Why I joined the Liberal Democrats

New Liberal Democrat MP Chuka Umunna reveals why he has joined.

I went into politics to put something back into the community I am from and to take our country in a progressive direction. My progressive values lead me to strive to work for a fair and open Britain, which has a strong, mixed market economy, in which everyone can achieve their dreams regardless of their background.

I am unapologetically an internationalist which is why I oppose Brexit and am fighting for the UK to remain in the European Union. These are very much the values of those I represent in Streatham and the same things that I stood on at the last General Election.

Our country is one of the greatest in the world and has so much potential. But too many people in my constituency and across the UK face barriers in fulfilling their aspirations and people don’t get the support they need.

Unfortunately, we are deeply divided and unequal nation in 2019. As the fallout from the 2016 vote to leave the EU has illustrated, Britain is crying out for change.

Our politics is broken and the two main parties, which sit at the heart of the system, are simply not up to addressing these challenges because they are part of the problem, which is why I left the Labour Party earlier this year – I was not prepared to stand idly by and do nothing.

They have exacerbated the problems and are fuelling the divisions not only within their parties but in our country too. They have failed to provide the leadership and clear direction which the UK desperately needs, and to properly fulfil their constitutional duties as a government and opposition.

The local and European elections illustrated that millions of voters agree with this assessment about the appalling state of the two main parties. It is clear the tectonic plates are shifting and the public is now more in favour of upending the two party system than at any time in my lifetime.

This provides a historic opportunity to realign, change the system, fix our broken politics and resolve the problems which caused people to vote for Brexit in the first place.

After leaving Labour, I had thought that Britain needed a new party and I believed that was what the millions of politically homeless people in Britain wanted. I was wrong.

You have your ups and your downs in politics. Politicians are all human, and we have our flaws. I have plenty! The important thing is to learn the lessons from your mistakes, to listen to what your constituents and the electorate are telling you, and to strive to do better.

I massively underestimated the challenge of building a new, fully fledged party like Change UK in the midst of a national political crisis and attempting to do so at the same time as running a national election campaign.

Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was right to point to the importance of having a party infrastructure and existing relationships with hundreds of thousands of voters which hugely contributed to the party’s recent election successes.

There is also no doubt that under the First-Past-The-Post electoral system used in Westminster elections, there is space for only one main centre ground offer. That is clearly the Liberal Democrats.

Beyond Brexit, many have pointed out to me that the progressive values that I champion and hold dear, and the policies I have advocated, are almost exactly the same as those promoted by the Liberal Democrats.

There is no denying this fact, so what more was stopping me from joining?

I found it hard to come to terms with the impact of the public spending cuts which were instigated by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government of 2010-2015.

I did not disagree with the need to reduce the public sector deficit and debt – indeed Labour’s last Chancellor Alistair Darling accepted this.

But I did disagree with the speed and severity of fiscal consolidation, and the extent to which cuts to public spending as opposed to tax increases were made to carry the burden.

Four years on from their time in office, things have changed. 

The Liberal Democrats have voted against every Tory budget since 2015. They stood on an anti-austerity manifesto in 2017 with, for example, commitments to end the public sector pay cap, increase tax to pay for the NHS and reverse cuts to housing benefit and Universal Credit.

Senior figures – including Vince – have since said that, although they curbed George Osborne’s worst excesses, they should not have allowed measures like the bedroom tax to be introduced.

They also accept that a major mistake was made in making and then breaking a pledge on university tuition fees, which should never happen again.

Most importantly, the biggest impediment to ending austerity currently is pressing on with Brexit. 

According to the Conservative government’s own economic impact assessment, the UK will be poorer under any form of Brexit. In every Brexit scenario tax receipts will be hit hard, depriving the Exchequer of much needed revenue to invest in public services.

Both Labour and the Tories are committed to facilitating Brexit which will make ending austerity virtually impossible.

The Liberal Democrats are not – they were committed to a People’s Vote and remaining in the EU from the start.

