Delivering a Fair Start for Every Child

Liberal Democrats believe that a quality education is the biggest opportunity to improve people’s lives. Nothing is more important than giving every child a fair start in life.

Today the coalition government published its white paper on schools – “The Importance of Teaching”. It sets out our ambitious reform programme to raise standards for all children while narrowing the gap between rich and poor.

It shows how the Government is delivering the fair start for every child that we promised in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

The White Paper announced four key reforms –

– Delivering a Pupil Premium, on top of the budgets that schools already have, to go to every deprived child wherever they live, to allow schools to put extra resources into narrowing the gap in attainment between the richest and the poorest.

– Giving all schools more freedom to make the right choices for their pupils – slimming down the national curriculum, removing bureaucracy and red tape and reducing testing and league tables.

– Recognising that it is the quality of teaching that really makes a difference in the classroom – expanding graduate teacher programmes like Teach First, developing networks of “teaching schools” and supporting continuing professional development.

And, something important to Liberal Democrats, matching school freedoms with a strong strategic role for local authorities in ensuring fairness – in admissions policies, for children with special educational needs, and in championing educational excellence in all schools, including
Free Schools and Academies.

You can read more about the white paper – and you can watch the video below about the pupil premium.

As part of the consultation process, you can send your views on the white paper to: If you have friends or family working in education, please foward this email so they can get involved.

The Liberal Democrats are delivering in Government the fair start for children we promised.

Sarah Teather MP
Minister of State – Department for Education

Making Welfare Work and Making it Fair

Our Universal Credit is a radical and liberal policy. It will simplify and amalgamate the main welfare benefits into one single system; ensure that work always pays; and alleviate poverty by boosting take-up and encouraging people into work. It is exactly the kind of change that we came into politics to make.

Labour failed miserably on welfare. During their 13 years in office the welfare bill rose by 40% to £87bn. Under their system people moving into work can still lose more than 90% of every pound they earn: a punitive tax on the shoulders of the poor.

The welfare system should not be judged on how much money is spent on it, but on how much of a difference it makes to people’s lives. We will return the welfare system to its historic mission, as articulated by the great Liberal William Beveridge, to offer security but not ‘stifle incentive, opportunity and responsibility’.

Poverty plus a pound is simply not an ambitious enough goal.

That is why the plans we are announcing today will remove artificial disincentives to work. It must always be worth working, even for a few hours. Taken together our welfare reforms should reduce the number of workless households by 300,000 within three years of implementation. And of course any fair system must include power to use sanctions, so we are giving JobCentre advisers the powers to ensure that there are appropriate and measured steps that can be taken against the small minority who persistently refuse genuine opportunities to work or to train to get the skills to work.

Making welfare work and making it fair is a key test for any government. We are determined to ensure that a government of which the Liberal Democrats are a part passes that test.

Nick Clegg MP
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Steve Webb MP
Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Nick Clegg on a Fairer and more Balanced Economy

Yesterday I visited Manchester and Oldham to launch the Regional Growth Fund – accompanied by our former Party President Sir Ian Wigglesworth and Michael Heseltine, who will oversee the fund. This is a fund worth £1.4bn to promote business and create jobs – and it will help bring about the fairer and more balanced economy Liberal Democrats have long been campaigning for.

It is vital that our economy moves away both from a dependence on the public sector and an over-dependence on a narrow range of sectors in the South East, such as banking. The government is committed to ensuring business opportunities are more evenly balanced across the country.

This requires a new approach, shifting power away from central government and giving it to local businesses and communities so that they can promote private sector growth and jobs in their area.

That is why in a statement in parliament yesterday Vince Cable announced that we are creating local enterprise partnerships that will bring together business and civic leaders to set the strategy and decisions that will work best for their local economy.

Our party has long believed that local government should have more powers over the money raised in their area. So we are looking to reform the planning system and put in place a series of incentives that will allow local areas to benefit from the proceeds of development. And it is why the Government’s White Paper commits us to looking at how local councils can have greater discretion over business rates.

For too long the direction of our economy has been over centralised and over reliant on the City and Whitehall. We are changing that. Liberal Democrats in government are transforming this – to a more green, more diverse and more local economy.

We have done the right thing: Message from Danny Alexander MP

When we came into office, we inherited an economy that was on the brink. With the largest budget deficit in Europe and no plan for tackling it, Britain faced huge economic risks. These could only be dealt with by a clear plan to deal rapidly with the worst financial position this country has faced for generations.

