Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Sign The Petition: Support Freelance Workers Demands For Better Working Condition

More than 7,000 people from across the European Union have already signed the petition ... Will you join them?

Catherine Bearder MEP met recently with members of the European Freelancers' Movement, 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."

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

National review needed on Right to Buy - Cambridge MP

A national review should be launched into the government’s Right to Buy scheme as families face long waiting times for desperately needed homes, claims MP Julian Huppert.

And local authorities should be able to make their own decisions as whether or not to implement the scheme in their areas based on housing problems in their towns and cities.

Julian’s call won support at the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference where he said that although Right to Buy has allowed some people on low incomes to buy their homes, it has seriously depleted the social housing stock across the country.

“Under Labour, between 1997 and 2010 social housing fell by 420,000,” said Julian. “Although the scheme had benefits, because it gave people who wouldn’t normally have been able to afford to buy, a chance to own their homes, it failed to replace the stock. That was the flaw in this policy.

“Now we have long waiting lists and families waiting for desperately needed accommodation. Labour failed to build enough new homes and we find ourselves in a precarious situation where the government has a one-size-fits-all policy regardless of what’s happening on the ground.

“We need a full national review on Right to Buy so that we can understand the effect and consequences of this policy across the country. And we need to hand control over this policy back to the people who understand their areas and local need.”

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Cambridgeshire Amendment - Lib Dems win support for radical vision for health

Cllr Kilian Bourke
Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have won support for their vision for a more integrated NHS with a move away from the fragmented model that was introduced by the Conservatives in 1991, that has been deepened by every Government since.

The so-called “Cambridgeshire Amendment” was backed by every single Liberal Democrat local party in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, because this area experienced so many damaging health projects under successive Labour Governments.

It would allow local groups of NHS providers and commissioners, where they desire to do so, to form a single integrated health organisations that would provide and manage care on an ongoing basis, instead of the current approach which is led by the commissioning of services.

It would allow local areas to abolish the purchase/provider split that has driven NHS reforms for the last 23 years, subject to local democratic support, and approval of the business case by Monitor and the Department of Health.

The proposal was overwhelmingly backed by delegates at the Lib Dem Autumn Conference this weekend allowing it to form part of the party’s pre-manifesto for the General Election.

Kilian Bourke, Chair of Cambridgeshire’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, who proposed the amendment, said: "Our local health economy has experienced enormous damage as a consequence of Labour's two disastrous PFI contracts in the north of the county, as well as the £1bn, 10-year, private sector contract to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital, which Andy Burnham put out to the market in 2009.

"Our proposal is at once radical and localist. We believe that the fragmented experience of care that many patients experience is at least partly caused by the fragmented organisation of the NHS, which is divided into purchasers and providers of services.”

He added that integrated contracts, such as the one recently awarded in Cambridgeshire for the older people’s services, can work but questions have to be asked as to whether it is the most efficient way.

He said: "This proposal would give local groups of NHS organisations the option to merge to form a single integrated health organisation that would manage the provision and integration of services on an ongoing basis, instead of the current commissioning-led approach.

"My view is that allowing an integrated NHS organisation to just 'get on with it' might well be more efficient and effective than the frequent competitive tendering of services. One of the great strengths of this proposal is that it would permit comparisons to be made between different models of providing NHS services, putting the current debate on the basis of evidence rather than ideology."

Spencer Hagard, Cambridge Lib Dem party chair, who summated the amendment, told the conference that this amendment “is sensitive to local knowledge, local conditions and local needs. It provides for learning from experience and is an evidence-based approach.”

Cllr Bourke said later: “I am delighted conference backed this amendment. It gives more power to people on the ground in a local area to tailor their health care to meet the specific needs of their area in an integrated cost-effective way rather than following a national one-size-fits-all approach.”

Cambridge MP launches attack on Home Secretary over Bradbury case

MP Julian Huppert has accused Home Secretary, Theresa May of risking child safety highlighting that some of the victims of Cambridge doctor, Myles Bradbury could have been saved if she had prioritised “getting things right”.

He told her that if she had stopped diverting resources to demand intrusive new powers to monitor what we all do online, the police could have used the powers they already have to act on Bradbury sooner.

“By diverting Home Office resources for your quest for never ending new powers you have risked child safety,” he told her during a powerful speech at the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference.

“Stop scaremongering, stop demanding intrusive new powers that we don’t need and that threaten our civil liberty; stop children being abused with the powers that we already have.”

