Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Labour could get heavy-handed with new powers warn Lib Dems

Radical new powers which would allow Cambridge City Council to get tough on anti-social behaviour could be used in a far too heavy-handed way under Labour, fear the city’s Liberal Democrats.

They are worried that the Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) could be imposed “out of simple frustration” without consideration of how they will impact on the city as a whole or underlying problems such as drug addiction or homelessness.

Cambridge Liberal Democrat Leader, Cllr Tim Bick called for any decision on a PSPO to be taken by all the council members – but Labour rejected the move claiming it would hamper their implementation.

He said: “In the hands of a liberal-minded council all these new powers are sensible tools, but I have some concerns about the mindset with which Labour will respond in Cambridge. 

"They seem mesmerised by the PSPOs. They are very radical measures. They give council and police officers powers to order people around on a selective basis for behaviour which may not be actually illegal under the law of the land. They can create a grey area of jeopardy for all. The creation of a PSPO is subject to legal challenge, but once in place, the wide discretion of officers is not - yet people stand to get criminalised through it. 

"There is a clear danger PSPOs get thrown up out of simple frustration, without regard to their effectiveness, their impact on the rest of the city or on underlying problems they are dealing with like addiction and homelessness. Common sense indicates they are unlikely to be a panacea."

The PSPO is intended to deal with nuisance or anti-social behaviour problems in a particular area or public space such as drinking alcohol in a public place where it causes a serious nuisance or disturbance.  

The orders are intended to ensure people can enjoy public spaces without the problems of anti-social behaviour.

PSPOs and other tools in the new Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act were discussed last night (Monday, September 29) at Cambridge City Council’s Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee.

"PSPOs represent a very different regime for the city,” added Cllr Bick. “They should be a very last resort. There are other tools coming from the same Act which ought to make PSPOs less needed - and help with the serious problem of anti-social behaviour"

“For this reason I suggested any decision to implement a PSPO should be taken on a vote of the whole council, like other really major decisions for the city that require the reflection of all councillors. Unsurprisingly Labour swept this away, concerned that it would only hamper them.

“In a city which is equally concerned about the impact of anti-social behaviour and the type of measures used to deal with it, why wouldn't they want to explain and defend their propositions in front of all councillors?"

Monday, 29 September 2014

Julian meets East Anglias best young bricklayer Celebrating Apprenticeships

Apprentice, Shaun Bartram, the best young bricklayer in East Anglia, has landed an enviable job working on Cambridge’s oldest college.

Shaun, 19, who was named regional junior champion in the SkillBuild competition at the NEC Birmingham, is helping to sympathetically extend part of the student accommodation at Peterhouse.

And today (Monday, September 29) he met Cambridge MP Julian Huppert who went along to the college to find out more about Shaun’s job as part of his monthly initiative Celebrating Apprenticeships.

Shaun, who is employed by Anglian Brickwork in conjunction with Cambridge Regional College, is working on Gisborne Court, extending it in the original style of the building which was constructed in 1825. But Peterhouse itself, the smallest of Cambridge University’s colleges, was built in 1284.

Shaun, who completed a three year Level 3 bricklaying diploma at CRC before starting his apprenticeship said: “I had been working with my dad as a landscape gardener and realised how much I enjoyed doing the brickwork and wanted to get more involved.

“My tutor told me Anglian Brickworks were looking for an apprentice. Now I want to move up through the company and maybe one day run my own team.”

Shaun’s boss, Ian Wilson said he is “testament to youth, being a self-disciplined and motivated young man who is strong in character and eagerness to fulfil his enormous potential”.

“He very quickly gained the respect of his peers and is a well-balanced individual who reflects sound values instilled in him by a well-rounded family,” he said. “We feel that Shaun is the young artisan that will go far.

“Well done Cambridge Regional College for identifying and cultivating his ‘raw’ potential; he is already earning a great reputation with our clients and fellow craftsmen.”

Julian said: “Shaun is an absolute inspiration. He has a real love for his work and has made the most of the opportunities open to him.

“He has an enviable task working on such an historic building which is so important to Cambridge’s heritage. His work will retain the historic look of Peterhouse while providing accommodation for future generations of students studying in our city.”

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Andy Pellew: Join The Campaign For A Constitutional Convention


The future of our country shouldn't be decided in a closed cabinet committee, stitched up between members of the political class and then rushed through by January. Every man, woman, and child in the UK will have to live with the consequences for generations after todays politicans have shuffled off the political stage.
I believe every UK citizen should have a say in how this country is governed. 

Unlock Democracy is currently campaigning for a Constitutional Convention to be held to take the critical decisions on our future out of the hands of politicians. Can you please spare a single minute of your time to join their campaign?

Joining is simple; just click on the link below and enter your details:


Politicians are already moving behind the campaign with Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband, Caroline Lucas and even Nigel Farage echoing the call. 

You can help keep up the momentum by joining the campaign or donating. You can donate by clicking here, even the smallest amount will help. 

Already nearly 5000 people have added their name to our petition.

Please join me in supporting the convention,

Andy Pellew

P.S. Want to find out more about what we think a Constitutional Convention could look like? Then Unlock Democracy have created an e-book “After the Referendum - Options for a Constitutional Convention”

Friday, 26 September 2014

Petition: End Roaming Charges Across Europe

Catherine Bearder is pressing for action to scrap roaming charges in the EU altogether by December 2015.

Already charges have been halved from July 1st following Lib Dem campaigns. In April the European Parliament voted to abolish roaming fees in the EU by December 2015 but this now has to be agreed with national governments in the EU Council.

Catherine Bearder said "Halving the cost of data roaming will mean fewer nasty bill shocks and more freedom to use your phone when abroad. But this is just a small step, not the giant leap that we need. That is why I will be making it one of my priorities as an MEP to ensure that roaming charges in Europe become a thing of the past."

Please add your name to our petition to back the Lib Dem plan to abolish roaming fees in the EU by December 2015;

Guildford Lib Dems storm to victory in Lovelace by-election

Congratulations to Guildford Liberal Democrats who stormed to victory in last night's by-election.

New Councillor Colin Cross gained the seat on Guildford Borough Council and overturned the Conservatives 55 per cent majority.

Guildford Liberal Democrats now have a 330 vote majority. This is fantastic result for Colin and the team.

Congratulations to all involved.


Cambridge MP raises his coffee cup to cancer charity fund-raiser

MP Julian Huppert supported the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

He hosted a coffee afternoon yesterday (Thursday, September 25) at his Cambridge constituency office in Swann's Road which boosted funds for the charity by just under £75.


Julian said: “This was a great idea – a chance to take a few minutes to enjoy a coffee with friends or work colleagues and raise money for a very good cause at the same time.

“These events are held across our city and the country as a whole raising millions of pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support which provides help for cancer sufferers and their families when they need it most.

“Many of our lives have been touched by cancer in one way or another and it’s events like these that make sure Macmillan Cancer Support can continue to be there to help."

Lib Dems welcome return to city decisions on transport

Cambridge Liberal Democrats have welcomed the return of a system which allows Cambridge councillors to make transport decisions that affect their residents.

They have heralded the return of the newly constituted Cambridge Joint Area Traffic Committee which also gives residents and organisations a say on traffic issues in their local area.

Newly-elected chair Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Amanda Taylor who represents Queen Edith’s said: “'I am delighted to have been elected the chair and even more delighted that Cambridge people will be taking decisions on Cambridge traffic matters.

“I am looking forward to working with councillors and residents to make Cambridge traffic move more smoothly. The big benefit of having local people involved is that they know their area best, so the decisions are made on sound evidence.”

The original Joint Area Traffic Committee was scrapped by Conservative Councillors in favour of traffic issues being decided by the Tory Cabinet leaving Cambridge matters in the hands of people who hadn’t been elected to serve the city.

