Labour backs free school meals

July 23rd, 2014 by danielbarker
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Posted July 23, 2014 Comments(0)

Over the weekend, Labour agreed to back the Lib Dem proposals for free school meals.

After pressure from the party’s grass roots at the National Policy Forum, Labour agreed to endorse the policy which was announced by Nick Clegg last year.

Free school meals are expected to benefit 1.5 million children between the ages of four and seven, greatly improving their health, behaviour and results.

Thanks to Lib Dems in Government, the policy will take affect in September and will become one of the most important changes in our education system for a generation.

Hundreds call ChildLine over FGM

July 21st, 2014 by danielbarker
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The Times reports that almost 300 people have called ChildLine this year to warn that a girl they know may be at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM). More than a third of the cases were considered serious enough to refer the call to police or children’s social services. Separately, Nick Clegg will set out a package of measures to tackle FGM at a summit tomorrow. He will reveal that teachers, doctors and social workers will all be given extra training to identify and help girls who might be at risk of becoming victims of FGM.

Israel and Palestine

July 19th, 2014 by danielbarker
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The recent escalation in violence is tragic and a ceasefire agreed by both sides is urgently needed.

There can be no justification for the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza against the Israeli civilian population.

And it is deeply disturbing that so many Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in this latest violence – the majority of them civilians, who bear no responsibility for this crisis.

Though the people of Israel have the absolute right to live without constant fear for their security, the people of Gaza also have the fundamental right to live in peace and security.

Around 400,000 people in Gaza currently live without access to electricity, and stocks of fuel and medical supplies are running dangerously low. International humanitarian law must be upheld and Israel should lift its blockade of Gaza to ease this human suffering.

The only hope of breaking this cycle of violence is a return to peace negotiations and towards a two-state solution.

LibLink: Danny Alexander: We want a fair housing benefit system for every tenant

July 18th, 2014 by danielbarker
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Posted July 18, 2014

Published on Liberal Democrat Voice By Caron Lindsay | Thu 17th July 2014 – 9:45 am

People wonder why Liberal Democrats (in Parliament) supported the Bedroom Tax in the first place. Well, I spent 4 years sitting beside a Liberal Democrat MP when maybe 5 families a week would come to us and say that they were stuck in a house that was way too small. Their kids had nowhere to study or play. That was what was foremost in their minds when they agreed the Bedroom Tax. They wanted to make it easier for those families. That was their motivation even though I think the logic of the system they chose was always flawed.

When the evidence showed them that it wasn’t working, they have very quickly changed the policy. That, to me, is sensible and something you don’t often see in a Government. I have spent long enough trying to get government organisations to fix stuff when it is clear that they have made a mistake. They just don’t admit it and stonewall you. I find it very refreshing that, within 48 hours of the report being published, Liberal Democrats have looked at the evidence and changed their approach. The party is not so hard-wired into the establishment that it thinks it gets everything right and won’t admit mistakes.

I put up Danny Alexander’s email to party members last night but he has also written for the Mirror on what the Liberal Democrats want to happen now:

Our revised proposal is that new tenants in the social rented sector would receive housing benefit based on the number of rooms they need.
But those already in the social rented sector would only see a reduction in benefit if they are offered a suitable smaller home and, crucially, turn it down.

Disabled adults should be treated the same as disabled children, by permanently exempting them.

And we would introduce new measures on social landlords to manage their stock more effectively so more people get put into the right home.

The Liberal Democrats will make the case for these new fairer rules, seeking to get them in place during this Parliament.If we can’t convince our Conservative coalition partners, we will commit to these reforms in our 2015 manifesto.

I want everyone to have the chance to live securely in a decent home. That’s why I’ve driven through measures that will deliver record numbers of affordable homes to help tackle the root cause of our housing problem, lack of supply. And it’s why our manifesto will set out plans to go further and deliver 300,000 new homes a year.

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron’s Musings

Lib Dems will make ‘bed-room tax’ fairer

July 17th, 2014 by danielbarker
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17 July, 2014

The Liberal Democrats have said they plan to significantly reform spare room subsidy rules.

The plans will see those already in the social rented sector only lose their benefit if they are offered a suitable smaller home and turn it down.

It would also permanently exempt disabled adults.

It comes after a government report published this week showed changes to how housing benefit is paid are not delivering the outcomes we had hoped despite Discretionary Housing Payments

Commenting Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander said:

“As a Liberal Democrat I want everyone to have the opportunity to have a secure and decent home.

“We brought in changes to how housing benefit is calculated in the social housing sector with the best of intentions.

“However, a recent report shows people are having to cut back on household essentials despite the help offered through Discretionary Housing Payments.

“Therefore, we have reviewed our position so only those already in the social rented sector who turn down suitable smaller homes will see a reduction in their benefit. These commitments will be in the Lib Dem manifesto and we will push for it as government policy right away.

“This change, combined with a commitment to build 300,000 houses a year in the next Parliament, will build on the progress we have already made to address Britain’s housing problem.”

Editorial comment: This shows that the lobbying done by local Lib.Dem parties up and down the country has forced a change, which shows that we do have a democratic party. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the Tories. Unless they agree to change the policy nationally we are going to have to fight for reform at the ballot box.

