On 9 December, Munira Wilson, LibDem MP challenged the government to help those 3 million people
who have lost their income due to Covid and are getting no help. The government has refused saying it
is too difficult to do so. This includes freelance workers in entertainment, small businesses that started
just before the pandemic hit and many others caught by the complicated criteria attached to government
aid. Many have not been able to claim Universal Credit and even those who get it find they cannot live on
it. Some have resorted to selling their houses in order to feed their families and tragically, 8 people have
committed suicide as a direct result of their unexpected situation.

LibDem MP Christine Jardine raised this in Parliament on 23 and 25 November and government seems
determined not to respond. Way back when the chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his support scheme,
LibDem MP Jamie Stone identified that millions of workers would miss out and started an all-party
Parliamentary Group to campaign for changes.

What an uncaring government we now have !!

Nigel Jones (Newcastle under Lyme Liberal Democrats)

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Liberal Democrat Group leader’s report for the AGM 2020.

It has been a difficult year but we have been active  in some very complex decisions. I will give you a brief summary.

  1. Major recruitment of senior officers has brought about change in how we operate. Polices were found to be outdated in some areas and so there has been a realignment of the Councils priorities and much work has been done in implementing Covid 19 restriction guidelines. We have worked very closely with our partners, especially the Realise foundation, so maximum support could be given to the most vulnerable. Much work was undertaken to make sure government grants were available.
  2. Town centre Regeneration plans include
  • A 10 year car park review to include a reduction in the cost of annual permits for businesses.
  • Improved CCTV in the Midway car park and a review of flooding issues within the car park.
  • More electric charging points for cars.
  • Rough sleepers outreach service introduced to address cross border issues with Stoke. The number of homeless in Newcastle remains in single figures, the problem is many more choose to sleep out.
  • Recently installed CCTV in town centre streets, at the request of the public.
  • Much work has been done looking at how we can increase the footfall in town, but this project has been hindered by present day restrictions. We are working with neighbouring towns to look at how we compare. Part of this work is looking at how the market can be revitalised to suit the present trends.
  • We have organised some ‘themed one off events’ which have proven popular.
  • Town deal to include the future of the high street project. Project in progress to include the Ryecroft site, leading into the Ironmarket, High street and Midway. Developer interested!
  1. Newcastle Council plan to be carbon neutral by 2030, work is in progress to make this happen. We are working with partners and Keele University on our Climate Change agenda. A working panel has been set up to move this forward. More on the web site.
  2. Delighted that the people of Kidsgrove have worked hard to make sure their new sports centre plans are going to happen at a cost of £ 6m. A much needed facility for the people of Kidsgrove. Some of you will have noticed Jubilee 2 big pool was closed down for some time due to a major leak in the walls. It is now mended at a cost to the original develops.
  3. A joint allocations housing plan has been updated recently. The main advantage being residents now make a single application rather than two separate ones if they are wanting new accommodations. Aspire housing are our other partner.
  4. We have recently published our Air Quality plan. (On the website.) government are telling us we need to bring our carbon emission ratings up to Euro 6 standard. As a result, one of the major changes we have to implement is a bus gate at peak times on the A53 on Etruria road. Private cars will not be able to access up the bank from the A500 at peak Times which will affect residents in May Bank, Porthill and Wolstanton.
  5. New recycling system was introduced earlier this year, most residents are very happy with this new system and much prefer it to the box system. Recycling rates improved but value of the material not as high under the co mingled system.
  6. Some will have seen the old Savoy cinema site development is now well underway in town centre. It was given permission as student accommodation, but due to the present virus, demand is not as high as expected. A recent application was granted to allow multi resident occupancy for the next two years. Parking of cars may be an issue however.
  7. Walleys quarry landfill sire remains a problem with regard to odour, an extensive piece of work is underway to look at odour and highway issues. A working group is cross examining the agencies involved and hope to report their findings early next year.
  8. The Local plan site allocation document is being rewritten at the moment. It will be coming out for consultation in the New Year.

Marion Reddish, December 2020

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The continuing effects of Covid-19 on students and staff in our schools and colleges: A statement from the Liberal Democrat Education Association.

(ASchool and college staff need resources or alternative arrangements for attendance, in order to cope and provide the necessary support to their students. Without such support, there will be long-term consequences.

We have become acutely aware of the stresses and strains felt this term by the staff and students in our schools and colleges.  There are reports of absence rates varying from 95% down to the low 80%.  Some staff and students have had difficulty getting tested when necessary. Many schools have a very large increase in the number of students with safeguarding issues, often with long-term effects making huge demands on the  pastoral teams that might not be sustainable through this academic year. This is in addition to the expected mental health needs.

(B)  We believe that the case for cancelling the examinations is increasing. Even if a vaccine is found, it will be administered too late to make up for the learning lost by so many students, especially (though not only) those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

We are hearing increasing comments about examinations in 2021 bringing additional stress for staff and students, because  they will not be a fair assessment of performance of individual students. Many students will be disadvantaged by lack of learning this year and lack of proper preparation or inability to sit them.

The teacher unions’ joint statement before the start of term made sense. However, their proposals for assessment of those disadvantaged by the pandemic have not been adequately taken up by government. This week (9 November 2020), the EPI (Education Policy Institute) has published a report outlining what should happen, with some good suggestions. The National Tutoring programme is being implemented too slowly at too much cost to schools and we understand the National Mentoring programme is targeted by area rather than by estimated student needs in each school. The government cannot continue to claim that formal examinations are the fairest way to assess all students in the current circumstances.

We call for the government to prepare and publish a detailed strategy this term worked out in consultation with teacher representatives stating:

EXAMINATIONS CANCELLED, detailing a fair alternative assessment system; we suggest this be along the lines of teacher assessment including in-course assessments and a ‘mock exam’  directed by exam boards but flexibly marked by teachers as recommended by the EPI.

Nigel Jones

Chair, LDEA

(November 2020)

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