Now its membership includes councillors representing Cambridge residents, drawn from both the city and county councils .

The new committee had its first meeting this week giving residents and organisations the chance to air their views on cycle parking in Thoday Street, two-way cycling on one-way streets and facilities for National Express coach passengers.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

District Council Spends Thousands Promoting Tory Election Candidate

Jonathan Chatfield the Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Cambridgeshire South East in next year’s general election is demanding to know why East Cambridgeshire and South Cambridgeshire District Councils and the Local Enterprise Partnership spent thousands of pounds of tax payer money on promoting his Conservative opponent at a business event in Ely.

East Cambridgeshire District Council alone spent £1,486.

The “South East Cambridgeshire Funding Fair” held on September 5 at the Maltings in Ely was sponsored by the three authorities using public funds and promoted the Conservative candidate to local businesses seeking government funding.

Jonathan Chatfield said: "This was an audacious act to promote the Conservative candidate at an event that should have been non-political but it involved public bodies spending a considerable amount of tax payers money on what was in effect an election ploy.

“It is most disappointing to see so much public money being spent on the active promotion of one political party's candidate for the forthcoming general election. Inviting the local MP is entirely appropriate, but to also invite and publicise the newly selected Conservative Party candidate without inviting Labour, Liberal Democrat or any other candidates is quite outrageous.

“I can understand why the Tory candidate from London would need to get to know our constituency, but it is outrageous that this should be paid for by our local council taxes.

“As a South Cambridgeshire councillor I shall be arising this with the council’s chief executive before considering taking it further.”

Parliament recall: Nick Clegg's email to Liberal Democrat members

Nick Clegg has emailed Liberal Democrat members about Parliament's recall on Friday 26 September. The full text is below.

On Friday Parliament is to be recalled to debate Britain joining the coalition of nations who have launched air strikes against the ISIL terrorist organisation in Iraq.

Liberal Democrat MPs will be supporting Britain joining this coalition for three reasons. Firstly, the threat from ISIL to Britain has already been made clear by the sickening sight of British hostages being executed on television. Secondly, unlike the 2003 war in Iraq this intervention is legal - we are responding to a direct request for help from the legitimate Government of Iraq and Parliament will vote before any action is taken. Thirdly, we’re acting as part of a broad coalition of countries, including many Arab countries, to deal with a real and immediate threat.

I know that given our party’s history this will evoke strong feelings. Earlier, I recorded an interview for broadcasters in which I explained why we were supporting this action. You will see some of this on the news this evening but I wanted party members to see the interview in full.

Click here to watch my video on the recall of Parliament.

If you would like to get in touch to talk about this decision, please send me an email using this link.

This is obviously a developing situation and I will be in touch with you again over the coming days.

Thank you,

Nick Clegg

Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Geoff Payne writes: A new evidence based approach to drug policy

As Liberal Democrats we have never been afraid to stand up for what we believe in, even if that means standing against the crowd. At conference in Glasgow, the Federal Policy Committee will present its policy paper Doing what Works to Cut Crime, a paper that amongst other issues, revisits and has restarted the debate on drug policy.

From the outset we were clear that the criminal justice system spends too much time dealing with people who do not belong there. That wastes money and needlessly criminalises people. At the moment, we jail more than 1,000 people a year in England and Wales for possession of drugs for their own personal use. These are not drug dealers. Many of them are addicts who have a medical problem that would be more effectively treated in the community.

We must take a more holistic approach to drugs policy. The challenge of tackling entrenched drug and alcohol addiction is primarily a health and mental health issue. So we would move the government lead on drugs policy to the Department of Health and, where necessary, divert problematic and chaotic drug users at risk of committing crime into treatment.

This approach is more demanding and challenging for people addicted to drugs and alcohol, but it is also far more effective than simple prison sentences. Proactively helping victims of drug addiction will prevent more victims of crime and free up valuable resources to tackle the major route into addiction: the dealers, the gangs and their links to organised crime.

Furthermore and subject to further work on implementation, we propose adopting the model similar to that used in Portugal where those who possess drugs for personal use will be diverted into other services.

If an arrested person is thought not to be a drug dealer but rather an abuser and dependent, that person would be directed towards appropriate treatment in the Health Service, and possibly supervision by the probation service under civil court orders.

Those thought to be a non-problematic user of drugs would be diverted towards programmes designed to encourage them to stop such as those run successfully by drug workers in the community. In some cases, particularly for repeat offenders, Fixed Penalty Notices might be appropriate.

We are clear however that the dealing of illegal drugs underpins organised crime and should continue to be regarded as a serious offence. The penalties for those who manufacture, import and/or deal in illegal drugs must remain severe and stringently applied.

Helping drug users and punishing drug dealers forms the core of our proposals but our working group was also prepared to think outside the box.

Our paper welcomes the establishment of regulated cannabis markets in Washington state, Colorado, and Uruguay and we propose undertaking a review to assess the effectiveness of these schemes in relation to public health and criminal activity. If the findings are positive, we would ask the review to consider potential frameworks for a strictly controlled and regulated cannabis market with tight controls on quality and strength.

The potential advantages of such an approach include a reduction in organised crime; the ability to address the impact of ‘skunk’; and the redeployment of public revenues into treatment for those addicted to harder drugs as well as the education of young people about the dangers of cannabis, tobacco and alcohol.

I hope you will agree that the proposals in the policy paper are innovative and broaden the debate on drug policy. These policies are aimed squarely at utilising evidence to ensure we are doing what works to cut crime.

Conference will be debating the issues raised in this blog and the wider proposals in the policy paper Doing What Works to Cut Crime on Sunday 5th October from 10:50 to 12:30. Please do join us.

Geoff Payne is the chair of the Criminal Justice Working Group, a member of FPC and FCC and a practicing barrister.

European freelancers demand better working conditions

New freelancers' movement delivers manifesto and 7000 signatures to European Parliament.

Catherine Bearder MEP met with members of the European Freelancers' Movement today, who handed over supporters' signatures and delivered a Manifesto raising a strong voice in support of independent and self-employed workers.

Almost 7,000 freelancers in 29 European countries joined the online campaign calling for improvements in EU policies affecting independent workers.

"Freelancers and self-employed workers are a large and growing part of the European workforce, but we are ignored and isolated," said Joel Dullroy, campaign manager of the European Freelancers' Movement. "We went to Brussels to tell policy-makers that we should be taken seriously."

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder commented:

"Self-employed workers and freelancers deserve to participate fully in the work and policies of the EU.

"This should be one of the core principles driving the work of the new European Commission."

British manufacturers say UK must stay in EU and lead reform

British manufacturers want the UK to remain in the EU and lead in its reform, the EEF manufacturers' organisation stressed today in a new 5-point manifesto.

Making the economic case for EU membership and extending its free market to drive jobs and growth were identified by the EEF as top priorities for the next government.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder said:

"The voice of British industry is clear; we must remain in the EU and seize the opportunities it offers to drive jobs and growth.

"But as well as leading reform in Brussels, we must do more to inform people back home about the economic benefits being in the EU brings us.

"I'm glad the EEF has highlighted this as a key priority. From small firms to major exporters, the business community have a major role to play in highlighting the importance of EU membership for the British economy."

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

eCops: Heating Oil Theft - South Cambs

Dear residents, please be aware the 'peak season' for heating oil theft will begin in October.

Seven out of ten heating oil thefts occur at residential properties, the remainder occur at commercial/ public sector sites. Large scale theft of cooking oil is also thought to be linked to heating oil theft.

Rural areas are more commonly targeted, and most offences have taken place during the hours of darkness.  Thieves are quite bold, driving onto private driveways or gardens to access the tank.

Extra vigilance is important especially during the Autumn/ Winter period and just after an oil delivery.
Check your tank at regular intervals to ensure early reporting, this will also maximise forensic and investigative opportunities if there has been a theft.

