"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and
open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values
of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall
be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity."
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Recycling on the up
Remember the old days before the Liberal Democrats gained influence on the council, when Harlow used to lag in the recycling league tables? Just a few bottle banks and the county council amenity site at Riverway.
Harlow Council collected almost 600 tonnes of recyclable waste in January this year - that's 87 tonnes more than in the same month last year, and an increase of 17 per cent. Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Cllr Eleanor Macy says:
"These recycling statistics give a clear indication that the people of Harlow are embracing recycling, and committing to helping the environment. Harlow Council has been proactive in promoting and encouraging town-wide participation in the reduction of waste and alleviating the amount of waste sent to landfill, with some innovative campaigns such as the Together We Can.... initiative.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Nick Clegg sets out EU referendum case
Speaking this morning ahead of further debate on the European Union (Amendment) Bill, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said:
"The debate over Britain's future in Europe has been poisoned for too long by a Labour Party that refuses to make the case for it, and an opportunistic Tory Party that actively seeks to undermine it.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Winter fuel payment leaves pensioners in the cold
Liberal Democrats today published figures showing that the Winter Fuel Payment now pays for only a quarter of a pensioner's fuel bills. The Payment has been frozen at £200 for five years, while fuel bills and energy companies' profits have soared. This has resulted in the value of the payments halving. Shadow minister Danny Alexander MP says:
"As fuel bills rise, thousands of older people won't be able to afford to heat their homes this winter. While the cost of heating homes has rocketed and the value of the basic state pension has plummeted, the Government has frozen the Winter Fuel Payment at £200 for five years. The Liberal Democrats would restore the earnings link to pensions to ensure older people would be better off."
Government database on children should be scrapped
The Liberal Democrats have repeated their call for the government database containing details on every child in the UK to be scrapped, following the publication today of an independent review into its security.
Information about every child's name, address, their parents or guardians, as well as contact details for each government service they use, was going to be added to the ContactPoint database. The accountants' report says the database could never be secure. Liberal Democrats have attacked the Government for refusing to publish the full report. Liberal Democrat shadow minister Annette Brooke says:
"This intrusive project should be scrapped. Ministers should have listened to what I and many organisations were saying when the plans were debated last July. The Government has proven itself untrustworthy with large databases containing sensitive data. Parents have every right to demand that when it comes to their children's personal details, the tightest security measures are essential."
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Want to know where to swim since the closure of Harlow Pool? Harlow Council - with help from Harlow Education Consortium, the Schools Sports Partnership and others - has been arranging alternative swimming options.
All primary schools that used Harlow Pool have been found alternative venues for swimming, and schools that are making their pools available to other schools have been offered swimming equipment from Harlow Pool free of charge.
Various clubs that used the pool have been relocated: Harlow Penguins to Burnt Mill School, and the Sub-Aqua Club to Brays Grove. Alternatives are being sought for Harlow Life-Saving Club, which needs weekend use. Harlow Penguins are also hoping to make more use of Haileybury pool - and the council is also working with them to explore possible bids for lottery and other funding.
People who received swimming lessons from the Council at Harlow Pool have been told about other options, such as Harlow Penguins, FTA Dippers, and Broxbourne Pool.
Attempts to encourage private pools - for example in hotels and leisure clubs - to open their doors to the public have not been successful. Public use of Stewards Pool, when it has been refurbished, is being explored. And Broxbourne Council has paid for the postage for a letter to everyone on the Harlow Swimming Pool database with information about public swimming at Broxbourne.
Meanwhile, building of the new sports centre with swimming pool near Harlow College continues apace, with the intention of opening late next year.
Tories back bigger potholes policy
The Conservative cabinet at Essex County Council has approved a new highways maintenance policy that will see potholes twice as deep and preventative work, including drainage, neglected. And if you get an injury by tripping on a footpath or road, you are less likely to be awarded compensation from the council. Speaking about the new policy, Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes, Liberal Democrats group leader on Essex County Council, said:
"The cabinet member responsible for highways has admitted that everyone knows of a road in a bad state of repair, but he is still insisting that his policy of allowing potholes to get enormous before being fixed, is the right thing.