On Wednesday, we set out that plan. And while the scale and pace of the action we need to take is unavoidable, we can choose how we do it. The Spending Review sets out those choices: to spread the burden fairly, to promote economic growth, and to invest in the life chances of our children. These are hard choices that affect millions of people, but they are the right choices to set our country back on the road to prosperity.

We have spread the burden fairly by protecting the key services that the most vulnerable in our society rely on. Social Care has been given a funding boost worth £2bn, the NHS and schools have been protected and our plans for social housing will deliver up to 150,000 new affordable homes.

We have promoted future fairness through a £7 billion ‘fairness premium’ that will support improving the life chances of our poorest children from their first pair of shoes to their first pay packet.

We have promoted future growth by giving the go ahead to key transport projects that will unlock economic potential in every part of the country. We have also delivered on a Green Investment Bank that will kick start green investment and generate jobs.

And we are pushing forward with radical reform. Our decentralisation agenda will reduce the number of central government grants from 90 to fewer than 10. With the exception of schools and public health, ring-fences on council spending will disappear, giving local authorities much greater flexibility. We will deliver welfare reforms that simplify the system and make work pay. And our criminal justice reforms will roll out the community justice programmes that were pioneered by Liberal Democrats in local government.

Yes, it’s going to be tough, and everyone will make a contribution, but those with the broadest shoulders will bear the biggest burden. That’s why we’ve reduced taxes for the low paid, and increased them for the richest. It’s why we introduced a banking levy – and we’ve made it our aim to extract the maximum sustainable tax revenues from the banks that got us into this mess.

The worst thing to do would be to burden future generations with the debts that Labour left us. We have made the tougher choice, no doubt, but we should be proud of the way we have taken responsibility and we have done the right thing.

Danny Alexander MP
Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Message from Nick Clegg on the Fairness Premium

Today is a defining moment for the Liberal Democrats. Today we show what can be achieved as a party in power – that we can deliver on a promise that we put on the very front page of our manifesto: giving a fair chance to every child.

The Liberal Democrat’s purpose in Government is to make Britain a better, fairer nation. And ahead of next week’s comprehensive spending review, today we set out our plans for a four-year, £7 billion investment in improving opportunities for the most disadvantaged kids in this country.

Every disadvantaged two year-old will be entitled to 15 hours free early education – in addition to the existing entitlements at the ages of three and four. Every poor school child will get additional help from a Pupil Premium paid to their school. Every young adult who wants to go to university will be able to do so, undeterred by financial barriers.

By the end of the spending review period, we will be investing £3 billion a year on this Fairness Premium – including £2.5 billion on the pupil premium alone, £300 million on the extra help for two year-olds and £150 million on the university fairness scheme. From next year, we will he helping poorer children from two to twenty: from a child’s first shoes to a young adult’s first suit.

Given that we are having to cut spending these are sizable new commitments. But even as we cut spending, we are determined to invest in fairness.

Whatever Labour say, we have no choice but to tackle the deficit. Ed Miliband thinks otherwise. He says he represents a ‘new generation’. But he seems happy to saddle the next generation with the debt that his Government racked up. I am not.

Every day we lose more in interest payments to the financial markets: the amount we pay in interest is enough to build a new primary school every hour. Let me be absolutely candid: we have a hard road to recovery ahead of us. But also let me assure you, that as Liberal Democrats we are determined to ensure that road leads to fairness, too.

For me, this is personal. A decade ago I argued in favour of a pupil premium to help children and close the educational gap. Under Labour this gap has been left to widen and for too long the achievements in life have been dictated by the circumstances of birth. I represent a constituency in Sheffield where, for all Labour’s promises, inequalities still scar the community.

All of us are having to work hard in order to make the spending review fair. We’re all having to accept difficult cuts in many areas of public spending that we would very much rather avoid. Both parties in Government are having to negotiate and compromise. We’re all having to change our positions on some issues when the arguments demand it.

But all of us in this government, including the Prime Minister and myself, are not willing to compromise on a better future for the poorest children.

None of this would have been possible without all the hard work done by members up and down the country at the last election and over the many years before that. We should all be proud that we are delivering in Government the changes for which we have campaigned for so long.

Statement on Council Chief Executive and Budget Savings

Following the announcement of the early retirement of Bury Council’s Chief Executive, and the need to make up to £24 million of savings over the next four years Liberal Democrat Group Leader Tim Pickstone said:

“We will be extremely sorry to lose Mark Sanders from Bury Council. Mark has been a key part of some significant progress in Bury over the last nine years and will be a great loss to the Borough.

“Even in the timing of his retirement shows leadership around the significant savings that the Council has to make over the coming years.”