We recommend taking some simple measures to protect your tank, you will find more detailed advice on the South Cambs police blog www.southcambscops.com and also attached to this message.

Always report suspicious activity, and make a note of vehicle registrations.  The vehicles favoured by oil thieves in the past have been vans and estate cars.

Call Police via 101 or Crimestoppers 0800 555 111

Kind regards

Rachel Carr
Crime Reduction Officer

Joined up health and care services will protect the NHS for the future

Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb has today responded to Andy Burnham's plans for a full integration of health and social care services.

This government’s £3.8bn merger of health and social care services is the integration Labour talked about but never delivered in their 13 years in power.

Speaking at Labour's conference, Andy Burnham also announced plans for new rights for carers including ring-fencing funds for carers to take a respite break.

Liberal Democrats in Government have made £400m funding available to the NHS to support carers to take breaks from caring responsibilities.

And in July it was announced that Liberal Democrats will introduce a new ‘Right to Respite’ package for carers, including an annual ‘Carer’s Respite Bonus’ worth £250.


Commenting Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb said:


“Labour need to learn the lessons of the past and stop trying to run the NHS from a desk in Whitehall.

“Joined up health and care services are the way to protect our precious health service for the future, which is why I am already championing this approach across the country.

“But what the NHS needs is bottom up evolution, which works for patients, not hospital managers paralysed waiting for the next reorganisation dictated by Andy Burnham.”

Nick Clegg discusses the recall of Parliament

On Friday Parliament is to be recalled to debate Britain joining the coalition of nations who have launched air strikes against the ISIL terrorist organisation in Iraq.

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg gave an interview to broadcasters to discuss this issue.

Watch the interview in full below.

Reading twins come third in prestigious EU Young Scientist of the Year Award

Two Reading sisters came third in the EU Young Scientist of the Year award.
Out of 116 finalists Aneeta and Ameeta Kumar, who attended the Abbey School, battled it out to come third in the competition, which has run for 26 years.

Their project focuses on improving the early diagnosis of cancer and won the UK Young Scientist accolade this year and has now been picked up by an Oxford-based laboratory.

The sisters are now beginning their studies in medicine at the University of Southampton.

The European Commission contest aims to boost young people's interest in the sciences and encourage them to follow careers in science and technology.

Catherine Bearder, MEP for Reading, said:

"I am delighted two sisters from Reading have come so far in such a competitive contest. It is especially pleasing, given the current drive for females to enter careers in science

"Their project could help develop resear4ch into gaining an earlier diagnosis for millions of cancer sufferers.

"This is an example of the EU driving scientific research and gearing up the next generation of scientists to ensure Europe remains central to worldwide progress.

"Well done Ameeta and Aneeta."

Imran Khan, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, the organisation responsible for nominating the UK candidate for the competition said:

"Our national football teams may have been nowhere to be seen this summer, but Aneeta and Ameeta have shown that, when it comes to science, young people in the UK are still amongst the best in the world.

"I really hope they inspire others to follow them - it's incredibly easy to get involved in our CREST Awards scheme and start doing science yourself."

Lib Dems fight £400,000 permanent bus stop at Parkside

Cambridge Liberal Democrats are fighting to stop a £400,000 permanent long-distance bus stop at the city’s Parkside after complaints from residents.

They claim the National Express buses would be better stopping at the railway station or Park and Ride sites instead where they could link up with other forms of transport and where infrastructure either will or can be more easily provided.

And they are calling for residents living near the Parkside stop to have their say on its future.

Cambridgeshire County Council officers have recommended, however, that National Express’s planning application to make the stop permanent and include a public toilet, cycle parking and office space should be given the go-ahead. The improvements would be funded jointly by taxpayers and National Express.

The issue was discussed yesterday afternoon (Tuesday, September 23) at the Cambridge City Joint Area Transport Committee meeting.

Cambridge City Cllr Andrea Reiner, Spokesperson for City Centre and Public Spaces said: “This is a case study in how local government makes bad decisions.

“I regularly receive complaints from residents about the noise and fumes from the buses. Those who travel by bus also complain that there are no toilet facilities at the stop and that buses leave passengers in a place that does not easily link up with other forms of transport.

“I have always told residents that the planning permissions granted to National Express were temporary but it is now clear that the company has not pursued what many see as an obvious solution, to site a bus stop at the railway station.”

The National Express buses have been stopping at Parkside since 2007 when a small temporary kiosk was provided.

But, although the kiosk has temporary permission the siting of the bus stop has permanent permission under a Traffic Regulation Order which cannot be altered by the county council.

Cllr Ed Cearns,  spokesperson on the Cambridgeshire County Council Lib Dem group said of yesterday’s committee: “We made it very clear that the assumption is being wrongly made that this is the best site for the coach stop. We want officers to undertake a full assessment of all the options. Council powers are limited, but it’s important that the needs of customers and residents are met not just the desire of the coach and bus companies”

Cllr Reiner added: “And to add insult to injury, the very residents who had no say in this decision will also be asked to pay for the facility which we are told will cost close to half a million pounds.

“If this plan goes forward, in the end Cambridge will end up with a mediocre coach stop, inappropriately sited along the edge of one of the city’s most iconic public open spaces, where travelling members of the public must trudge through the streets just to reach basic facilities. The edge of one of the city's most iconic public open spaces is not the place for a toilet block, office and waiting rooms.

“And residents of the future will look at it and wonder how councillors ever let their council make such a bad decision.”


The Cambridge City Area Joint Transport Committee has been brought back to ensure locally elected councillors can make decisions on Cambridge traffic and transport issues. The first meeting took place yesterday (Tuesday, September 23) at Cambridgeshire County Council’s HQ at Shire Hall, Cambridge.

Liberal Democrats welcome petition to introduce compulsory sex and relationship education

Liberal Democrats have today welcomed a petition by the End Violence Against Women Coalition and the Everyday Sexism Project calling for compulsory sex and relationship education in schools.

In August Liberal Democrats announced manifesto plans to give children in state schools compulsory age-appropriate sex and relationship education.

Welcoming today's news Liberal Democrat Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson said:
“Educating young people about sex and relationships in an age-appropriate way is one of the best ways we can protect them from abuse. 
“We welcome the petition started by End Violence Against Women and the Everyday Sexism Project which calls on sex and relationship education (SRE) to be compulsory in schools. 
“It is vitally important that young people learn all the life skills they need when they are at school, and Liberal Democrats believe that should include age-appropriate sex and relationship education. That is why we will include a promise to introduce age-appropriate SRE in our next manifesto.”

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tim Farron on Ed Miliband's Conference Speech

Friends,

This was not a speech from a Prime Minister in waiting. Today Ed Miliband said nothing to prove Labour is capable of running the economy again.

Miliband has meekly repackaged old and borrowed ideas and hoped for the best.

Liberal Democrats have proven in Government that we can build a stronger economy and fix Labour’s mess, as well as build a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

Liberal Democrat Party President Tim Farron said:
“The country needs a bold roadmap for the future and all we got was a wayward ramble around a north London park. 
“With every new announcement we are reminded why we cannot trust Labour with our money. 
“In an hour-long speech, Miliband offered no ideas on how to tackle the deficit. 
“Promises go underfunded, uncosted or use money that’s been spent many times over. 
“We are still waiting to hear Labour’s big ideas, still wondering if the party that crashed the economy can be trusted to get back behind the wheel.”
The so-called ‘six national goals’:

NHS

You can’t trust Labour with the economy – and you can’t trust them on the NHS either. Under Labour the number of NHS managers rose six times faster than the number of nurses, executive pay leapt 120%, and the bill for administrators rocketed from £3 to £7bn.

Labour has proved time and time again they would fritter away public money. You only have to look to Labour-run Wales - an 8% cut to the health budget, and missed A&E targets for the past five years.

