, “member states do not have to open public health services to competition from private providers, nor do they have to outsource services to private providers.” Also that “EU member state governments (at all levels, from central government to local authorities) can continue to manage their public services however they see fit.” Vince wants the Commissioner’s assurance reflected in the drafting of any TTIP treaty.

Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has been absolutely clear at all times that we will protect the NHS as a top priority. Local GPs – who we put in charge of commissioning services – will continue to decide what is best for patients. 

On Investor protection clauses – Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) – these cannot force governments to open markets or privatise public services. TTIP is the chance to set the standard for a modern form of ISDS but Vince Cable has been very clear that we will only support ISDS if it works for Britain and if there is proper disclosure about what is being discussed. He has been calling for as many of the negotiations to take place in public as possible so there cannot be suggestions that either the EU or US has something to hide.  So, where Britain’s interests are not harmed by disclosure, then disclosure must take place. 

We want to keep a reformed ISDS on the table, but we need a package of substantial reform. It is already a big win for Britain that the EU has been consulting and has paused negotiations on ISDS to take account of the reforms people are pressing for which include for example transparent, open tribunal processes to deal with complaints about them being held “behind closed doors”; changes in the treaty text so that future loss of profits cannot be included in the calculation; and using an improved ISDS in TTIP to update earlier, less developed ISDS arrangements in other trade deals to put right the gaps in those agreements.

While I accept, like previous governments, that there may be a role for private sector provision of NHS services, I strongly believe that the NHS should always remain free and be based on patients’ needs and not on their ability to pay. 

I will always resist any attempts by other parties to privatise the NHS. For example, Liberal Democrats have stopped the Conservatives’ privatisation plans and we reversed Labour’s policy of allowing private companies to ‘cherry pick’ lucrative NHS contracts and get special favours.  The Labour Government paid private companies £250 million for operations they didn’t perform and in Government, Liberal Democrats have made sure that can never happen again.   

Like you, I depend on the NHS. Our country depends on the generally wonderful service it provides. Liberal Democrats will always protect the NHS.

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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Don’t use red envelopes!

With Mel Pierson, Plant Manager at Swindon's Dorcan Sorting Office

Recently Mel Pierson, Plant Manager at Royal Mail’s Swindon sorting office, invited Judith Bunting to see how their operation is gearing up for Christmas. As parliamentary candidate for the Newbury and West Berkshire Lib Dems, Judith was keen to see where the constituency’s cards and parcels are being handled.

Hosted by Mel Pierson and Robbie Curtis, the Communications Workers’ Union leader at the plant, Judith heard first hand how the service has been coping since the privatisation of Royal Mail and the importance of preserving the Universal Service Obligation.

6 DAYS A WEEK

The Universal Service Obligation places a legal obligation on Royal Mail to deliver to every home and business in the country, as well as to collect from every post box in the country six days a week, at the same price throughout the country.

Judith said: “It is critical we preserve delivery across the UK, 6 days a week. That is the contract the Royal Mail took on when they privatised. At the same time, independent operators without that obligation are able to take advantage. We need to keep a close eye on how this situation develops. Ofcom has many tools at its disposal to protect the USO. It could impose regulatory conditions on other operators to level the playing field.”

YESTERDAY’S WORLD

As well as discussions about the future of the recently privatised service Judith was keen to see for herself the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) machines in action. These read our handwritten addresses automatically and are the back bone of the operation.

Judith recalled filming these OCR machines back in 1987 for Tomorrow’s World when they were first introduced!

“It is fascinating to see how technology has advanced and how what was extraordinary back then, is now in every day use,” explained Judith. “Today OCR machines are the mainstay of mail sorting and 80% of letters are automatically sequenced by these machines.”

DON”T USE RED ENVELOPES

Judith also picked up some invaluable advice to ensure all our Christmas cards are delivered promptly:

“The automatic machines apparently have trouble reading addresses on red paper which can cause delays to red envelopes being delivered,” said Judith. “So the advice is while they may be very pretty and seasonal try not to use red envelopes for your cards this year!”

For more photos of the Swindon operation see: https://www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury