‘Explore Card’ petition reaches vital target

We’ve DONE it – we’re over the first hurdle and can challenge the Explore card cut!

Thanks to the hard work of huge numbers of people, our Explore card petition click here has achieved its first goal, with nearly 4,000 signatures and rising. Do keep on signing.   The online petition finishes 1 May! Support has included a recent article in the Evening Star , a poster campaign by members of Woodbridge’s Just 42 OTS club, and a last minute surge of paper signatures from Bungay, led by a superbly public spirited Bungay High School student, Hannah Alred.

In addition, I have just heard that FE students at Otley College, University College Suffolk and West Suffolk College have collected over two thousand further signatures, which the council are happy to include. This means the Save the Explore Card petition has six thousand signatories and rising!

Under its constitution, the council CAN respond to a petition by taking the action requested in the petition – in other words,deciding to retain the card . This would be wonderful because it would cause minimum damage. The Explore card became invalid only four weeks ago – on 1 April – and already we are hearing stories of the hardship caused to young people by cutting it halfway through a school/college year.

However, the County Council may require more persuasion.

If a petition contains more than 3675 signatures it can be debated by the full council, if the petitioner requests it.  This means that it gets discussed and voted on  at a council meeting at which all county councillors attend. The council “will endeavour to consider the petition at its next meeting, although on some occasions this may not be possible and consideration will then take place at the following meeting.

This weekend, the petitioner, Patrick Gillard, will be writing to the Council to ask it to change its mind and restore the Explore card. If – for any reason – the Council cannot immediately take this action, he will ask for a time to deliver the petition in person and request that the immediate restoration of the Explore card should be debated at next full council – May 26.

What YOU can do:

  • Please keep signing. The e-petition is now closed but  I can send you a printable version .
  •  Please keep telling people that they can sign and that we are past the first target. It is important for everyone to realise that people can have an effect on decision-making. The county council is funded by the people of Suffolk for the people of Suffolk. Everyone has a stake in it and should make their voice heard!
  • In addition, please keep on emailing me (or posting on my blog) with your individual stories of how the loss of the card affects you personally. It would be useful to know what town/postcode you are in so that individual county councillors can see how it is affecting the people they represent!

The petition in full:   I am petitioning to overturn SCCs proposal to abolish the young person’s eXplore Card. Up till now young people have had this card to help with travel costs to post-16 education, to work and to find work, and for socialising. Explore cards were available free to students 16-19, and have enabled them to pay only half adult fares on buses and on many off-peak rail journeys. Additionally, the SCC post-16 transport policy relies on the fact that all post-16 students can have an Explore card to help with fares – and a very good thing too!. The proposed abolition of the card would mean there will be more cars on the road because many more young people will be driven or drive to school, college, employment etc. It will put more, less confident cyclists on busier roads. It will lead to less take-up of FE education because of difficulties of access. It will harm young people’s chances of going for job interviews and training. The proposed abolition is a retrograde step that threatens the very education and employment opportunities that our young people need in order to help us out of our current economic crisis. It also makes a mockery of our ‘Greenest county’ aspirations. Please sign this petition to keep SCC’s eXplore card.

SAVE the EXPLORE CARD!

I am petitioning to overturn SCCs proposal to abolish the young person’s eXplore Card. Up till now young people have had this card to help with travel costs to post-16 education, to work and to find work, and for socialising. Explore cards were available free to students 16-19, and have enabled them to pay only half adult fares on buses and on many off-peak rail journeys. Additionally, the SCC post-16 transport policy relies on the fact that all post-16 students can have an Explore card to help with fares – and a very good thing too!. The proposed abolition of the card would mean there will be more cars on the road because many more young people will be driven or drive to school, college, employment etc. It will put more, less confident cyclists on busier roads. It will lead to less take-up of FE education because of difficulties of access. It will harm young people’s chances of going for job interviews and training. The proposed abolition is a retrograde step that threatens the very education and employment opportunities that our young people need in order to help us out of our current economic crisis. It also makes a mockery of our ‘Greenest county’ aspirations. Please sign this petition to keep SCC’s eXplore card.

Why I’m saying YES to AV

Some months back the Labour party used AV  to to elect Labour’s new leader.   We Lib Dems have used the process to elect our leaders for a while.  In Suffolk last week,  the Conservative party used AV to elect Mark Bee  as their new leader. The Oscars have moved to AV to vote for Best Film.  Colin Firth, Steven Fry, Joanna Lumley, Helena Bonham Carter,  Honor Blackman, Kriss Akabusi, Amisha Ghadiali, Eddie Izzard, Greg Dyke, Rowan Davies and Martin Bell are all saying Yes to AV.  I am supporting AV, come to that. AV is clearly seen as a fair and intelligent way of  exercising democracy- so why do we in Britain still elect our MPs with the  discredited First Past the Post system?