This is a party who presided over the scandal of Mid-Staffs and some of the worst cancer survival rates in Europe.

Under the Coalition we have increased the NHS Budget by £12.7bn in cash terms, carried out 850,000 more operations each year than Labour in 2010 and made sure treatment waiting times are lower than under Labour.

We now have 7,000 more doctors and over 4,000 more nurses than under Labour, 19,100 less administrators, as well as more GPs and more GP appointments.

The NHS now deals with 1.3 million more A&E attendances, 1.2 million more inpatient admissions, 6.2 million more outpatient admissions, 3.6 million more diagnostic tests and over 450,000 more GP referrals seen by a specialist for suspected cancer.

Low Pay

Labour’s £8-an-hour pledge is completely hollow because it is likely to reach that level anyway. Based on average rises from 1999-2014 it would reach £8.25 by 2020.

The Coalition has delivered the first above inflation rise in the NMW since the crash, which rises to £6.50 per hour on 1 October 2014.

We do not know where the economy will be in 5 years’ time so setting an arbitrary rate of £8 is nothing more than political posturing.

Labour has chosen to ignore the independence of the Low Pay Commission, whose role it is to recommend the right rate rise. It also ignores the state of the economy at the time, which may be able to absorb a higher wage rise.

Apprenticeships

Ed Miliband doesn’t value apprenticeships - he described vocational education as for the “bottom 50 per cent”.

If you want to see Labour’s commitment to apprenticeships look at Wales where the number has fallen 17% since 2007.

In 2011 Andy Burnham admitted Labour didn’t treat apprenticeships as seriously as they should have in Government.

Liberal Democrats in Government have now created 1.8m new apprenticeships – the biggest expansion since the 1950s and twice the rate Labour managed.

Cost of Living Crisis

Under Labour fuel bills increased, council tax charges doubled, fuel duty increased 12 times, inequality increased and the 10p Tax rate was abolished.

Our actions speak louder than words - Liberal Democrats have cut tax for 25 million people, reduced the income tax paid by a typical taxpayer by £805 and taken 2.7 million out of paying any income tax.

We fought to introduce free school meals for every four to seven year old in schools, saving parents’ £400 per year per child and introduced the ‘triple lock’ to the state pension.

Home Ownerships

Labour’s record of house building is abysmal with the number of new homes being built having fallen to its lowest level since the 1920s when they left office.

Labour’s plans simply do not go far enough. Building 200,000 homes a year doesn’t even keep up with housing demand. Liberal Democrat plans to build 300,000 homes a year would solve the current problems, as well as starting to tackle the current backlog.

Under the last Labour Government social housing fell by 421,000 with homes either sold off, torn down and not replaced. Repossessions reached a 14 year high in 2009 and the number of families waiting for a social home rocketed from 1 million to nearly 1.8million.

The Coalition built more social and affordable homes in its first two years than Labour did in the entirety of either the 1997-01 or 2001-05 Parliaments.

Green

Under Labour, fuel bills increased, on average, by 16% every year between 2004 and 2008.

In nine years of Labour the average annual household energy bill jumped by 120%, from £365 in September 2000 to £804 by September 2009, according to Ofgem. And when Ed Miliband was Energy Secretary, in 2009, just 1 in 100 homes in Britain was energy efficient.

When he was appointed Climate Change Secretary in late 2008 he said he would “press energy firms for price cuts”. But just 18 months later British Gas recorded a 58% surge in annual profits.

We are already a world-leader in green energy. Since 2010 we’ve attracted an average £7 billion-a-year in renewable energy investment. This is more than double the average Labour in 2005-10.

Ernst & Young puts the UK as the most attractive country in the world for attracting offshore wind investment, no.1. for marine, and 4th for biomass. The Coalition reforms will also create 200,000 green jobs by 2020.

Smaller business grant proves vital for getting UK projects off the ground

A number of UK small and medium sized exterprises (SMEs) have been awarded 50,000 euros from a new EU research fund for small businesses.

26 UK companies have received the funding to help them develop research to grow their projects, many of which are in the green energy and health sectors.

Brainomix, a company based in Oxford, is using the funding to set up clinical trials across Europe to develop medical imagery software that is hoped will ensure more victims of strokes receive treatment.

The initial grant will fund a feasibility study for the project, after which the company will be considered for a further EU grant of up to €2.5 million.

Michalis Papadakis, CEO of Brainomix, said:
"The SME instrument has been extremely valuable.

"This funding from the EU provides backing to SMEs to carry out crucial studies, which is otherwise challenging to secure.

"The EU funding is allowing us to set up a multi-centre trial throughout Europe and will help to ensure our research is of the highest quality.

"If we can demonstrate this and provide a business plan we could be eligible for more funding in phase two.

"We hope our studies could revolutionise stroke care by ensuring more patients get life-saving treatment."
Newbury-based Power Stabilisation Limited, has also received the funding, which they will use for research into low-carbon energy-saving systems.

Keith Berry, Director of Power Stabilisation, said:
"The funding couldn't have happened at a better time for a small company. 
"R&D is an expensive issue. The £40k will help us hone our breakthrough product and develop our business plan to the next level. 
"Raising finance for small business is always difficult and although the competition to get to this stage was tough it's refreshing that we were able to raise this money through the European Commission."
Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder, who fought for the creation of the new £2.4 billion (€3 billion) small business fund during budget negotiations in the European Parliament, said the announcement showed the EU was becoming more focused on jobs and growth.

Commenting, she said:
"After having fought for the creation of this fund it is great to see it benefitting the vital local businesses in our communities. 
"The EU can play a major role in fostering high-tech research and helping small firms bring their products to the wider European market. 
"This shows how the EU reforming; becoming more focused on the needs of small businesses, cutting red tape and creating jobs locally."

The mystery of Ed Miliband's mansion tax

Labour leader Ed Miliband today announced plans to put an extra £2.5bn into the NHS should he get elected next May.

He said the money would be paid for with a mansion tax.

But Ed Miliband’s mansion tax revenue seems very much a mystery.


This is the third time in just two years that Labour has spent the mansion tax revenue. Last year Ed Miliband said the revenue would fund a 10p tax rate. Yesterday Rachel Reeves told Labour Conference it would be used to draw down the deficit. And today Ed Miliband said that it will go back into the NHS.

With every new announcement we are reminded why Labour can’t be trusted with public money. Their promises are either unfunded, or use money that’s already been spent many times over.

Labour can’t be trusted with your money and despite Ed Miliband’s claims, Labour can’t be trusted on the NHS.

Under Labour the number of NHS managers rose six times faster than number of nurses, executive pay grew by 120 per cent and the bill for managers and administrators rocketed from £3bn to £7bn.

Labour's record in government shows that time and time again they fritter money away.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Cambridge MP takes Cambridge Questions on high profile panel

MP Julian Huppert will be taking part in a Cambridge Questions on Thursday (September 25) as part of a panel of high profile guests from across the city.

The event is being organised by Cambridge company, Mills & Reeve and members of an invited audience have been drawn from all sectors of life in the city including business, education, politics and health.

Cambridge Questions will be chaired by Ian Mather, Head of Mills & Reeve, Cambridge and other panel members are Mark Lloyd, CEO of Cambridgeshire County Council, Professor Jeremy Sanders, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Institutional Affairs at Cambridge University, Baroness Jo Valentine, CEO of London First, Jane Galvin, Managing Director and Head of the East Region at Barclays Bank and Professor Andrew Blake, Director of Microsoft Research, Cambridge.

The event will take place at Wolfson Hall at Churchill College between 6pm and 7.30pm.

Julian said: “This promises to be an interesting event and I am sure we will be covering a wide range of issues during the evening.

“The panel brings together very successful people in their fields and I am sure there will be a diverse range of opinions. It will be interesting to hear the different views on the issues that are affecting Cambridge now and as it grows in the future.

