Comments from the Liberal Democrat Group Leader on the Council, August 2019

There is a saying, that it is quality and not quantity that matters. That is certainly true both here in Newcastle and nationally. Well done to Brecon and Radnorshire on their excellent parliamentary election result. It is good to know that another ardent Brexit member has been defected and replaced by Jane Dodds, a Liberal Democrat, who  will do all in her power to stop Brexit happening. Another referendum needs to take place. Will Boris call an election unless he has to? I doubt it, with a majority of only one it would be risky for him.

So for local politics, it is just as difficult some times. A group of three has to be heard however, and we are! The Borough Independent group are far from independent, and the Tories rely on them to vote with them, which they do every time, which does give the Tory administration the majority vote. However we have our say in debate, and as promised, vote on the merit of the proposals before us from either side of the Chamber. Our Liberal Democrat voice is heard particularly forcefully at committee level.

Issues which we have spoken on recently include

  •  New Recycling proposals. Newcastle Liberal Democrat Councillors have always been a strong voice where recycling is concerned. Under Liberal Democrat portfolio administration, the Council won many national awards. What the Tory administration is about to implement will undo many years of hard work by us. It is their intention to reintroduce bags for cardboard and paper, collected fortnightly, and then one BLUE bin for the other recycling products which will also be collected fortnightly. The blue bin is in addition to the grey bin which will continue to be collected fortnightly as at present. Food will remain separate and will be collected weekly. Co mingled recycling has never been our option as the value of materials is always less when sold. Over £3k being spent on re modelling our present system, this is the second new system in three years. I am very disappointed that the Tory Cabinet did not listen to resident concerns over the problem of bags last time, or the advisory panel set up to look at options for improvement. Options could have included a review of how the present system could be improved by operational changes, rather than a totally new model.
  • June, Ian and myself as your councillors, are very concerned that the old Civic Offices are still empty with no immediate buyer coming forward. What a shame the opposition parties did not listen to us when we suggested a clause be put into the contract of the then potential buyers, preventing them withdrawing very easily. Not sure retail on the site is the answer. More and more I am being told by developers that their preference is out of town sites. For example Dunhelm coming to Wolstanton, despite us trying hard to encourage them to the town centre. Internet shopping does not help either. We intend to keep asking questions about the way forward for this site.
  • Our group was disgusted about the underhand way the Mayor was chosen this year. The Tory and independent group decided to break with protocol and not elect the Deputy Mayor to the Mayoral position, this has not happened before. The Mayor is a non political appointment, but the Tories made it political, because numbers for voting are so tight, they wanted the Mayors casting vote. They outvoted the deputy on the night without much warning. Not a fair way to treat a Councillor who had not done anything wrong apart from being in the wrong party at the wrong time.
  • Many will have read recently that the new Council offices are not fit for purpose and many areas not usable due to flooding. What a waste of money! Whilst the Council is seeking compensation it should never have happened. Better inspections should have taken place before the building was handed over to us.
  • We are asking questions about the half built student accommodation block in town and what we need to do to rectify the problem.
  • We have heard this week that the auditors will not sign off our accounts, due to not sufficient information. The officer responsible has retired recently having given notice a long time ago, surely the Tory administration should have foreseen the problem and acted quickly and got the information they needed, before a long earned retirement was taken. We will now have to pay more money to the auditors to rectify the problem.
  • Defects in the Jubilee 2 health suite are being looked into, together with proposals to improve budget deficits. Where does it end! The Tories blame Labour for the inefficiencies in their period of administration and vice versa. Pity they don’t put the people first and get on with solving the issues we now have across the Council.
  • A lack of traders in town and a declining market is a concern. The Council are looking at the possibility of a young traders market at the moment, we would support that. Maybe a record fair will come shortly to town for a day, will look forward to that!
  • Marion, June and Ian will be encouraging the Council to reduce their use of single use plastics, something dear to our hearts. We hope by 2023 single use plastics will be completely eliminated from within the building. We hope our partners will follow suit.

Newcastle deserves better treatment than it is receiving at the moment, the present administration is not serving us well, but Labour did no better! Under Liberal Democrat coalition we were an awarding winning Council, we must strive for that again. Nationally there are real signs that the party is recovering after a disastrous few years. Maybe the public realise we are the only party who have consistently wanted to remain in the EU,  and we were a stabilising influence in the previous coalition with the Tories Hopefully we have learnt the lessons we made then, and we are a stronger party who will move forward. I look forward to seeing more Councillors being elected in our next local elections in Newcastle, but that will only happen if we remain a family working together.

Marion Reddish

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Liberal Democrats have worked out a plan to help TOWN CENTRES

If business rates were replaced by a commercial land levy, Newcastle under Lyme businesses would pay 29% less.

The plan also includes:

1 Reform of planning law to free up councils to ensure that commercial space is used flexibly and efficiently.

2. Subsidised work space and support for business start-ups.

3. Publicly-accessible asset registers so that entrepreneurs can easily identify opportunities.

4. A new body to help retailers adapt to the digital economy.

The land levy plan would ensure that small town centre businesses pay much less, while big business including internet operators pay more.

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Report from the 2019 Lib-Dem Spring Conference

Dear Member,

Three of us from Newcastle under Lyme attended the Lib-Dem conference in York last weekend and we are pleased to say there were good debates. There were a variety of types of people speaking, including an encouraging number of younger people; the youngest was 15 years old who spoke extremely well.

The conference agreed to have a registered supporters scheme, but voted that people who are members of another party could not be registered in the scheme, registered supporters cannot vote for the leader of the party and the leader should be an MP. Only members can be officers of any kind in the party and only members can vote at conference.

The supporters will have the right to attend meetings and give their views and also serve on policy working groups.

As chair of the Lib-Dem Education Association, I spoke in the debate on ‘Eradicating Racial Inequality’, advocating the education section of the policy paper that accompanied the motion.  Although much progress has been made in the UK in recent decades, there are worrying signs among some sections of the population that this issue still needs to be tackled.

Another matter of concern to me is the demise of local services, so it was good to have a debate calling for a major re-investment in local youth services.

I hope you are well and can consider ways in which you can contribute to our local party; we really do need new people if we are to reach out to the local population on local and national issues and encourage support for and understanding of, our Liberal Democrat values.

Best wishes,

Nigel Jones

Chair, Newcastle under Lyme

Liberal Democrats

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LIB-DEM Leader VINCE CABLE CALLS FOR CHANGES TO UNIVERSAL CREDIT.

 As well as outlining its principles and its faults below, Vince has called this month (October 2018) for it to be stalled in order to overcome the hardships it is causing and to put £3bn more into it.  The £3bn was cut from welfare spending soon after the coalition ended.  When Lib-Dems were in government we prevented this from happening. “The problems stem from conflicting objectives: providing minimum family income; providing incentives to work; simplification; and saving money. Simplification, saving money and work incentives have taken precedence over the first, crucial, priority.

“Practical problems have been ignored creating real hardship, payment delays in the switchover, penalties for the self-employed; use of a single bank account for divided families; barriers to work from lack of childcare; monthly payments for those on weekly or casual wages; technical complexities in establishing online payment; and the use of Universal Credit to facilitate debt collection… 

“[But] the fact that UC is becoming loathed and is being implemented incompetently and harshly does not invalidate the reasoning behind it. I strongly repudiate the Labour Party’s suggestion that Universal Credit should be scrapped without being clear what the replacement is: a classic case of soundbites taking precedence over thought-through policies .” 

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