Local Liberal Democrats – Where do we go from here?

It has been a turbulent few weeks in both national and local politics to put it mildly! By way of a brief recap in Wansbeck we did not win any county council seats but won five seats on Morpeth Town Council and in the General Election our candidate Joan Tebbutt came third with 4.75% of the vote and sadly we lost our deposit. It has therefore not been a very good time for us locally and the General Election results nationally were very mixed and we also now have a pending leadership contest.

We (the Liberal Democrats) both locally and nationally therefore need to start a discussion –

Where do we go from here?

To kick start this I recommend reading two articles from the Lib Dem peer Lord Tony Greaves:

Part 1 ‘Where we are?’

http://www.libdemvoice.org/lord-tony-greaves-writes-where-now-for-the-liberal-democrats-part-1-where-we-are-54606.html

Part 2 ‘What we do about it?’

http://www.libdemvoice.org/lord-tony-greaves-writeswhere-now-for-the-liberal-democrats-part-2-what-we-do-about-it-54607.html

This is a time and opportunity for everyone who is a either a member or supporter of the Lib Dems (or, indeed a former member or supporter!) to have a say on where we go from here. Please post’ your thoughts/opinions either specifically referring to the above articles or otherwise.

I hope you will be able to contribute to the discussion and please, if you have not already done so sign up as a ‘follower’ of the blog in order to automatically receive updates and new posts.

Thank you.

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Your choice – Frying pan, fire or moderation and unity.

Just look at today’s posts below and you cannot fail to recognise that the Tory government is so focused on a Brexit for which it had no plans, that it has failed to carry on with many aspects of government that affect the daily lives of individuals, businesses, Northumberland and the country at large. Security, Environment, the NHS and protecting our businesses from fraud are issues that must be dealt with effectively. Add to this the matter of cuts to school funding and the divisive plans to promote grammar schools. What a mess.

Electing the Tories locally gives them the message that we approve of the way they think and behave in power. Their Northumberland Manifesto is totally silent about their policies regarding social care and education. Yet people in Morpeth know how Labour have treated our town – with arrogant cynicism and ridicule. If you want to avoid Northumberland jumping from the Labour frying pan into the Tory fire, vote Liberal Democrat on 4th May for the voice of moderation.

Electing the Tories nationally would be a disaster, and the larger their majority the worse that disaster would be. They have governed and made vital decisions based on the interests of the Conservative party itself. The impact on the vulnerable, the struggling and those just managing, indicates clearly that they are definitely not a party with the interests of those people at heart. Yet opposition from Labour and Jeremy Corbyn has been weak and their party is falling apart. If you want to avoid a disastrous Hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the Single Market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, vote Liberal Democrat at the General Election.

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No online VAT fraud prosecutions despite cost to taxpayer

Online VAT fraud cost the taxpayer between £1 billion and £1.5 billion last year but not a single prosecution has taken place, according to an investigation by the National Audit Office.

Susan Kramer, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor said: “It is a disgrace that not a single VAT fraudster has been brought to justice. Taxpayers are being ripped off to the tune of £1.5 billion and small businesses are being undercut, but still this Government won’t act. This chronic failure to go after online fraudsters will be made even worse by a hard Brexit. Our Chancellor should be stepping up European cooperation to tackle tax evasion, instead he is threatening to turn the UK into an offshore tax haven.”

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Major Embarrassment for Jeremy Hunt

The chronic shortage of beds in the NHS is clearly illustrated by figures published today that show over 7,770 patients had to share rooms with the opposite sex in the year to March 2017. This is up from just 2,655 incidents two years ago, an increase of 192%

This comes despite a 2015 Conservative manifesto pledge to eliminate mixed-sex wards altogether, and is yet another sign of the impossible pressure our NHS is under.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary Norman Lamb commented: “Men and women should never be forced to share hospital wards in a modern health service. It is an affront to basic human dignity. The Conservatives should clarify to the public whether they will again include this failed commitment in their manifesto and how they expect to meet it.”

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Prime Minister accused of “gambling with Britain’s security”

The EU is preparing to disconnect the UK from key crime-fighting databases in the case of a disorderly hard Brexit, it was revealed today. This comes after Theresa May threatened to use security as a bargaining chip in the Brexit negotiations and has said that “no deal would be better than a bad deal.”

Liberal Democrat MP and senior member of the Brexit Committee Alistair Carmichael commented: “The seamless sharing of information across the EU is absolutely vital in the fight against serious crime and terrorism. As a former Home Secretary, Theresa May should know this better than anyone else. But instead of securing access to vital crime-fighting measures, our Prime Minister is gambling with Britain’s security by threatening to crash out of the EU without a deal. Britain has led the way on European security cooperation in the past, we must continue to do so in future.”
 

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Tories sell off Green Investment Bank

Ed Davey, former Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has accused the government of engaging in a “politically dubious” act by announcing the controversial sale of the Green Investment Bank to an Australian bank in a cut price deal. He said that the sale of the Bank by the “Toxic Tories” is “environmentally irresponsible, and on the eve of an election is politically dubious. The government clearly hopes to avoid parliamentary scrutiny.”  He described the £2.3 billion agreement as “selling off the family silver”.