“Cambridge is a very successful city, with very low unemployment, but also huge challenges. How do we nurture Cambridge’s success, reduce inequality, make sure people can find housing here, and enable people to get around? These are the challenges we will address.

Cambridge MP supports campaign to help adults with autism find work

An event designed to improve job opportunities for Cambridge people with autism is being supported by the city’s MP Julian Huppert.

Julian will go to Cambridge Fire Station at Parkside tomorrow (Tuesday, September 23) where employers, people with autism and organisations who support them will be brought together.

The event is being organised by the National Autistic Society between 10am and 2pm.

Julian, who employed a young man with autism for two years in his Cambridge constituency office, has lobbied the government to get more help for adults with autism, pressing for progress on its Adult Autism Strategy which was launched in 2010.

The strategy puts a legal obligation on organisations and the NHS to provide support for people with autism but it has been slow to be implemented.

Julian said: “People with autism in Cambridge tell me they have difficulty finding employment and staying in employment often due to inadequate support or simply because employers don’t understand their condition.

“We have a group of highly intelligent and talented people whose skills could bring huge benefits for our economy and we are in danger of missing out.”

Julian joined forces with Cambridge Regional College and Jobcentre Plus recently to hold a breakfast event to promote the benefits of employing people with Autism.

Around 1 in 100 Cambridge adults are living with autism.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Nick Clegg: This opportunity cannot be hijacked

Within hours of the momentous decision by the Scottish people to remain in the UK, Westminster found itself once again bogged down in conventional party political point scoring.

I have seen for myself the way in which the vested interests in the two old parties can conspire to block reform - scuppering elections to the House of Lords and a clean up of party funding in recent years.

We cannot allow an exciting new chapter of empowerment and constitutional renewal to be held hostage yet again by a Labour and Tory pre-election stand off.

The Conservatives, in their rush to protect themselves from an attack from the right, are only concerned about English votes on English matters. Of course we need a solution to this dilemma but, by appearing to link it to the delivery of further devolution to Scotland, they risk reneging on the commitment made to the Scottish people that, in the event of a No vote, new powers would come what may.

Worse still, if the Conservatives enter into a Dutch auction with UKIP over ever more extreme solutions to the issue of English votes they could jeopardise the Union they purport to defend. Surely we haven't fought to save our Union in a vote north of the border, only to see it balkanised in Westminster?

Labour, by contrast, appears to have been taken by surprise by the unavoidable consequences of devolving sweeping new powers to Holyrood. They are choosing to ignore the dilemma of non-English MPs taking decisions on purely English issues - as a party with dozens of Scottish MPs they have the most to lose.

So, unless they're careful, the Conservatives may end up turning their back on Scotland, while Labour ignores England: a recipe for stalemate when we should we working across political divides to renew our creaking constitution from top to toe.

We need action on three fronts.

First, delivering the devolution that has been promised to Scotland. No ifs, no buts. The package of reforms myself, Ed Miliband and David Cameron all committed to must be delivered on time and cannot be made contingent on other constitutional reforms, even as we pursue agreement on them in parallel.

We must deliver further powers for Wales as recommended by the Silk Commission while strengthening devolution in Northern Ireland too. And, on the divisive issue of English votes for English matters, we must start with the work of Sir William McKay, who has already done a lot of the heavy lifting after the Coalition asked him to look at this. Sir McKay suggested a number of ways of giving English MPs a special right to vet legislation where it only affects England, bringing in Welsh MPs where appropriate, in a way which avoids fragmenting the Commons.

Second, we need a much more radical dispersal of power within England.

In Coalition I have been determined that – against all of the instincts of central government – we hand back an array of powers to Britain’s communities and cities. But we need to turn this relationship fundamentally on its head. Currently the best local councils can hope for is to be granted new powers when the government of the day deigns to do so. Instead we must guarantee a new, legal right for local authorities to demand powers - decentralisation on demand if you like -  with central government having to meet a much higher threshold before it can refuse.

My aim is a statutory presumption in favour of the decentralisation of powers away from Whitehall. I see no reason why we cannot publish draft clauses for this early next year alongside our other pressing reforms.

Finally, as we move towards a more federal system we will need to codify the division of labour between Westminster and the constituent parts of the UK and set out a clear statement of the values we all share. In short, what amounts to a written constitution.

I welcome Labour's decision to embrace the longstanding Liberal Democrat call for a constitutional convention – but it needs a precise mandate, beginning next year and concluding in 2017. It should have a Citizen’s Jury at its heart, representing every corner of the UK. One area it will need to address is the future of the House of Lords which, in my view, would better serve people as an elected second chamber, in keeping with federal political systems across the world. Ultimately, however, it will not be up to politicians – this process will be led by the people.

Together these changes will rewire power across the UK. This opportunity cannot be hijacked by old fashioned ya boo politics. It would be a tragic irony if the stale and self-serving politics of Westminster that has fed the appetite for change now frustrates the possibility of radical reform. The Scottish referendum may have come and gone, but it's legacy of UK-wide constitutional renewal still remains within our grasp.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Petition: End Roaming Charges Across Europe

Catherine Bearder is pressing for action to scrap roaming charges in the EU altogether by December 2015.

Already charges have been halved from July 1st following Lib Dem campaigns. In April the European Parliament voted to abolish roaming fees in the EU by December 2015 but this now has to be agreed with national governments in the EU Council.

Catherine Bearder said "Halving the cost of data roaming will mean fewer nasty bill shocks and more freedom to use your phone when abroad. But this is just a small step, not the giant leap that we need. That is why I will be making it one of my priorities as an MEP to ensure that roaming charges in Europe become a thing of the past."

Please add your name to our petition to back the Lib Dem plan to abolish roaming fees in the EU by December 2015;

The beginning of a new, stronger country for us all

After a momentous day, the Liberal Democrats are delighted that Scotland has decided to remain in the UK. This is an exciting time as now we can start delivering more powers to Scotland.

Commenting on the results, Nick Clegg said:

"I’m absolutely delighted the Scottish people have taken this momentous decision to safeguard our family of nations for future generations.

"In a dangerous and uncertain world I have no doubt we are stronger, safer, and more prosperous together than we ever could be apart."

The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for greater devolution for decades and last week Nick Clegg was the first party leader to call for greater devolution to England and the rest of the UK.

Nick was also the first to call for a solution to the so-called West Lothian Question, whereby Scottish MPs can vote on devolved English issues on the same timetable as further devolution for Scotland.


Nick added:

"But a vote against independence was clearly not a vote against change and we must now deliver on time and in full the radical package of newly devolved powers to Scotland.

"At the same time, this referendum north of the border has led to a demand for constitutional reform across the United Kingdom as people south of the border also want more control and freedom in their own hands rather than power being hoarded in Westminster.

"So this referendum marks not only a new chapter for Scotland within the UK but also a new chapter of constitutional renewal across the UK."

Catherine Bearder MEP welcomes Scottish referendum outcome

Liberal Democrat MEP, Catherine Bearder, has welcomed the news that Scotland has voted to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The South East MEP is now calling for steps to be taken to renew the structure of the UK political system, ensuring Scotland is granted more devolved powers along with regions within England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It has long been part of Liberal Democrat policy to call for greater devolution across the UK. The party is also the first party to come up with a solution to the so-called West Lothian question, whereby Scottish MPs can vote on devolved English issues on the same timetable as further devolution to Scotland.

