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Europe: Keep Britain IN

InIn Europe, Britain can thrive. Together we will be a stronger and more prosperous nation, creating opportunity for future generations, respected all over the world.

Together we created the world’s largest free trade area, we delivered peace, and we gave the British people the opportunity to live, work and travel freely. History shows that Britain is better when it is united with Europe.

Together we are stronger in the fight against the global problems that don’t stop at borders. We can stop international crime, we can fight climate change, and together we will provide hope and opportunity for the future.

It is not the time to turn our backs on Europe, leaving us isolated, sidelined and alone.

By voting to remain in, Britain can thrive.

Together we show the world an open, outward-facing Britain we can all be proud of.

Join the Liberal Democrat campaign today, to remain in together, and to stand up for the type of Britain you think we should be.

www.libdems.org.uk/europe

How the EU Works

European Parliament

765 members (MEPs)
from 28 Member States

Directly elected
by EU citizens every 5 years

Approves the EU budget, legislation and suggests changes to the Law

 

 

 

⇐WORK⇒ TOGETHER

Council of the EU

Heads of State (EU Council) and Ministers from National Governments

Responsible for the Common Foreign and Security Policy

Sets EU agenda

Approves EU budgets and legislation

                        
PROPOSES LEGISLATION

European Commission

(EU Civil Service)

28 Commissioners appointed for 5 years from each member country

Proposes Legislation

Makes Sure EU Laws are implemented

Manages EU Budget

Sufffolk LibDem Budget Statement 2016: Support for sensible use of reserves

Suffolk County Council’s burget proposed  cuts amounting to £34.4m –  leading to a budget requirement of £445,659,553.  With all these cuts the budget still  increased council tax by 2% – though in a figleaf to the administration’s electoral promise to freeze council tax for the entire electoral period this was worded as “”The budget is based on a freeze… but includes a 2% precept to fund Adult Social Care…”

The Lib Dems supported  a Labour amendment that tried to ameliorate – indeed turn back – the cuts. They were joined in cross-party unity with the Greens, the Independents and even UKIP. It was a tight vote but the administration squeezed through.

With this cross-party support, the Labour amendment was lost  by a  narrow margin: 32-36. The Conservatives won their budget 36-27.

LibDem deputy group leader John Field told  council:

Local councils have suffered heavily at the hands of the chancellor as he tries to reduce the deficit that the bankers generated.  The County finances are challenged but since 2011 reserves have increase steadily to £140.5 m with £36.9 m in the contingency reserve.  This is money “for a rainy day” not spent boosting the economy or protecting vulnerable people.

The government is now assuming that councils raise council tax by 1.7% per year –  and, if they deal with social care, another 2% on top of that.  If they don’t do this their spending power will fall. There will be no more Pickles grants for keeping tax rises at zero.   As I see it that leaves Suffolk County Council  as a tax cutting administration in a pickle.  Raise tax by just 2% and your resources decrease.  Raise it by 3.7% as the government is assuming and you break your pledge of zero rises.  Do you square the circle by “managing demand”, is it “Transformation” or “Demand Management” locking the door so people can’t get in?

We believe that there must be a continual activity where services are re-engineered to reduce unnecessary process steps and to seize the possibilities offered by technological change.

However, we receive anecdotal information that the vulnerable are steadily receiving reduced service. We believe that we need proof that front line services are being preserved.  The need for continual “demand management” implies they are not.  When people do not get the care they need and the knock on effect on the NHS is substantial.

There are sound reasons for reserves but there is no need to grow them endlessly.  The proposal within the amendment to use a sum equal to the recent growth to support services is a rational choice.  We will no doubt be reminded that reserves can only be used once, obviously true but there is no proposal to spend all the £140.5 m in one period of excess or even all the £36.9 m in the contingency reserve.  The proposals in the amendment appear sound; the proposal to reinstate this selection of your cuts is socially responsible.

Many of the cuts that would be reversed not only meet the needs of the vulnerable but also increase economic growth or reduce costs like those of the delayed transfer of care.  They will reduce spend elsewhere in budgets throughout the public sector.  Those savings are far harder to measure than the administrations cuts but nevertheless are real.

It is your choice to build reserves and endlessly reduce service or to meet need.  You cast yourselves as heroes dealing with adversity but just deliver cuts to the disadvantaged and the vulnerable.    For these reasons we support the Labour amendment.

