At our Autumn Conference it was a great honour to meet with the Gurkhas who came to explain their plight and injustice to us. Talking to these ex-soldiers who had served the Country when called gave a sense of shame that our Government is simply not treating them fairly or as they deserve.
Liberal Democrats are campaigning for the rights of Gurkhas who are being denied citizenship and full pensions.
It’s an ongoing disgrace: Gurkhas who retired from the British Army after 1997 can automatically stay in the UK, but those who retired earlier must apply, and many have been refused and face deportation. Pension rights for years served by Gurkhas before 1997 count at only around a quarter of the level of years served after that time.
On Tuesday 30th September, in a test case, the High Court ruled their treatment had been unlawful in terms of the right to live in the UK if they retired before 1997. Following that decision, a huge campaign has been started to get the Government to change the law on how it treats Gurkhas.
Now Liberal Democrats on Bath and North East Somerset Council are backing a motion calling for equal treatment for Gurkhas. Councillor Cherry Beath (Liberal Democrat, Combe Down) spoke in the debate saying:
“The Liberal Democrats have been firmly backing the Justice Campaign, and have consistently raised this issue in Parliament. Our position is unequivocal: The government must allow all Gurkhas who risked their lives serving in our armed forces to become British citizens, and enjoy equal rights. If someone is prepared to die for our country they should have the right to live in our country.
“I have signed the Gurkha Justice petition as have many of my Liberal Democrat colleagues here in B&NES”
The motion coincides with a massive rally in London and the submission of a petition signed by 180,000 people to Number 10 Downing Street by Joanna Lumley.
The Conservative’s picked up a top recycling commitment when they won the 2007 election. Won on the back of several campaigns of disinformation one of which was the fiction that we were planning to introduce Fortnightly waste collection. Since then the recycling has stalled and they have not significantly moved forward on the initiatives we left in place. In fact they have delayed and delayed on same day waste collection and they have kicked cooked food waste collection into the long grass. A Liberal Democrat Administration would have had these both in place by now and the Council pushing to be the top Unitary with a recycling rate of 60%.
Talking of Tory Dirty Tricks the latest leaflet from them claims that we are planning a bin tax. What gutter lies. First they are the administration and so we cannot implement such a plan and secondly we have no intention at all of such a policy. They are obviously flying kites in preparation for an unpopular move on recycling or waste. Will they be renaging on one of their election promises on waste? Looks increasingly likely.
Our press release:
For immediate release: Friday, 14 November 2008
Fourth Place is Not Good Enough on Recycling
The Conservative-run Cabinet of Bath and North East Somerset Council has become complacent about recycling and waste policies, according to opposition politicians.
Reacting to news that the Council has slipped to fourth in the recycling league, Councillor Roger Symonds (Combe Down) said:
“As the first Council to adopt a zero waste policy, under Liberal Democrat leadership, B&NES Council was seen as a trailblazer on recycling. However since the new Administration took over however the Council’s waste record is becoming a damp squib.
“The Cabinet are happy to congratulate themselves about Government statistics, but meanwhile they are once again considering delaying their promised introduction of kitchen waste collections – now saying this could be put off till 2011 – and same day collections of waste and recycling will now not come in till 2009. These measures would already have been in place under Liberal Democrat plans and local recycling rates would have been nearly 60% by the end of next year.”
Cllr Paul Crossley added:
“This latest boast from the Administration should really be an admission that recycling and global warming are not high on their agenda. 77% of B&NES residents recycle – residents clearly want to do their bit and want to start now.”
Here in Bath we saved 2 Post Offices from the last round of closures due to a concerted campaign by Don Foster MP and the local Lib Dem councillor group.
However Post Offices need services to offer so it was great that the Parliamentary party used an opportunity to debate the Post Office Card Account and the need to keep it with the Post Office. In the debate the Labour Party voted against the Liberal Democrat motion. A move that potentially threatened even more of the network.
So it was cheers all round when James Purnell decided to ignore his own Labour Party and take the advice from the Liberal Democrats and keep the POCA with the Post Office. In Bath and NES over 11,000 as at the end of 2005 were POCA users.
It is good to see Vince and his team leading the way on housing finances. People have been led up the Government cloud cuckoo path of economics of borrowing as though there was no tomorrow and now it is collapsing. It will be ordinary families that suffer from Gordon Brown’s calamitous stewardship of our economy.
Great YouTube comment here
As repossessions increase – and isn’t it a disgrace that Northern Rock is charging to front of eviction alley – it will be local government that is expected to pick up the pieces and support these families in distress. These will also result in bankruptcies and other business loosing out on outstanding loans.
Two key points are:
Keeping people in their homes, so you don’t need to fear unfair repossessions
We must ensure that banks only ever repossess people’s homes as a last resort. Liberal Democrats will instruct the courts to make sure banks don’t repossess unless they’ve already offered free independent financial advice, and pursued all alternatives like renegotiating the terms of the mortgage and offering a shared equity agreement.
We already have nearly two million families on housing waiting lists. We can help those families and prevent a homelessness crisis by allowing councils and housing associations to buy up unsold properties and land from building companies. This will replenish our social housing stock, stimulate the house building industry and provide homes now for people who need them.
Lower mortgage payments and cheaper business loans through big interest rate cuts
People and businesses need help paying off their mortgages and loans, so we need substantially lower interest rates. The UK still has higher official interest rates than the EU (4.5% compared to 3.75%) and dramatically higher rates than the US (1.5%). This makes it much harder for people to pay their mortgages, makes it harder for business to survive and slows the economy down. The Bank of England must remain independent, but at this time of emergency its remit must be changed to make interest rates fall dramatically and swiftly. This should be part of international action to cut rates across all major economies.