The answer’s simple: it’s convenient for the MPs. The First Past the Post system keeps people in power without them having to work for it. No wonder so many people in Westminster are reluctant to change!

Every  time there is an election in Britain, people notice the tiny proportion of votes that the winners have gained and comment on how unfair this is.  In 2010 most MPs were elected with less than a third of the votes. The Electoral Reform Society has been campaigning to update Britain’s undemocratic electoral system for over a hundred years – and have long argued that AV is the best system when you’re out to elect a single winner.

In May, at long, long  last we finally have the chance to scrap our broken system and replace it with a better one that will see politicians having to work harder for our votes. See the Yes to fairer votes site to see a video which shows how easy and fair the AV system really is

And remember to vote YES on May 5th

For more information see my fuller briefing on AV:  No more wasted votes? then say YES to AV

I need to remind Labour party members what socialists actually THOUGHT before the last election…

and who is actually responsible for all these cuts.  Since the election there has been the most remarkable degree of amnesia on the subject.

Yes,  the vindictively targeted cuts of Suffolk’s New Strategic Direction are the responsibility of the Suffolk Tories and the administration they head.  But at national level? – only a political simpleton or  a dissimulator would lay Britain’s cuts  at the door of the Coalition.

Certainly, before the elecction the left knew exactly who was responsible. You just have to read Mick Brooks on Brown and Light Touch regulation

If you can’t bring yourself to remember, here ‘s a quote:

Clearly the present crisis is international in scope (contrary to Brown’s tommyrot that he could immunise Britain from boom and bust), but the neoliberal policies pursued have exposed the British economy to global economic forces and left if unprotected to a dangerous degree.

Here is a sample of Brown’s saucer-eyed adoration for financial whizzkids from his Mansion House speech in 2007. “I congratulate you on these remarkable achievements, an era that history will record as the beginning of a new golden age for the City of London … I believe it will be said of this age, the first decades of the 21st century, that out of the greatest restructuring of the global economy, perhaps even greater than the industrial revolution, a new world order was created.” Readers seeing this for the first time after the crash must be wondering what planet this bloke beamed down from.

Completely suckered by the arrogance and pushiness of the City elite, Brown was determined as Chancellor to let them have their head. He seemed to harbor the insane delusion that an island of 60 million souls could all make a living in the world on the backs of the mysterious activities of a few tens of thousands of people in the City and Canary Wharf.

He therefore called for ‘light touch regulation,’ in other words less regulation on the City and finance capital. Before his Mansion House audience in 2007, he called for, “a risk-based regulatory approach”. It was an old theme. In the same hall three years before, he pledged that “in budget after budget I want us to do even more to encourage the risk takers” (2004). This is the approach that got us in the present pickle.

Right?     Right!

Thank you

Oh, and PS, TUITION FEES:

In 1997 you said Labour has no plans to introduce tuition fees for higher education. You then introduced tuition fees … In 2001 you said: ‘we will not introduce top-up fees and have legislated to prevent them’. You then introduced top-up fees.” Michael Howard to Tony Blair, Prime Minister’s Questions, 6 April 2005

Will tuition fees return to haunt the Labour Party?
Unlike the last general election when university tuition fees figured large, higher education is likely to have a lower profile this time round. That’s because the two biggest parties, Labour and the Conservatives, have done a deal to kick the fees issue into the long grass. They have set up a review, chaired by the former BP boss Lord Browne, which is looking at the options for student funding, including charging students more by lifting the cap on fees that stand at just over £3,000 a year. That review will not be completed until the autumn, well after the election is over. Lucy Hodges, The Independent Thursday, 15 April 2010

Tuition fees dog Labour
Since tuition fees were launched in 1997, student funding has been a thorn in Labour’s side. When Education Secretary Charles Clarke speaks at the Labour party conference in Bournemouth on Tuesday, tuition fees will remain the cloud anchored over his seafront horizon.  Dividing the party, putting off young people, threatening the middle classes, appearing as the party that pushes students into debt – the issue of student finance has continued to be bad news for the Labour leadership.
But what is it that has set the backbenchers grumbling?
And how will the government manage to sell the message that tuition fees is about opening doors to higher education, rather than slamming down the shutters? Sean Coughlan  BBC News Online education staff Tuesday, 30 September, 2003

Like I said, just so you remember, eh? I wouldn’t like to think you were accidentally spreading disinformation, just because you’d forgotten  who was actually responsible.