On the £7 Million a year budget cuts:

“Everyone knows that significant savings need to be made across all areas of public spending after the deficit built up under the last Labour Government. Bury’s share of this will be a huge challenge”

“We believe that all parties need to work together on finding a way through these savings. We need to ask the people of Bury what they think so that the future services provided by the Council best meet what local people need and want”.

Statement on Local Area Grant Funding

Following the decision by Bury Council, supported by all three parties to support moves to restore the Local Area Partnership Grants, Liberal Democrat Group Resource Spokesperson Councillor Richard Baum said:

“When we heard that the Local Area Partnership (LAP) Grants were to end following the grant cut by the last Labour Government we were devastated.”

“LAP Grants have provided much needed funds to improve our local area. In Prestwich, where I am a Councillor, grants have seen projects like Prestwich Festival, the Farmers Market and the Graffiti Clean Up – to lose all of this would be a disaster”.

“It is great that there is cross party support, facilitated by a Lib Dem amendment in Council, to finding a solution to restoring grants both this year and in the future”.

Victory on Traffic Improvements (Prestwich)

Councillors and residents victory with Prestwich traffic improvements
Local Lib Dem Councillors have joined residents in welcoming a pair of improvements to traffic hotspots in Prestwich. After lengthy campaigns, new restrictions on parking have been proposed for Queen’s Drive and School Grove, making roads safer for residents and fellow drivers.

The plans for Queen’s Drive will see extended double yellow lines opposite Rochester Avenue. Liberal Democrat Councillor for Sedgley Steve Wright said “I welcome these plans, as we have been helping residents campaign for them for years. Parking near to the police college has always been difficult, making the road dangerous especially for parents and children at nearby schools.”

In St Mary’s ward, the turning circle on School Grove will also be made a “No Waiting at any time” zone. Cllr Richard Baum said “This area is frequently packed with people stopping for the nearby school. It is dangerous for the children and not fair on the people who live on School Grove. These improvements will make things better for everyone.”

The plans have been considered by the Council’s Traffic Management Unit and will be formally advertised in the coming days.

Prestwich LAP Votes NO on Parking Charges

Prestwich Local Area Partnership voted overwhelmingly against Bury Council’s plans to impose parking charges on Fairfax Road at its meeting on 15th July.

The vote was taken after the controversial plans were outlined at the meeting. Angry residents in the audience grilled Council parking chiefs for half an hour after it was confirmed that the Council plan to charge motorists £1 to park for up to an hour, and £2 afterwards.

St Mary’s ward Councillor Richard Baum said “It was clear that everyone in the room was against these proposals. It’s all about making money for Bury Council by punishing the people of Prestwich. These charges mean that people going to the doctors or the walk-in centre will have to pay. That’s just not fair, and that’s why I voted against the parking charges at the LAP like I did at the Council meeting when they were first proposed.”

Sedgley Councillor Steve Wright said “Local people are angry and we need to make it clear to the Conservatives at the Town Hall that Prestwich opposes these proposals. They are bad for business, bad for traffic congestion and bad for the town. I appeal to everyone in Prestwich to try and beat these plans by letting the Council know how much we oppose these charges.”

Message from Nick Clegg on the Queen’s Speech Debate

Yesterday I was proud to be at the Government Dispatch Box in the House of Commons moving a motion in support of a Queen’s Speech that committed to delivering long cherished Liberal Democrat policies.

Over the coming months we will bring forward legislation for much needed political reform and the restoration of our civil liberties. We will bring in a proportionally elected second chamber, strengthen the role of parliament, increase devolution to Scotland and Wales, regulate party funding and lobbysists, introduce the power of recall for corrupt MPs and give people a chance to vote to end First Past the Post elections for the House of Commons. All huge leaps forward in reforming our politics.

And we will introduce a Freedom Bill. Something I campaigned for vigorously with Chris Huhne, Lynne Featherstone and others in opposition – which we will now deliver in government. It will scrap ID cards, end fingerprinting of children in schools without their parent’s consent, regulate CCTV cameras, place significant restrictions on the DNA database and restore the right to protest.

I am sincerely committed to working together across party lines to help bring about this new and better politics. And I hope all parties will work together on these issues. However so far sadly the Labour party is unwilling to learn from is mistakes in government. It seems wedded to deeply illiberal policies such as intrusive and unjustifiable ID cards and a DNA database full of the data of innocent men and women. I hope that will change.

Yesterday the Liberal Democrat MPs you helped elect voted in Parliament for a program of real, liberal change. After 13 years of failure from Labour we are already making a real difference in government. With your on-going support we can keep making Liberal Democrat policies a reality.