Attended my first Local Government Association Conference last week in Harrogate. As you can imagine there was a great deal of blah, blah, blah but a few interesting speakers. Jeremy Hunt, the Health minister, put forward his ideas on how they were going to reduce demand on the NHS. It appears as though it’s all my fault – overweight, a bit of a smoker and I live on my own. So if I give up drinking, smoking and eating the NHS should be safe. Then all of us retired people should move back in with our children to reduce care costs and free up some housing – great in theory but it presumes that you have to got rid of your kids in the first place!
John Pienaar gave us his views on the state of the parties after the election – it looks like we could be in for a long spell of Tory rule. Mind you it was interesting watching the ‘group’ of Tories from Suffolk County Council spend 3 days trying to avoid each other. It is a worry for the residents of Suffolk because I just don’t see the quality of Cabinet member required to deliver the services with reduced funds. In two years time, with the Tory Government delivering the peak level of austerity cuts, the County Council elections could deliver a mixed colour administration.
I hope that the many Council CEOs that were there spent more time talking with the many exhibitors who seem to have already come up with some innovative solutions – my favourite was the rubbish bin that has its own built-in compactor thus reducing the emptying frequency.
County Councillor, Belstead Brook
Spokesman, Audit and FInance
In the week after the General Election, Liberal Democrat membership across the country soared by over 25% and continues to rise hourly. This surge has – of course – been replicated here in Suffolk. The LibDem fightback has begun.
Over half of new members are aged under 35, and the vast majority have never been a member of the LibDems before.
A warm welcome to all our new members here in Suffolk! We are thrilled you have chosen to join us.
If you want to join, get in touch with our membership office on 020 7022 0988, via the national LibDem website, or simply click the ‘join’ button at the left of the page. And remember, if you join before 3 June, you are eligible to vote in the elections for the new LibDem Leader.
A few things to remember when you cast your vote on Thursday:
In 2010 the Labour government left a mountain of debt for the nation. Liberal Democrats shouldered unpopularity to take the responsible step of forming a stable coalition government. In the last 5 years 2 million new apprenticeships and 2 million new jobs have been created and Labour’s deficit has been halved.
The following initiatives were in the LibDem 2010 Manifesto and would not have happened without us:
Tax cuts: Low and middle income earners have had a tax cut of nearly £1,000 a year. Because we raised the income tax threshold – as we promised (though David Cameron said it was impossible) people who earn £10,500 a year of less pay no income tax at all. We want to raise this threshold to £12,500.
Education: We have invested in education, targeting funding at the most deprived children. This has meant an extra £60m for Suffolk schools. It is making a real difference to literacy and numeracy and has provided, for example, one-to-one tuition, breakfast and after-school clubs. In addition we have given free school meals to 5-to-7 year olds.
Health: We have provided additional funding for health and introduced the first ever mental health waiting time standards. We will invest an extra £8bn a year in the NHS each year by 2020. We are the only party to promise this and say how it will be funded.
Renewable energy and environment: We have trebled the amount of energy generated from renewables. We will introduce 5 green laws including protection for bees and pollinators.
We have cracked down on tax dodgers – getting £9bn tax back through deals with Switzerland, Liechenstein and the Channel Islands. We have also prosecuted 10 times more people for tax crimes than happened under the last government.
Some endorsements in the national press:
The Times “Nick Clegg made a bold decision to take the Liberal Democrats into government. Power has been a justified gamble for the Liberal Democrats…Their signature policy of taking people who earn £10,000 or less out of taxation altogether has been one of their successes.” http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/leaders/article4430579.ece
Sunday Times “…[the Coalition] did survive and this has been a period of political stability that would have been the envy of many majority governments of the past. Mr Clegg deserves to survive and so do his closest Lib Dem colleagues in government. Tory supporters in Labour-Lib Dem marginals may wish to vote for the Lib Dem candidate… http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/comment/article1551497.ece
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On this Sunday’s Politics programme, SCC Lib Dem leader Dave Wood will be voicing robust support for his party at both local and national level in advance of the Lib Dem party conference.
“After the initial shock at finding ourselves blamed for everything the Coalition government does, and the protest vote that cost us seats, we’ve realised that people have got into the habit of relying on us to hold the worst excesses of the Tories at bay, without acknowledging any of the good things we do. They’re having their cake and eating it! “ he says.
“So, instead of just getting on and doing the job – as we always do – we have to start shouting about our local and national successes. It’s up to us to bring our out light from under the bushel because it is clearly in the interests of both Tories and Labour to keep it hidden. But we do a lot. Let’s stop being so modest about our achievements.
Locally our hard work and dedication is acknowledged and respected. This is why no sitting Suffolk LibDem councillor lost their seat in the 2013 election. Yet for far too long we have been hard-working councillors that everybody knows and relies on without expecting the pat on the backs we deserve. We need to be proud of what we have achieved and be proud to tell everyone about our successes. In Suffolk, our local defence of local services saw off Andrea Hill’s New Strategic Direction, while nationally, we are behind all those many innovations like the triple lock pension, tax-cuts for the low paid, the pupil premium, and bringing record numbers of poorer students into higher education etc. These are improving life for so many of us in Suffolk – and in the UK as a whole.
We need to confront people with the reality: ask them what the Tories would be doing if we Lib Dems weren’t there to rein them in and keep watch on things. Unlike a lot of other European countries, the UK is not used to Coalition governments and hasn’t fully understood how they work. Too many people choose to see this Coalition as a friendship group, rather than what it is – a temporary alliance of very differing views. It suits the Labour party to support this view – after all the Coalition only exists to deal with the mess they left this country in.
We must not be afraid to tell everyone what we are doing and be proud to do so.”
News & Views from Lib Dem County Councillors