Labour Government ditches council tax reforms
Despite a £3 million inquiry lasting four years, the Government has quietly dropped plans to replace council tax with a fairer system.
Government sources have revealed that ministers will never release a response to the report of former council chief Sir Michael Lyons - who headed a review set up in 2003 amid mounting anger at double-digit rises in council tax bills. Liberal Democrat shadow chief secretary to the treasury Julia Goldsworthy MP says:
"This is the final confirmation that the Lyons Report has been kicked so far into the long grass that it will never result in anything. The report concluded that council tax was not fit for purpose and had some fairly modest proposals to tackle some of the unfairness. But it now seems even this was too much for ministers.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Bus pass campaign gets MP's backing
The Liberal Democrat campaign for the Government to give councils a fair deal on bus passes has achieved the backing of a prominent Member of Parliament.
The Government's national scheme for bus passes is due to lump council tax payers across the country - including Harlow - with a bill of up to £60 million, according to new research by the Liberal Democrats.
Sussex MP Norman Baker said that, while the scheme would help many poor pensioners, terrible accounting from the Government means it will be council tax payers who will end up picking up the bill. He said the Government should review the funding formula.
Courts uphold Bush Fair licence decision
Harlow Council's decision to take away the premises licence from Bush Fair Food Centre has been backed by local magistrates, Cllr Linda Pailing reports. The store's appeal was heard at Harlow Magistrates' Court on 1 February, with the decision given on 6 February. Linda says:
"It's good to see the Council's firm approach on underage sales being backed up by the courts."
Government incompetence has been costly to Northern Rock
The Government has finally decided to nationalise Northern Rock.
Harlow Liberal Democrats say: This decision is welcome but was also inevitable and should have been taken last year. Instead, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have been paralysed by their own indecision. They put off the only sensible course of action right until the very end. This is hardly a sensible way to run the Government.
Had Labour followed the advice of Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable last year, the uncertainty that has been so damaging to Northern Rock and to the British economy would have been avoided.
The Conservative proposal that Northern Rock should be put into administration and run down would be a disaster. Not only would this not get taxpayers' money back any faster, but it would be the one way to guarantee that every single job at the bank would be lost. Temporary nationalisation will not be easy for Northern Rock, but it at least offers hope that the bank can have a long-term future and eventually be sold when conditions are better.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Lib Dems step up campaign for REAL choice on Europe
The Liberal Democrats are stepping up their campaign for the British people to be given a real choice on Europe. Party leader Nick Clegg says:
"In the next few weeks Parliament will be voting on whether to hold a European referendum. The Conservatives are proposing a restrictive referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. My colleagues and I are campaigning hard for the British people to be given a real choice through a referendum on our membership of the European Union as a whole.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
474 families lost homes in Harlow in 2007
Too many families in Harlow are losing their homes because of difficulties over mortgage payments, claims leading local Liberal Democrat campaigner Chris Millington.
New figures show that 474 orders for home repossession were issued by the local county court in 2007. Cllr Chris Millington said:
"474 home repossession orders means 474 families being turfed out of the house they have lived in, often for many years.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Incompetent Tories stripped of coveted four stars ...
... but still hike up council tax! Four stars for spin!
The Conservative administration at Essex County Council has been stripped of its four star council rating, a year after being given the status, but has still hiked up council tax. At a meeting of the full council today to debate the council's budget, Conservatives voted to raise council tax by 4.2 per cent, which is considerably above the average pay rise achieved by taxpayers.
The Liberal Democrat group proposed an alternative budget that would have seen more money spent on road and footway repairs, youth services and recycling initiatives, but this was rejected by the Conservatives. Commenting on the council's performance, Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes, Liberal Democrat group leader on Essex County Council, said:
"This has been a poor performance year for the county council, the highlight of which has been the same financial mismanagement we have seen in previous years, but this time an extraordinary near £11m overspend on the highways budget. Coupled with the loss of the prestigious four star council rating that the Conservatives gained and then promptly lost, no doubt Essex taxpayers will be wondering why they are being asked to pay considerably more to a council administration that is less competent now than last year.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Go for Gold with London 2012 web site
Harlow's Liberal Democrats are encouraging local firms to boost their business by logging onto the London 2012 website.