Vigil for Gaza – Walsall Coalition for Palestinian Rights

July 16th, 2014 by danielbarker
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The Walsall Coalition for Palestinian Rights is a newly formed body initially supported by Aisha Mosque, Friends of Al Aqsa & Walsall Kobar Friendship Association

Vigil and Rally
Walsall Town Centre
Friday 18th July

This rally is being held in recognition of the horrific escalation of racism and violence as Israeli occupying forces continue to pursue a strategy of collective punishment in Gaza. This ongoing action has resulted in the unnecessary deaths of many innocent men women and children. Please show your support:
Meet outside ‘The Crossing at St Pauls’ between 5:00 & 6:00 pm
A two minute silence will be held at 5:30 to remember those whose innocent lives have been taken in this conflict

Cable: Strike law change “potty”

July 15th, 2014 by danielbarker
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Vince Cable has described David Cameron’s plans to change strike laws as “simply potty” It is understood that the Conservatives are considering plans to legislate that strikes can only be held if a threshold of 50% of the membership is reached in any ballot.

Although it does seem wrong that strikes affecting people can be brought about by the votes of a small number of people, we live in a democracy where people can choose to vote or not to vote, and many people choose not to vote. If we therefore say that a union ballot is invalid if it doesn’t involve at least 50% of the membership, we would also have to say that all council elections with less than 50% turnout are invalid too.

The Conservatives can’t have one rule for unions and another rule for politicians. The same rules should be applicable to both. Maybe it would be a good idea to say that all elections needs to involve 50% of their electorate to be valid. Could the chaos caused by invalid elections spur people into going out and voting?

Things are not always what they seem…….

July 14th, 2014 by danielbarker
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Posted July 14, 2014

What do all these have in common:

•Backing a pay rise for MPs from the current £67,060 to up to £100,000
•Privatising the NHS
•Stopping the BBC showing major sporting events driving access to pay for view channels
•Relaxing employment law
•Increasing Income Tax for the medium to lower paid
•Decreasing Income Tax for the rich
•Cutting services deeper and faster

These are all policies being promoted by UKIP politicians and you thought it was all about getting out of Europe. Think again….

Emergency Security Legislation

July 12th, 2014 by danielbarker
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We must ensure our country and its citizens are safe, but as Liberal Democrats we will also do so in a way that improves, not erodes our civil liberties, and rolls back, not increases unchecked intrusion into our lives.

We know the consequences of not acting are serious but absolutely adamant this urgency will not be used as an excuse for more powers, or for a ‘Snoopers’ Charter’.

We have blocked a ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ before and will continue to do so.

No government takes the decision to introduce emergency legislation lightly. We are taking this decision to maintain the current abilities of police and security agencies not increase them.

Nick Clegg has been determined to use the urgency behind this legislation to make sure this Government becomes the first in many decades to increase transparency and oversight – and make significant progress in defence of liberty.

Nick Clegg and Norman Baker, with the help of Julian Huppert, have delivered cross-party support for a number of steps to strengthen oversight and transparency.

The Lib Dems have made sure:

• The Bill includes a termination clause that makes the legislation falls at the end of 2016 and the next government is forced to look again at these powers.

• We will hold a full review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act between now and 2016.

• We will appoint a senior diplomat to lead discussion with the American government and internet companies to establish a new international agreement for data-sharing between jurisdictions.

• We will establish a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to ensure civil liberties are properly considered in the formulation of counter-terrorism policy.

• Further reform of the Intelligence and Security Committee ensures the Chair must be drawn from the Opposition parties in the future.

• We will restrict the number of public bodies that are able to approach phone and internet companies and ask for communications data.

• Some bodies will lose their powers to access data altogether, while local authorities will be required to go through a single central authority.

• We will publish annual transparency reports, making more information publicly available than ever before on the way that surveillance powers operate.

This is the first government for generations to move the pendulum of civil liberties back.

Liberal Democrats in Government have abolished ID cards, reduced detention without trial, restored jury trials, curtailed stop and search powers, and reformed the libel laws to protect free speech.

Industrial relations – change needed

July 11th, 2014 by danielbarker
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I’m getting de ja vu – we’ve all been here before. Some public sector workers go out on strike – the Government challenges whether the strike has widespread support and nothing changes. Strikers lose money. Any disruption hurts ordinary families more then the Government, and respect for teachers and public sector workers goes down. No-one gains. Everyone loses.

What is needed is change on both sides – a change in culture. Government needs to show it values the public sector. Yes, we are in a time of austerity, and the people whose money comes out of the public purse are an easy target. But as a public sector worker myself, I know that many people forego more affluent careers in the private sector because they want to work for the greater good. At a time when the Government needs help to achieve its goals, that kind of attitude should be rewarded. There’s an old expression – ‘if you pay peanuts you get monkeys’, and good government needs a willing workforce not a load of angry chimps!

However, a change is needed on the other side too. How can any government value the opinions of trade unionists when their leaders are actively backing the other side. If trade unions really want to help their members, they should be neutral when it comes to party politics. Only then will there be a willingness for both sides to talk and negotiate. Public sector workers’ lot will not improve from any more strikes – the days when Governments reacted to such action are long gone – but genuine dialogue may have more success.

There also needs to be a change in public opinion too. As long as right-wing newspapers attack civil servents and whip up an anti-public sector mood amongst members of the public, the civil service will be an easy target of central government cuts. We all want a prosperous country, so let’s stop attacking those who work in a different sector than ourselves. Why can’t we just live and let live?

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