Over the last few weeks several of us from Bath and NESomerset have been helping at a by-election in Bristol. Labour are in trouble in Bristol and the Conservatives as elsewhere have policies and campaigns that are as substantial as a sub-prime mortgage. Added to which the Conservatives have been propping up Labour for two years now in Bristol.
At the Council House in Bristol tonight, it was declared that Liberal Democrat Tony Potter pulled off a stunning victory in St George West, after a hard fought campaign on local issues.
In his acceptance speech, Tony Potter declared that: “no longer will St George West be the backwater of Bristol.”
Barbara Janke said: “Tony Potter is an excellent local candidate who has already worked hard for the people of St George for very many years. He will be a hard working councillor that people have voted for and need.
“This is a wonderful result. We’re delighted that the people of St George West have agreed with our positive message of change. Once again, it has been shown that the Tories are going backwards in Bristol, and that the Liberal Democrats are the only alternative to the failed Labour administration. This is the first step to a majority next May.”
Tony Potter (Liberal Democrat): 923
English Democrat: 93
This was one of the most intense elections fought by the 3 main parties ever in Bristol – each new what was at stake – and we won. Not only that the Conservatives slumped from a stong second position in May 08 to a distant third.
May 07 Oct 08
Lab 38% Lab 30%
Con 36% Con 19%
LD 25% LD 34%
Well done to Tony and the team.
James Dyson had a dream to build an exciting academy in Bath to specialise in design and technology. It was supported by the Liberal Democrats and all political parties in Bath. It was supported by the Tony Blair’s Labour Government that wanted these new schools. It was supported by Gordon Brown’s Labour Government.
The road was hard and rocky with false dawns and planning objections along the way. Eventually the Planning Committee passed a design. And then horror – the Government decided to call a planning inspection on the whole process at the behest of the environment agency. What a shambles this current government is – one arm detached from another arm. Complete disarray. Now we are in credit crunch territory and the Government has reviewed its financial commitment to the project. What a shambles.
Lets hope that James Dyson’s decison is not final and that a way can be found to bring this exciting school to fruition in the heart of Bath.
Our Conservative administration meanwhile just stayed quiet all along – difficult problems are easier to deal with if you have someone else to blame.
Fairplayforchildren has slammed David Cameron’s cheap jibe against CRB checks and rightly so. CRB checks are needed because we need to protect children and not just for the sake of form-filling. Cameron shows a great lack of intelligence in making these sort of attacks and hiding behind some PC label.
David Cameron Speech: CRB Gibe Slammed
The National Secretary of a Charity formed in 1972 after two children died has slammed the comment of Conservative Leader DAVID CAMERON about CRB checks which he made in his Party Conference Speech today.
Mr Cameron, in a clip widely shown on national television, criticised requirements of parents hosting children and young people on Exchange Visits that they should have Enhanced CRB checks carried out.
Jan Cosgrove, National Secretary of Fair Play for Children, has condemned the Conservative Leader for what appears a populist misuse of his position. “The CRB checks are there where people are going to be in situations of substantial access to children and young people. This issue was highlighted some years ago in a Conference I attended hosted by one of the most pro-active Police Forces in the UK in terms of child protection. It was seen as a major, unprotected area, where many operators of such schemes were concerned to have people they use in these” schemes checked for previous convictions and police intelligence.”
Mr Cosgrove deplored any politician, however eminent, climbing on board a sensitive issue involving children’s safety in such an irresponsible manner. “I know it is becoming fashionable in some ideologically-motivated quarters to try to equate criminal records checks with some form of alleged ‘politically-correct’ philosophy. If the Leader of the Conservative Party actually believes this, he is far off the mark. The CRB and now the new Vetting and Barring Scheme, arose from actual tragedies, involving the deaths of children. His Party has given support to this progress. He needs to correct the appalling endorsement he gave today to the attacks on the CRB mounted in some media and ideological quarters.”
Mr Cosgrove said Mr Cameron and others should bear in mind the MMR controversy – now shown to be harmful to children because many parents failed to ensure their children were protected when they believed the claims made against MMR. “The consequence was not just a rise in measles statisticvs, it involved trauma and suffering for real live children.”
Heritage is very important to the economy of Bath and NE Somerset Council. The Roman Baths are a magnificent centre piece for Bath. This weekend the tunnel vaults were opened up for public viewing so I went along for a tour. It is fascinating how much is stored down there and how much is still potentially waiting to be discovered. When the Roman Baths were discovered and restored the project was as controversial at the time as the recent development of our own Bath Spa. The Roman Baths were one of the best Thermal Spas of Roman Times. The new Bath Spa is the best in the Country today.
The Roman Baths bring in a considerable income to the Council and the new Spa is also leading regeneration and creation of a new spa culture in Bath. The Conservatives fought against the project tooth and nail and in the 1980s they closed the Kings Bath and turned them into shops.
Some of the vaults were also used in the recent BBC drama series Bonekickers such as these stones below.
Roman Baths vaults
Ros Scott visited Bath today and met some of the local Bathwick and Abbey Ward members. In the presidential election I am backing Ros Scott. I think she will be the best person for the job, will get more cross-party working and thinking going and with her strong local government connections will be a great link between Councillors, activists and MPs.