Commenting, Mrs Bearder said:
"I am delighted Scotland has voted to remain in the United Kingdom and I am proud of the Liberal Democrats for playing such a key role in the 'Better Together' campaign. 
"I think we must now take heed of the vote. We must now work towards the constitutional renewal the Scots are looking for. 
"But this hunger for change doesn't just exist north of the border. We must make moves to devolve power across the whole of the UK so decisions can be made closer to home. 
"We should also be grasping this opportunity to look at the whole democratic settlement for the Union, from the House of Lords to our voting system and finally giving the citizens of the United Kingdom a constitution that they can rely on."
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, said:
"I'm absolutely delighted the Scottish people have taken this momentous decision to safeguard our family of nations for future generations. 
"But a vote against independence was clearly not a vote against change and we must now deliver on time and in full the radical package of newly devolved powers to Scotland. 
"This referendum marks not only a new chapter for Scotland within the UK but also a new chapter of constitutional renewal across the UK."

Open letter to Jean Claude Juncker on the role of sustainability in the new Commission

In order to achieve the growth for Europe which will benefit generations to come we need to place sustainability at its heart.

This letter, to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, aims to outline the need for this and the ways in which it can be done. The PDF is available here, the main text is reproduced below;

Dear Mr President, Dear Jean-Claude Juncker, 
We welcome your approach to make a fresh start for jobs and growth in Europe. In this context, sound growth is impossible without integrating sustainability. 
The recent Euro barometer from September 8th 2014 leaves no doubt about citizens' expectations on protecting the environment, With 95% stating that it in their personal interest and that more action would be needed. 
Recent years have shown the scientific evidence and consensus about climate change and its impact on environment, economies and societies. The new UN report "Better Growth, Better Climate" concludes that action on climate change and investment in sustainable development can actually improve growth. Therefore we consider that sustainable development ought to be the cornerstone and guiding principle behind future EU policy. Investing in sustainable technology can drive innovation, create jobs, improve company profits and push EU to become a market leader While safeguarding the environment. 
It is therefore regrettable that the concepts of "sustainable growth" or "green growth" are not reflected in most of the mission letters of the Vice Presidents or Commissioners. We would thus urge you to:
  • Re-assess the mission letters under the prerequisite of sustainability and good management of natural resources and biodiversity, incorporating the economic value of resilient societies and healthy, well-functioning ecosystems in all relevant portfolios 
  • Make sustainability much more prominent in the portfolios of the Vice President and assigning one Vice President for sustainable development 
  • Include the 7th Environmental Action Programme and the EU Biodiversity Strategy, which are crucial for the environmental portfolio
EU citizens cannot afford growth at the expense of the environment and health. They expect the EU to take the lead in transforming its economy to make it truly
sustainable. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Back the Best of British

Catherine Bearder is encouraging makers of traditional British products to tell the European Commission why they deserve the types of protection already there for many of our foods and drinks.

The Commission has launched a public consultation on the protection of geographical indications for non-agricultural products.

This consultation is looking at giving the same protections to many traditional products from certain areas that agricultural products such as foods like Cornish Pasties and Wensleydale Cheese already have.

The Commission is looking for contributions to that consultation and Catherine is encouraging all of businesses and producers that fit the bill to contribute their views.

Information on the consultation can be found here. The deadline for submissions is October 28th and Catherine is offering any help people need on submitting their contributions to the consultation.

One local business that will be contributing is Thomas Smith's Trug Shop. Catherine recently visited the Trug Shop and heard about how important these protections will be for Sussex Trugs.

Robin Tuppen, owner of the Trug Shop, with over 30 years' experience making trugs, explained the problems that these traditional crafts face. He commented:

"I hope that products like our trugs will be able to get the same kind of protection that Champagne has.

"There are only a few traditional trug makers left and we are being undercut by cheap Chinese imitations passing themselves off as Sussex Trugs.

"They end up breaking within 12 months whereas ours can last up to 60 years.

"Trug making and other traditional industries should be protected to ensure that we can continue to train the next generation."

Catherine Bearder added:

"It was fantastic to see these trugs being made and the traditional methods still being used today.

"These are exactly the types of product that we should be protecting, it's wrong that cheap imitations made in China can be sold as traditional Sussex trugs.

"I look forward to welcoming Robin and several other producers of great traditional British products in Brussels so that they can take their message straight to the European Commission."

Call for sustainable housing in Northstowe

Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer will, at the September meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council, call on the Council to resist developers attempts to reduce the amount of affordable housing that will be included in the district's new town of Northstowe.

"By allowing developers to brow-beat this Council into accepting a level of social housing far below this district's long-term needs we are letting down the future workers who will be required to make Northstowe a vibrant community", said Cllr Van de Weyer.

"Northstowe is the obvious choice to meet our social housing requirements - where else can we build so many new homes? The capacity within existing villages is very limited so it's vital that the Council not lose its nerve in current negotiations. We must push for 40 per cent."

The District Council will vote on the Liberal Democrat motion (text below) on Thursday 25th September. Liberal Democrat group leader Bridget Smith added;

"It's disappointing to see the continued cuts to the level of Social Housing being made in Northstowe, We call on the District Council to reverse this trend and stand up to developers for the long-term future of our district. It's no good boasting about the district being one of the top places to live in the country if no-one can afford to live here."

At the recent cabinet meeting it was revealed that there was a shortage of one bedroom homes and that, at current rates of development, it will take over 20 years to meet the existing demand.


The full wording of the motion reads;

While recognising that the new town of Northstowe requires a huge amount of infrastructure investment from developers and that affordable housing obligations must allow developments to be economically viable, this Council is concerned that affordable housing provision in Northstowe is being squeezed down to a level that threatens the sustainability of the new town and the contribution that it can make to the district-wide supply of social housing.

This Council reiterates its support for the planning policies concerning affordable housing.

This Council expects the Homes and Communities Agency to agree that all information about viability is made public so that the decisions on this matter can be fully scrutinised.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Job figures good news for Cambridge

New figures which show that unemployment is continuing to fall in Cambridge as more and more jobseekers find work has been welcomed by the city’s MP, Julian Huppert.

There are 776 people - 1.4 per cent of the working population - claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance in the city. The figure is 552 lower than in August last year and 37 lower than in July 2014. Unemployment is now less than half what it was at the time of the last General Election.

And youth unemployment is heading down month on month as well with 155 18 to 24-year-olds claiming compared to 295 during the same period last year, with youth unemployment now about a third of what it was in May 2010.

The good news for Cambridge comes as UK unemployment figures generally show a fall of 146,000 to 2.02 million.

Julian said: “We have seen real employment growth here in Cambridge month by month and it’s bringing really good news for all those seeking work.

“The measures we have put in place in government, apprenticeships, training places and work experience for our young people and support for businesses generally are really starting to pay off.

“Nationally, the fall in unemployment is the largest in more than 25 years with the number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance below one million for the first time since the economic downturn.

“I hope this good news will give renewed hope to all those who are still seeking work. It’s extremely hard for those families who are struggling with unemployment. I hope their fortunes will change soon as more and more businesses feel confident to move forward.”

Cambridge MP supports Rotary Club peace initiative

MP Julian Huppert is supporting an initiative by the Rotary Club of Cambridge South to mark the United Nations international day of peace.

Julian is taking part in a conference at the city’s Leys School on Sunday, September 21, which will be followed by three days of peace debates and workshops for sixth formers at local schools.

The events have been organised to mark Peace One Day, a worldwide day dedicated to resolving conflict and promoting peace.

Julian said: “This is an excellent initiative and I feel privileged to have been asked to take part.

“If we are to have any chance of resolving conflicts and one day achieving world peace we must help our young people not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Engaging them in discussion and encouraging them to take part in debate on these issues is vital in making sure they have all the information they need to make informed decisions.

“By promoting a greater understanding hopefully we will empower future generations to end the suffering that people are enduring at the hands of others and our world can become a more settled place.”

Oxford Ebola vaccine trial should receive EU funding

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder has today called for EU funding to help further an Ebola vaccine trial that was launched today in Oxford.

Speaking in a debate at the European Parliament with EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Kristalina Georgieva, Mrs Bearder said it was important to provide funding to build up stockpiles of the vaccine if the trial is successful.