Caroline Page’s speech on the impact of these cuts to transport can be found here

John Field  (deputy group leader)
Caroline Page

Swift to Serve!!! ‘Severest cut’ to Suffolk’s Fire Services?

Now we know it- the Conservative administration are planning to cut £1.3m from the Fire Service budget of £21m!

This means they are proposing the severest cut ever seen to the Suffolk Fire Service, whose proud motto is Swift to Serve . With these proposed cuts, will they be able to live up to it , one wonders!

They are proposing to reduce the whole time establishment at Prnces Street Ipswich from 48 to 28, removing the On Call firefighters and two fire engines. At Ipswich East they are removing one fire engine and several On Call firefighters; the same is happening at Lowestoft South and Bury St Edmunds. At Wrentham they are closing the Fire Station altogether, whilst at Sudbury – the scene of a major fire recently -they are removing one fire engine and replacing it with a rapid response vehicle  (whatever that might be). One Senior Officer post is also going as well as three civlian posts.

What does this mean to you the public of Suffolk?

Today, when the cuts were announced, there were at least 7 Fire Stations unable to provide cover:  Framlingham, Aldeburgh, Wrentham, Eye, Needham Market, Nayland & Brandon with Princes Street “On Call Firefighters” unavailable at sometime during the day. Last Monday, 26th October, there were 20 Fire Stations out of a total of 35 unavailable for some part of the day! Where does the cover come from to fill in these holes in our Fire Cover? mainly from the wholetime firefighters based at Princes Street. However, with these proposed cuts this will no longer be able to happen.

With the population of Ipswich due to increase and several more high rise accomodation blocks planned the Fire Service will struggle to meet its agreed pre determined attendance to these properties, is it a risk you are prepared to take.

One simple solution:  a rise of less than 1% in the council tax could prevent these cuts (its up to you)  – or  of course they could go back and look for cuts elsewhere.

Ahead of this action, Suffolk County Council will now undertake a 14 week consultation period to allow you, the public of Suffolk, to have your say. If you value your Emergancy Service I urge you to have your say and say No to these drastic cuts.

It is rumoured that the Cabinet Member for Public Protection is prepared to take what he calls” these acceptable risks”.

To you the people of Suffolk, I ask:  “Are these RISKS ACCEPTABLE TO YOUR LIVES, YOUR PROPERTY & YOUR LIVELIHOODS?” I think not. We are already one of the lowest costing Fire Services in the country .

Enough is enough. Please have your say in this public consultation and help save our Fire Service.

David Wood

Leader Lib Dem Group.

Suffolk gets new Community Transport model – despite reservations

Suffolk will be getting a new Community Transport model – despite reservations from opposition parties – after the  cabinet decision to tender for continuing community transport using a new structure was “called in” this month.

Community transport is the term for services like Dial a Ride that provide “on demand” transport to people no longer served by scheduled buses or trains. Over recent years the Conservative administration have increasingly replaced scheduled bus services in rural areas of Suffolk with community transport, but delivery has remained patchy disparate and problematic.  A variety of these services have operated under various brands serving different communities and specific user-groups although their vehicles have been provided by the county and the services largely specified by county officers. Often people have had little idea of availability and there has been large areas of unmet need – particularly in the area of young person’s travel , regular travel to employment, weekend and evening travel, and same day travel.

Under the new proposal,  seven contracts would be let (one per district council). This would ensure people would easily know who they should phone to book a journey and allow for greater flexibility of provision.  The problem with that is that people often travel from one district to another to visit the hospital or shop in a major town.

The proposal is that  current vehicles will  be sold to the providers, a move that would allow a wider range of customers to be served.  When the county owns vehicles, providers cannot use them to provide services if that would compete with commercial services. That would involve the state subsidising one service to compete against another.

Another advantage will be that they can then select vehicles to meet the need as they see it rather than having to use what the county provides.

The county hopes that this will allow competition for services such as some forms of home-to-school transport that will use the assets more intensively.

So why was this proposal called in by the Labour group?  Well, there were five reasons but we  LibDems thought the most significant was financial.

The intention was that, not only would the county no longer provide free vehicles saving it some some £570k (which largely voluntary bodies would have to find) but also it would reduce the subsidy from £1.4m to £700k over the next four years.  Increased revenue from the new freedom to provide services was supposed to compensate for this significant cut.

Scrutiny believed it more likely that, although the providers would survive, using their new freedoms and their vehicles to provide the county with alternative sources of transport (for instance home to school services) others would suffer.  Many services to people without other transport options would be unlikely to be supported by the new lower county contribution – and will be cut.  And as the new contract is deliberately non-specific, the County could  claim this is a matter outside its control.