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Home Group Withdraw from County Hall Site Application

It has today been confirmed by the County Hall Chief Executive, Steven Mason, that Home Group have withdrawn from the planning application to build new homes on the County Hall site. However, Mr Mason knows nothing about any changes regarding the retail park application by Maple Grove. It will be interesting to see what happens next, as the decision to be “minded to approve” still stands, as does the call in by the Secretary of State.

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Letter to the Herald

The following letter was sent to the Editor of the Morpeth Herald, but not printed. The author has asked me to post it on the Liberal Democrat blog and website, and I am most grateful to him.

Sir

I applaud all the hard work and effort made by the various groups who registered objections to the 3 planning applications for the development of the County Hall site, and by those members of the public who voiced their protests by submitting formal objections to NCC, by their contributions to media coverage and by marching to County Hall, despite the pusillanimity shown by the Administration in refusing to face them.

Subsequent events have surely vindicated their efforts – the Forestry Commission’s ruling that the wanton destruction of the healthy trees around County Hall was illegal; the revelation that a programme of repairs and improvements to the present premises would cost only 25% of the (estimated) cost of relocation to Ashington; the fact that the Secretary of State has taken the unusual decision to “call-in” all 3 planning applications for the County Hall site – a decision I greatly welcome as it demonstrates that he, unlike NCC, deems it appropriate to listen to local residents.

Following your publication of my previous letter on this issue (Morpeth Herald, 02/03/17) in which I commented that Grant Davey’s leadership of NCC might persuade me to vote Tory for the first time ever, I have been made aware that this could be mis-construed!  It was certainly NOT meant as a rallying-call for the Tories – rather it was merely a reflection on how far I might be forced to compromise most of my political beliefs because of my disgust at the present Administration!

I have read very carefully all the electioneering literature which has recently been delivered.  I, and I suspect many other Morpethians, have a greater interest in next month’s local elections than ever before.  I have even contacted my local candidates on the specific issue of the necessity to relocate County Hall and the possibility of retaining it on the present site if there should be a change in the balance of power on NCC after the elections.  However much I might welcome the Tory pledge that they would “halt the relocation …dead in its tracks”, I wondered how realistic this might be – so I asked!  They reiterated the pledge.  But then I wondered to what extent the present Administration might have hedged the terms of the Ashington contract with exorbitant penalty clauses for cancellation of the contract.  Whatever my personal preferences as to the siting of County Hall, I am aware that NCC has finite cash resources and they cannot simply write a “blank cheque” to write off potentially swingeing cancellation penalties – perhaps there ARE times when the heart has to listen to the head – I am certainly under no illusions that the present Administration, in its arrogant disregard of resident’s concerns and its refusal to engage in discussion with interested parties, will be forthcoming about the terms of the contract.

There is, perhaps, a temptation to assume that all recent protests have merely been a case of “Nimbyism” by those of us living at the South end of the town, but this really is not the case.  Out-of-town retail development, increased traffic congestion and pollution, pressure on parking facilities, loss of green spaces, increased flooding risk and extra pressure on Morpeth’s already inadequate infrastructure (roads, sewage disposal, school places, medical facilities etc) will affect ALL Morpeth residents, irrespective of where they live.  That is why we have a Morpeth NEIGHBOURHOOD Plan, eventually accepted as having legal status despite the failure of NCC to produce an overall County “Core Stategy” – something that should have been in place years ago.

My impression is that folk in Morpeth are more politically-motivated than for some time, such is the depth of feeling about the escalating destruction of the “rural market town” character of Morpeth, so I hope this is reflected in a unprecedented turn-out of the electorate in May.

The nature of democracy is, of course, that I might not like the outcome of the vote!  I might, for instance, live to greatly regret the jumping out of the Labour “frying pan” into, say, a Tory “fire” of election promises which turn out to be unrealistic and undeliverable without incurring huge financial burdens!

I want my Administration to be fair; to be equable in their treatment of all Northumberland’s residents, rather than preferentially favouring  a (geographically) tiny urban region (but which traditionally and massively votes to maintain a particular political bias, keeping them in power) – am I being naïve in this?  If so, surely I cannot be alone in my concerns?

Dr Jared Johnson

Deuchar Park

 

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MORPETH CAN GO INTO BATTLE

At last, the gloom that hung over Morpeth seems to be lifting. The news that some of us worked for, and many others hoped for, has now been received – the Secretary of State has called in the planning applications for the County Hall site. We can now build on our objections and know that our arguments will be heard and considered with care and impartiality; something sadly lacking in the County Council. What will be, will be, but we now have an opportunity at Public Inquiry to do our utmost to ensure that our Neighbourhood Plan is upheld.

Well done and thank you to Morpeth. What a team this town became.

There is lots of preparation work to do, but this Town Councillor is ready and willing to work with others to take it on. Prepare for battle!

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The Tories’ so-called Fairer Funding for Schools

Having just looked at the website www.schoolcuts.org.uk I have discovered just how badly the Morpeth area will suffer under the government’s much acclaimed fairer funding scheme. It makes interesting reading to see that, since the government values our excellent schools so much, all of their budgets have been cut!

Abbeyfields     Cut       8%

All Saints          Cut       9%

Chantry           Cut      8%

Goosehill         Cut       5%

KEVI                 Cut       12%

Newminster    Cut       11%

St Robert’s       Cut       7%

Stobhillgate     Cut       9%

This will impact negatively on the education of our children.

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