For all these reasons, I have joined the Liberal Democrats because it is at the forefront of a renewed, progressive and internationalist movement in British politics that shares my values.

I am convinced the Liberal Democrats, as the spearhead of a broader progressive movement in civil society, offer the best chance to improve the lives of those I represent as well as countless other citizens across our country. 

The time has come to put past differences behind us and, in the national interest, do what is right for the country. So I urge others to join the party too.

Consultation on GM Clean Air Zone closes 30 June 2019

The current public consultation phase on Greater Manchester’s proposals for Clean Air Zone’s closes on 30 June 2019.

The proposals are for daily charges in Greater Manchester for lorries, buses, taxes and vans that do not meet strict emissions regulations – these would be £100 per day for lorries and buses, and £7.50 per day for taxis and vans.

Before proposals are taken further, members of the public are being asked for our views. Take part in the consultation here.

To find out more about our Clean Air proposals visit: https://cleanairgm.com/

Liberal Democrat Membership – Highest its ever been!

105,480 – That’s how many people had joined the Liberal Democrats as of last weekend! That makes it official – our party is the biggest it’s ever been.

First of all welcome to our new members – you’ve joined Britain’s biggest liberal family. We couldn’t be more excited to have you on board.

It’s been a brilliant month for our party – We’ve elected more councillors in one set of local elections than ever before, we’ve gained more MEPs than ever before and we’ve topped a nationwide Westminster voting intention poll for only the third time since the 1980s

Our movement is going from strength to strength – and we aren’t going to stop. We’re fighting to give the people of Brecon and Radnorshire the chance to elect a new, pro-EU MP. We’re going to elect a new leader to take our party into its bright new future. Our campaign to stop Brexit gains more momentum every day.

The Conservatives are going to waste this Brexit extension squabbling amongst themselves. Jeremy Corbyn continues to fight to drag Britain out of the European Union. Public opinion has changed – the people want to stop Brexit. Only the Liberal Democrats will give you, not politicians, the final say on leaving the EU.

Join the Liberal Democrats here.

Reporting Back: Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Last week was the first Overview & Scrutiny meeting of the new Council year which saw a series of presentations by representatives from the different Council departments. These outlined each department’s work programme and priorities for the coming year. 

Councillor Michael Powell reports on some of the key priorities for each area are below:

Strategy and transformation:
– Developing a ‘corporate core’- bringing support services and staff together to build up capacity and improve efficiency- Quarterly budget monitoring report updates to be sent to Councillors as well as end of year reports- Lead officers to be put in charge of each work stream (e.g. Finance, Governance, ICT and Digital, HR)Children and young people:
– Increasing number of foster carers inside the borough and reducing reliance on external carers- Enhanced support for care leavers- Working to further reduce permanent exclusion numbers- Enhanced early support strategy to support new LAC (Looked After Children)- Implement early intervention schemes in schools needing support

Operations:
– Continuing to work towards a more productive and reliable waste service operation- Implementing a ‘preventative maintenance’ approach to highways (i.e. developing a programme for all roads to be addressed after a set period to prevent deterioration of highways)- Introducing a plastic strategy to minimise use of single-use plastics across the borough- Improving the customer interface to make reporting problems involving highways even easier and more efficient for residents

Business growth and infrastructure:
– Beginning work on regeneration scheme in Radcliffe- Implementing £10 million investment in Prestwich village centre (following consultation process with residents in the Summer)- Continuing to develop land and property portfolio- Moving forwards with GM spatial framework and focusing on scope for development on brownfield sites- Working towards potential regeneration of Bury Interchange (supported by T4GM)

The papers for the meeting are here. Any questions please just ask! 

Reporting Back: Planning Committee

On the 21 May was the monthly meeting of Bury Planning Control Committee. This is the meeting made up of the 11 Councillors who represent various wards of the borough of Bury. The committee determines planning applications for certain major developments and others where objections have been received.