Mrs Bearder commented:

"This is an important development that could save many thousands of lives. We urgently need a short-term strategy to contain the current Ebola outbreak, but we also need to look at how best to prevent such outbreaks in future, including by building sufficient stockpiles of vaccines.

"That is why I am calling on the EU to provide significant funding for this vital and life-saving research."

A Briton today became the first of 60 healthy volunteers to receive the potential new vaccine for the virus in the trial which is being run by the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford.

Professor Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute, commented:

"This trial, starting today, shows how rapidly the medical community can respond in a true emergency. We hope that the new vaccine will be ready to help control this major outbreak by the end of the year."

The trial will assess whether those taking part suffer any side effects, but the university stressed that the vaccine did not contain infectious material and would not cause any of the volunteers to be infected.

If the trial is successful, tens of thousands of doses of the vaccine will need to be manufactured in order to inoculate high-risk communities in West Africa.

Professor Peter Piot, who co-discovered the Ebola virus in the 1970s and is now Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, also called on the EU and its member states to do more to combat the Ebola outbreak in the wake of today's European Parliament debate.

He commented:

"The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has become a tragic humanitarian crisis. Europe has the capacities to provide the necessary assistance, and should deploy as soon as possible all necessary means in the affected countries."

Layla Moran, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, added:

"The Jenner Institute will now play a leading role in providing research into a vaccination against Ebola

"Funding is vital to ensure we can stamp out this awful disease which is taking the lives of more and more people every day. I will be working hard with Catherine to secure as much funding as possible for the trial and further trials beyond.

"I particularly welcome the recent Lib Dem manifesto announcement that we will maintain the science budget for the next Parliament."

Unemployment falls again

The latest unemployment figures from the ONS have been released showing a fall by 146,000, lowering the total unemployment count to 2.02 million.

The figures released today show that unemployment has fallen to 6.2%, the lowest rate in six years.

Business Secretary Vince Cable called today's positive labour market figures "no accident" and said that the Liberal Democrats in Government were delivering the recovery fairly.

Creating jobs is central to the Liberal Democrat plans to build a stronger economy and a fairer society and we have worked to create over 1 million jobs for people across the UK.


Vince Cable commented:

"The Liberal Democrats have taken steps to ensure our labour market is fair and flexible - delivering opportunities for everyone and preventing exploitation of the most vulnerable.

"The employment growth that we are now witnessing is one of this Government’s key achievements."

The Office for National Statistics figures also showed that the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in August fell by 37,200 to 966,500.

And average weekly earnings, excluding bonuses, in the May to July period, rose by 0.7% from a year earlier.

Vince added:

"Today we’ve had another remarkable set of labour market figures, which show that the recovery in the labour market has been broad based.

"In the past twelve months alone, employment has increased by 774,000, with private sector employment rising by 794,000 on the year.

"This has led to an almost record share of the UK working age population being in work.

"The fall in unemployment is the largest in over 25 years with the number of people claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance below one million for the first time since the recession."

North West Cambridge: University key worker family housing designs approved

Architectural proposals for key worker and market housing on the North West Cambridge Development were approved today by the local planning authorities.

The collaborative design by Cottrell and Vermeulen, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, and AOC, comprises 70 key worker and market homes which respond to the changing landscape within the development, with five-storey buildings that lead from the new local centre, Eddington, to the lower density family housing within the new area named Ridgeway Village. The proposals support family life with two shared courtyards, thresholds and sensitive landscaping around the Veteran Oak Gardens, which is a historical boundary marker and unique landmark within the development.

Roger Taylor, Project Director for the North West Cambridge Development said: “The collaborative architectural designs by Cottrell and Vermeulen, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, and AOC, are characterful and responsive to their location within the site. They demonstrate how the masterplan ideals of quality architecture and vibrant street life will be implemented as future residents move from the local centre into the more residential neighbourhoods within the site. We are delighted that the local authorities are supportive of the proposals for the lower density homes.”

The buildings have been designed to the Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5 and to meet Lifetime Homes standard.

Works on the North West Cambridge Development infrastructure will start in 2014 with phased completions from 2016.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Lib Dem difference in Stockport

Liberal Democrats in Stockport are investing in their area: building and investing while protecting the environment - and giving residents a say, writes Councillor Iain Roberts, Deputy Leader of Stockport Council.

England, 2014. All of the urban North is under Labour control except for one town of indomitable Lib Dems that still hold out against the socialists. Stockport is now the only Liberal Democrat-led urban council in the North.

One of the ten Greater Manchester metropolitan councils, its population as big as Newcastle. It's a diverse borough: average life expectancy in deprived Brinnington is 14 years lower than in leafy Bramhall just four miles away. Two of its four MPs are Lib Dems (Mark Hunter and Andrew Stunell).

So what's the Lib Dem difference?

First, the Lib Dems are investing in Stockport. The Council's capital programme has grown to over £700 million pounds – bigger than ever before. In tough times when our revenue budget is being squeezed, Council Leader Sue Derbyshire and her team are investing in the borough.

We're spending £100 million to resurface every poor road and pavement: working hard to fix the issue our residents say concerns them most. We're investing more than ever in cycling: millions constructing a network of cycle routes to allow people to make entire journeys avoiding busy roads.

We're building. A new cinema, two multi-storey car parks, retail units, grade A office space, transport interchange, new public realm, a new hotel and housing.

We're constructing a much-needed relief road in the south of the borough: planned since the 1930s!

All that investment is prudent. Unlike a certain previous government, we're not in the business of ransoming our children's future for short-term gains.

Second, Stockport is open for business. Industrial space is being snapped up and we're working hard to keep supply up with demand. The Lib Dems believe in councils shopping locally. Over 60% of Stockport Council spending goes to locally-based companies - nearly double the national average.

Third, Stockport is an environmentally friendly borough. Our residents recycle over 60% of their waste, putting us in the top five authorities in the country.

We spent £9 million installing solar panels on public buildings and social housing. We've installed biomass boilers and external wall insulation in tower blocks. We've got one of the few economically sustainable hydro schemes (set up by a Lib Dem councillor) and we're working on a heat exchange network in the town centre.

Fourth, we work to empower residents and devolve responsibility. Far more planning decisions are taken by local councillors in their communities than by the central Planning committee. We've run “You say, we pay” events for several years, with funding allocated by local residents voting on which community organisations should receive it. Recently we ran “You say, we pay for businesses” – over sixty local businesspeople allocated money to start-ups after Dragons' Den style presentations.

When the “bedroom tax” came in, we were concerned about the implementation. Whilst many Labour councils chose to punish their residents to score political points, Stockport has made it work. If a Stockport Homes tenant is willing to move, we wipe out any arrears they build up due to the bedroom tax. Over 170 households have already chosen to downsize, freeing up larger properties for those who need them. Not a single Stockport Homes tenant has been evicted due to bedroom-tax related arrears. Naturally, Labour opposed our scheme.

Since 2010 Labour have defeated a sitting Lib Dem councillor just three times. One defeated Lib Dem councillor re-gained his seat at the next opportunity and one of the three Labour victors has since joined the Lib Dems. At next years elections we're aiming to hold our two parliamentary seats and make council gains from both Labour and Tories, and to keep Stockport Lib Dem.

Monday, 15 September 2014

South East MEP demands EU help for dairy farmers hit by Russia trade ban

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder has called on the European Commission to step in and help dairy farmers hit by Russian ban on agricultural products from the EU.

Following a debate today in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on what the EU can do to respond to the Russian embargo, Mrs Bearder said that it was especially important to take action to help stabilise the price of milk following a collapse in the dairy market.

Commenting, she said:

"Dairy farmers in the UK are being especially hard-hit by the Russian import ban and this is on top of an already difficult year.

"That's why I'm calling on the European Commission to rapidly implement private storage aid measures that will help farmers take dairy products off the market and stabilise falling prices.