We referred the decision back to cabinet but in a very brief process which allowed no comment from other councillors they dismissed the reasoning of the cross party scrutiny committee and decided there would be no change.

So much for democracy!

John Field
Caroline Page

Suffolk’s Law Courts Under Threat – Lobby or Lose Them!

Suffolk LibDems  have joined in cross-party unanimity to condemn government proposals to close all law courts in Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft leaving the county with just the courts in Ipswich.

In brief, the Ministry of Justice proposes that:

a) Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court is closed and the civil hearing work move to Great Yarmouth(Magistrates’ Court and Family Court), the family hearing work to Ipswich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court)., and the criminal work move to Great Yarmouth (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court) and Norwich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court).

b) that Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court and Family Court and Bury St Edmunds Crown Court are closed, and the existing magistrates’ and family workload  be moved to Ipswich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court) and Norwich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court). It is also proposed that victim and witness facilities will be installed at Bury St. Edmunds County Court and Tribunals which would enable court users, in suitable matters, to give evidence by video link!

All to save £600,000 a year. Truly this government knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Continue reading Suffolk’s Law Courts Under Threat – Lobby or Lose Them!

Liberal Democrats call on MPs to reject Right to Buy for Housing Associations

Lib Dems are opposing the government decision to allow the tenants of Housing Associations the right to buy the homes they rent so the Mid Suffolk group are putting the following to the council

Motion to Mid Suffolk district council  “This council supports the housing charity “Shelter” in its campaign to persuade the Tory government that its plan to introduce the right to buy to housing association properties is ill conceived. The council therefore resolves to lobby all Suffolk MPs and government ministers to reject this policy as the council is concerned at the loss of such social housing for future generations”

This council has one of its strategic priorities, housing, to ensure there is enough good quality, environmentally efficient homes, with appropriate tenures in the right location.

To have a policy of extending the right to buy to housing associations will not improve the housing crisis it will exacerbate it.

Even the National Housing Federation chief executive has publicly stated “this will have a serious and long lasting consequence for future generations. It will not solve the housing crisis :  it will make it worse” Continue reading Liberal Democrats call on MPs to reject Right to Buy for Housing Associations

New LibDem leader – Tim Farron!

cropped-TIM-FARRON.jpg“We are not the party of vested interests. We are a party that sees the best in people, not the worst; we’re the party that believes the role of government is to help us be the best we can be – no matter who we are or what is our background. That is it. That. Is. It!”

After a cleanly-fought battle between two  excellent candidates and 27 hustings across the country, the Liberal Democrats have an inspirational new leader in Tim Farron, who declares himself “fed up of self-satisfied politicians, ambitious for themselves and unambitious for their country.”

Tim has had a working life outside politics AND is the first major party leader in 18 years to have been a councillor before becoming an MP (he’s  represented constituents as Borough, District and County Councillor over 15 years), and sees Westminster  as “only one brick in the governance of this country”. No Westminster bubble for him! Continue reading New LibDem leader – Tim Farron!

Fire Cuts – Enough is Enough

Suffolk already has the leanest and meanest Fire Service in the Country and following yesterdays announcement the Council are proposing to take a further £1m from an already stretched budget.

The Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham and the new Portfolio Holder Cllr Matthew Hicks are proposing a public consultation exercise to gain the views of the Suffolk public. I urge you to take part in this consultation and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. We have already seen Felixstowe Fire Station cease to have any wholetime Firefighters, Haverhills wholetime establishment cut and a cut in the number of wholetime Firefighters across the county.

Only today June 24th at 11:30 there were 10 Fire Stations off the run, including such stations as Hadleigh, Debenham, Framlingham and Adleburgh to name but 4. A further station was short crewed meaning it could not attend property fires and a further 2 had appliances off the run. So you can see further cut to our already stretched service would impact further on the safety of the residents of Suffolk.

So now is the chance for you to have your say –  details here -and I urge you to say NO MORE CUTS.

David Wood

Leader Suffolk Lib Dems

Spokesperson Fire & Public Protection

Suffolks Schools – the link between poverty and education

So NOW the report on health in Suffolk has again pointed out the link between poor education results and poverty in Ipswich and Lowestoft, maybe the county council will at last take notice of what we have been saying and do something about it?  or are they just waiting until the schools are forced to become Academies –  then can let someone else take the blame???