Councillor Cristina Tegoloreports:

Prior to the Committee meeting, a site visit took place in respect of planning application 63785at Elton High School to assessed the creation of new artificial grass pitch together with associated floodlighting, boundary treatment and equipment storage.

The following applications received approval without any major concern:

North Manor App No. 63038, 60039
We discussed a change of use of an existing barn into a yoga and leisure use (App No. 63038) and a listed building consent for the same change of use (App No. 63039).

Bury West – Elton App No. 63834
We discussed the proposal for the erection of two semi-detached houses at the north of Green Street, Bury.

The following applications received approval but we raised some concerns:

Ramsbottom and Tottington – Ramsbottom App No. 63617
We discussed a proposed development to the west of Manchester Road, in Ramsbottom, for the erection of 35 no. dwellings.

A residential development on the site had already received outline planning consent in November 2016 (for up to 50 dwellings). Therefore, the Planning Committee could only consider matters in relation to the layout, scale, appearance and landscaping of the proposed development.

However, the site was designated as a Site of Biological Interest as it supported relatively species-rich grassland. The proposed site plan and landscaping plan confirmed that an area of 3,300 square metres of species rich grassland would be located on the east side of the site.

We analysed the merits and I raised the following points:

  • Increasing the area designated for Special Biological Interest (SBI) and putting an investigative so that part of the land on the west side of the site, which was indicated in the landscaping plan as private land, could be also open land designated for SBI
  • Including electric vehicle charging points
  • Clarifying the affordability criteria for the dwellings

More information and the full papers for the meeting are here.

Choosing the Next Lib Dem Leader

This summer, Liberal Democrat members will be electing a new Party leader. There are two candidates:

Find out more about Jo Swinson MP

Find out more about Ed Davey MP

Every member gets an equal say in choosing who they want to lead our party. 

To get your vote, all you need to do is join the Liberal Democrats by midnight on Friday 7th June. Membership starts at as little as £1 per month. A great time to encourage friends and family to join!

North West hustings for the new Leader take place on 14 June 2019, 7pm in Manchester. We’re hoping to arrange a ‘Bury’ team at the hustings so please get in touch if you are interested in going.

European Elections – Thank you!

Well done to the North West’s two new Liberal Democrat members of the European Parliament – Chris Davies and Jane Brophy.

Chris, who lives in Oldham, was MEP for the North West until 2014. Jane, who lives in Timperley, is a local Liberal Democrat councillor on Trafford Council. They join the largest ever team of Liberal Democrats MEPs – 16 across Great Britain.

The North West Region has 8 MEPs, which are allocated proportionately depending the votes for each Party. Results for the North West region were:

Brexit Party 31.2% – 3 MEPs

Labour 21.91 – 2 MEPs

Liberal Democrats 17.2% – 2 MEPs

Green Party 12.4% – 1 MEP

Conservative 7.6%

UKIP – 3.6%

Change UK – 2.7%

Bury’s votes are counted separately before being added towards the North West total. Bury’s votes were:

Brexit Party 31.3%

Labour 21.2%

Liberal Democrats 16.2%

Green Party 11.3%

Conservative 9.6%

UKIP 3.5%

Change UK 3.2%

European Parliament Elections 23 May 2019

Voting takes place on Thursday, 23 May 2019 to elect members of the European Parliament.

Polling stations are open as normal – 7am – 10pm – you don’t need your polling card to vote.

If you have a postal vote, which you have not yet returned. You can fill it in as normal and take the sealed envelope down to your local polling station on Thursday (or in fact any polling station in Bury).

In the North West we will be electing eight members of the European Parliament – these are shared out proportionately between different parties depending on their level of support.

Liberal Democrats believe that the importance of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union has never been clearer. The national humiliation of Theresa May’s Brexit puts so much at risk – the NHS, our public services, jobs across the country, peace in Northern Ireland, the unity of the UK and our global reputation as a country that is confident and outward-facing. It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Find out more and read our European Manifesto here.