"It's right that the EU is taking a firm stance against Putin's aggressive actions in Ukraine, but we need to also soften the blow for those farmers being affected by Russia's disproportionate response."

Mrs Bearder also called on farmers in the UK to take advantage of EU funding to promote their products overseas before an approaching deadline at the end of September. Last week it was announced that the scheme would receive an extra £24mn in response to the Russian embargo

She added:

"There are millions of pounds of funding out there to help British farmers hit by the Russian ban to find new markets overseas.

"I would strongly encourage local agricultural organisations to apply for this funding in the coming weeks so this opportunity doesn't go to waste."

Cambrdige MP takes lead role in Lib Dem pre-manifesto

MP Julian Huppert has played a lead role in writing the Liberal Democrats’ pre-manifesto which will shape the party’s national campaign for next May’s General Election.

The pre-manifesto outlines the key issues that the party believes are crucial to Britain’s future success. They will be voted on by its members at the Lib Dem Autumn Conference in Glasgow next month.

Julian said: “This pre-manifesto gives a clear view of the issues that we believe are vital to make sure that everyone has a fair and equal chance in our society. We have achieved a great deal in this Parliament but there is still so much more we can do for the people of Cambridge and across the country as a whole.

“We have overturned 30 years of financial neglect in our schools, achieving an extra 23.2 million for Cambridgeshire and our pre-manifesto commits to a national fairer funding formula which would give our schools even more money.

“And we have invested in measures to give youngsters the best chance. Our Pupil Premium is helping disadvantaged youngsters keep up with their classmates and our younger children 15 hours a week of free nursery schooling. We would increase that even further to 20 hours in a new Parliament.

“We have also cut tax bills by £800 a year and lifted the poorest out of paying tax altogether; we would push that further to give workers back another £400, raising the threshold at which people start paying tax to £12,500. That’s a huge help for hard working families.

“We would also introduce a new Freedom Bill to protect citizens from excessive state powers and pass a Digital Bill of Rights. These Bills would make sure that the government would never have the power to intrude on anyone’s privacy as outlined in the so-called Snooper’s Charter that we killed off.”

Other proposals in the pre-manifesto include:
  • Pushing forward with the Regional Growth Fund, which has already delivered 99,000 jobs with a £3.6 billion investment, to back growing businesses;
  • A discounted bus pass for the under 21s so that they can afford to get to work or college. This would provide another boost for our young people following the success of the apprenticeship programme which has helped almost two million people;
  • Cutting £50 from household energy bills and boosting competition among suppliers;
  • Introducing a £250 Carers’ Bonus to give carers a proper break every year;
  • Keeping house prices and rents affordable and boosting house building to 300,000 a year.
“Our economy is growing and more jobs are being created but there is so much more than needs to be done,” added Julian. “This pre-manifesto sets out those areas where we can make a difference.”

Lib Dems welcome plan to cut red tape on housebuilding

Cambridge Liberal Democrats have welcomed a package of measures from the government which will cut red tape making it easier to build new homes.

The measures will save housebuilders and councils £114 million a year while still making sure houses are built to demanding standards.

Andy Blackhurst, Cambridge Lib Dem Spokesperson on Housing said: “This is extremely good news for housebuilders and councils. It simplifies the rules, giving more control to people on the ground to make the decisions that are best for their local areas rather than being dictated to by Whitehall.

“These new measures make sure that homes are built to the highest standards under one set of rules rather than the multitude of permutations that are available at the moment.

“We desperately need affordable new homes for Cambridge and this simplifies the whole process.”

The new standards will cover:
  • Security - introducing a national regulation on security standards in all new homes to protect families from burglary. 
  • Space – for the first time ever, a national, cross tenure space standard that local authorities and communities can choose to use to influence the size of new homes in their local area.
  • Age friendly housing - new optional building regulations for accessible and adaptable mainstream housing to meet the needs of older and disabled people.
  • Wheelchair user housing - the introduction for the first time of an optional building regulation setting standards for wheelchair housing. 
  • Water efficiency - the ability to set higher water efficiency standards in areas of water shortage.
Cambridge MP Julian Huppert said: “We need to build huge numbers of new homes - 300,000 a year across the country, as well as many in Cambridge. “We need high standards for those houses, so that people get the housing quality they deserve, but we also need to avoid red tape preventing homes being built at all. These standards will achieve both more homes being built and a better quality for them.”

Communities Minister Stephen Williams said: “We need to build more homes and better quality homes and this government is delivering on both. It’s now time to go further by freeing up housebuilders from unnecessary red tape and let them get on with the real job building the right homes, in the right places, to help families and first time buyers onto the property ladder.”

The government is going out to consultation on the new measures and intends that security standards should become a mandatory regulation with councils able to decide to apply the other standards to homes built in their areas.

eCops: Introducing Sergeant Mark Rabel 15-Sep-2014

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Police Sergeant Mark Rabel based at Histon Station and have responsibility for the Histon Panel area – which embraces your village. I’ve been in post now for about 3 months. For your information I live in this area and have three kids – the two youngest attend local schools. What happens in this area – also affects me – I have a vested interest in your village!

South Cambridgeshire continues to enjoy a status of being a safe place to live and work. Our biggest crime problem continues to be burglaries with an average of one a day being committed throughout the area. Sounds a lot? Our geographic patch is approximately 350 square miles – it’s a massive area to patrol. A typical MO is that a window is smashed with an untidy search of the house before people make off with small valuables. Its an awful experience for the victim of such a crime with a feeling of violation and the cost of replacing stolen items, repairing windows and changing locks. Awful. In the last several weeks we have apprehended and charged 8 individuals with burglary – interestingly all bar one of these thieves lived outside South Cambridgeshire – suggesting that our area is targeted by criminals. Preventing burglary and catching offenders remains our top local priority.

You can help by keeping vigilant for suspicious activity in your area and calling 999 if you feel something is amiss. Statistically there are very few successful burglaries where there is a working alarm system fitted. If you want advice in relation to the security of your property call your local Officer who will be only too happy to help and provide a free security survey.

The summers months are almost gone and we have had relatively little disorder in comparison to the same time last year. We were actively engaged in conducting summertime patrols in the green spaces in your area. Pretty well all events / carnivals have been without major incident.

Our next Panel meeting (where your local priorities are set) takes place on the 15th October at the Orchard Park Primary School and starts at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start. The meeting usually finishes by 9.00pm and is your chance to meet your local Officers, get a more specific update in relation to Police activities in your area and ask questions or just observe. You are invited and very welcome to attend. For those that already know me I am also happy to talk about cricket!

Friday, 12 September 2014

eCops: Crime Update 12/09/2014

There has been an increase in crime in Bar Hill and Girton this week. Please see below.

Between 08th Sep, 17:00 and 09th Sep 08:00hrs, a theft took place at The Brambles, Bar Hill. Perpetrator(s) have stolen two plant pots with sculptured hedging and plants inside at cost of £100 each.

On 07th Sep, between 16:15 and 19:25hrs, a theft took place at Domino LTD, Trafalgar Way, Bar Hill. Perpetrator(s) have stolen two chairs that were left on the outside building smoking area.

On 10th Sep, between 15:00 and 15:30hrs, a dwelling burglary took place in Otter Close, Bar Hill. During the date and times stated, unknown offender(s) has entered the property via the unlocked front door and has taken a laptop from the kitchen area.
On 9th Sep, at 19:56hrs, a burglary took place in Farm field, Huntington Road, Girton. Entry to the property was gained by forcing the double glazed French doors at the rear of the house. It is unclear as to what has been taken from within.

There have been two crime reports theft related in Huntington Road Westbound, Girton. A number of power tools have gone missing from road works at location mentioned.

Kind Regards

PCSO Bujar MANI
Histon Safer Neighbourhood Team