Although over 500 contracts have already been signed by the Olympic Delivery Authority, the majority of contracts have yet to be awarded. Businesses are now able to register on the 2012 website so that they can be made aware of opportunities for contracts as well as the chance to access and compete for them.
For more information on the opportunities available as well as a link to register your business, visit the London 2012 website.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Liberal Democrats publish 10-point plan on flooding
The Liberal Democrats have published plans to protect Britain from the worst effects of flooding, as the Met Office warns that severe flooding is due to worsen in the years ahead. Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg said:
"The Government isn't taking the devastating potential of climate change seriously enough. We need to act now if we're to protect Britain from the flooding that could sweep Britain in years to come. Six months after last year's flooding, the Government has still done nothing to tackle the problem. Many areas of Britain are simply left waiting for the next downpour, while ministers sit twiddling their thumbs.The Liberal Democrats' 10 point plan
1. Protect Britain - Increase the flood defence budget by £400m over a Parliament to ensure adequate maintenance of existing defences and construction of new ones, in the immediate future and twenty or thirty years ahead - not just in built-up urban areas but also in rural areas where people's homes flood repeatedly, year after year.
2. Prepare Britain - Make sure that people are aware of flood risk, what to do and how to stay safe in the event of a flood. Take action to improve current flood warning systems, so as many people as possible are warned in advance and can act accordingly. In flood-risk areas, improve public awareness of the importance of buildings and contents insurance, and work with the insurance industry to ensure that people in flood-risk areas are not denied good quality, affordable home insurance.
3. Secure the supply of water and electricity - To avoid people having water and electricity supplies cut off as they were during the summer 2007 floods, we would make sure critical infrastructure providers take action to reduce flood risk. We would also make sure that other critical infrastructure such as hospitals, care homes and schools are 'flood-proofed' to minimise disruption to communities.
4. Look after hard-hit families and small businesses - When flooding does strike, we would provide additional special support for the worst affected areas, so that repairs can be undertaken quickly to key public buildings and social housing, including generous and speedy grants and interest-free loans to allow people in hardship to replace furniture and rebuild their lives in the worst-hit and poorest areas.
5. Promote joined up thinking under one overall body - Allow the Environment Agency to take strategic responsibility for flood defence management and planning. They will work with local authorities and water companies to deliver an accountable strategic, long-term approach to flood defence. This is particularly needed to deal with flood risk from surface water drains and sewers, which were the source of flooding for two-thirds of homes in summer 2007. In addition, they will develop and provide an early warning system for all types of flooding.
6. Tackle building on flood plains - Inappropriate building on flood plains must stop and there needs to be remedial action in areas where we have done this in the past. We would strengthen existing legislation concerning development in flood plains and ensure that residential, retail, commercial or industrial premises are not built on flood plains or areas of high flooding risk, unless substantial flood management schemes are in place.
7. Implement sustainable solutions - Ensure that all new developments incorporate Sustainable Urban Drainage (SUDS) to reduce urban run-off water which leads to flash flooding. We would make sure that local authorities take the lead on providing SUDS and that there is an appropriate legal framework in place to ensure that they are maintained.
8. Bring in a Flooding Act - Flooding legislation should be updated and streamlined under a single unifying Act addressing all sources of flooding, clarifying responsibilities and focusing on a risk-based approach to managing flooding.
9. Support farmers and rural communities - We would look again at the current policy on weed clearance and dredging so that the many farmers who suffered significant losses of livestock and crops during the summer floods do not have to endure this again.
10. Get serious on flooding and commit long term - Establish National Task Forces to create integrated flood management plans, and introduce a rolling 50-year planning horizon for climate change adaptation.