Other Councillors not spending money allocated to them

Investigations by Bury’s Liberal Democrat councillors has revealed that Labour and Conservative councillors have not allocated around half of the money allocated to them for their local communities.

Only two areas – the Liberal Democrat councillors in Holyrood Ward and also the councillors in Tottington – have allocated the total of £4,500 allocated under the Elected Member Discretionary Budgets during that period.

The scheme was set up in December 2017 for councillors to support local projects and initiatives within their ward and wider township at their discretion.

More information was provided in an investigation by the Bury Times, reveal that only £41,801.96 was spent by councillors in their communities out of a possible £76,500.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Cllr Tim Pickstone said: “We welcomed the decision to provide councillors with small delegated budgets to spend on priorities in their own wards. Liberal Democrat councillors in Holyrood ward have had no difficulty making sure all of that money has gone to the right place supporting a whole variety of community groups and initiatives.”

“There are so many good causes that need our support so I am amazed that only two of the 17 wards in Bury have spent the money that has been allocated to them.”

Councillors in Radcliffe West spent the least money at £312 out of a possible £4,5000 while Besses and St Mary’s wards spent around £700 each.

Here is how Liberal Democrat Councillors spent the budget in Holyrood Ward.

Here is the full spend / underspend for each ward:

Bury East AvailableSpendEMDB allocated per ward
Moorside 2105.002395.004500
Redvales Ward 1300.003200.004500
East Ward 2966.761533.244500
6371.767128.24
Bury West AvailableSpendEMDB allocated per ward
Elton Ward 871.703628.304500
Church Ward 234921514500
3220.705779.30
RTNMavailableSpendEMDB allocated per ward 
Ramsbottom 267218284500 
 North Manor291.204208.804500 
 Tottington045004500 
2963.206036.80 
 
Radcliffe availablespendEMDB allocated per ward 
North1719.482780.524500  
West4188312 4500 
East1226.533273.474500  
 71346365.99 
     
Whitefield & UnsworthavailablespendEMDB allocated per ward 
Pilkington Park28701630 4500 
Besses3772.19727.81 4500 
Unsworth3100 14004500 
 9742.193757.81 
 PrestwichavailablespendEMDB allocated per ward 
St Marys 38116894500 
Sedgley 1454.803045.204500 
Holyrood 0.38 4499.624500 
  5266.188233.82 

Government must be more ambitious than a 2050 Greenhouse Gas target

Responding to the expected announcement that the Climate Change Committee has recommended 2050 as the date the UK becomes a net-zero greenhouse gas emitter:

Liberal Democrat Climate Change Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse MP said:

“This report tells us the very minimum we need to do to cut our greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, but this Tory Government must be more ambitious. We have a responsibility as a country in the face of a climate emergency facing the entire world.

“We saw only last week that some in the cabinet are refusing to say they accept the scientific consensus on climate change which is incredibly alarming. Liberal Democrats demand better. Climate change is scientific fact, not an opinion to be debate – that time has passed.

“That’s why Liberal Democrats are calling on a net-zero target of 2045. This will focus minds and make the United Kingdom a world leader in cutting emissions, while also taking responsibility for the damage our country has caused over the last century.”

Former Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey said:

“Climate change should be at the heart of Government – as Liberal Democrats successfully worked for during the Coalition.

“Climate action by Liberal Democrat ministers saw a huge expansion in renewable power, the setting up of the Green Investment Bank and Britain leading key international climate negotiations at the EU and UN, winning new more ambitious targets. 

“In contrast, the Tory record by themselves since 2015 has been appalling: scrapping our zero carbon homes law, dramatically slowing down green energy investment, privatising of the Green Investment Bank and refocusing of energy policy away from renewables on to fracking and nuclear.

“Liberal Democrats would declare a climate crisis and introduce a radical new programme to decarbonise capitalism, forcing investments to consider climate risk, shifting them into clean, green technologies.”

(Graph from Carbon Brief)