Julian told the conference that the police failed to act on information received about Bradbury from Canadian authorities for 16 months.

He said they didn’t need any new powers to investigate, they only needed the power to look at their email.

“Let me say to the Home Secretary, what would you say to the families of children abused because your quest for new powers took priority over getting things right? Police have the powers they should use them,” he said.

Julian’s attack came during debate on a conference motion on preventing child abuse.

Vince Cable to bolster apprenticeship pay

Plans to boost pay for thousands of apprentices have been unveiled by Liberal Democrat business secretary Vince Cable.

A proposal to create a single national minimum wage for 16 to 17-year-olds in work and first year of apprentices will be presented to the Low Pay Commission (LPC).

It would mean around 31,000 apprentices in the first year of their programme will benefit from a pay rise of more than £1 an hour.

Vince Cable hoped the move would encourage more young people to take up an apprenticeship.

He said: “The National Minimum Wage has successfully protected the incomes and jobs of the lowest paid workers in the UK.
“This year it will see the first above inflation rise in the minimum wage since the recession.

“Thanks to the Lib Dems, apprenticeships are helping to create a stronger economy and opportunities for young people. I want the minimum pay for apprentices boosted by £1 an hour.”

The proposal to the LPC would see wages will rise from £2.73 to £3.79 an hour on current rates. This will also help employers by simplifying pay structures.

In June 2014, Vince asked the LPC to consider whether the structure of the apprentice rate could be simplified to ensure apprentices get paid the right wage.

The LPC will make their recommendations, alongside the 2015 national minimum wage rates, in the Spring of 2015.

Government will then decide on any changes to the structure, based on the LPC’s recommendations.

Vince Cable to clarify and enhance workforce rights

Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has launched a major review aimed at shoring up workers’ rights.

The aim is to make sure people understand their employment rights, as well as ensuring bosses know what their staff are entitled to.

The review could help strengthen the employment status of up to one million British workers.

Vince said: “Workers should not be finding out that they are not protected by law once they get to employment tribunal.

“Businesses should feel more confident knowing what type of contracts to hire staff on.

“As the economy recovers, it is right to give a silent minority of workers, who currently have fewer employment rights, the security enjoyed by a majority of employees.

“The Liberal Democrats will ensure we will get a system that is fair, simple and transparent.”

The news follows a recent review into zero hours contracts, which revealed some workers could be missing out on basic rights such as maternity leave or unfair dismissal.

Vince Cable said in many cases workers are not aware of their employment status and what rights they are entitled.

Employers may also run the risk of a legal challenge because they may be unaware of rights they should give to their staff.

Business department officials expect to present interim findings by the end of the year, and hope to submit recommendations for next steps to ministers by March.

Vince Cable has also announced a ‘one stop shop’ for workers’ rights enforcement, which will go forward to the Lib Dem manifesto in 2015.

The new Workers’ Rights Agency, which would streamline the work of four existing bodies, will revamp efforts to enforce employment law and tackle the exploitation of workers.

It will include the national minimum wage enforcement section at HM Revenue and Customs, the working time directive section at the Health and Safety Executive, the Employment Agency Standards inspectorate, and the Gangmaster Licensing Authority.

Vince added: “A joined up enforcement approach will ensure the minority of unscrupulous employers who break the law do not get away with undercutting other employers who play by the rules.”

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Nick Clegg: We will transform the North into an economic powerhouse

Liberal Democrats in government will transform The North of England into an economic powerhouse, Nick Clegg has announced.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the party will boost transport infrastructure in the region by developing and implementing the “One North” proposals.

One North - a transport plan developed by key northern cities - will maximise economic growth across the region and will be feature prominently in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

Key infrastructure improvements include a new 125mph trans-Pennine rail route - connecting Greater Manchester to the eastern leg of HS2 between Leeds and Sheffield.

It also includes the upgrade and expansion of the M62, M60, M56, M6 and M61 motorways, as well as the electrification of existing trans-Pennine line and upgrades to the northern section of the East Coast mainline.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said at the party conference in Glasgow:

“For too long the North of England has been neglected by central government.

“To close the north-south gap we need better transport infrastructure in the region. This means better motorways and better railway connections.

“The Liberal Democrats will develop and implement the One North proposals advocated by local authorities across the region.

“We are putting our commitment to transport infrastructure at the front and centre of our election campaign in the north.

“The Liberal Democrats are committed to re-balancing the national economy.

“To build strong and powerful regions not only do we need to devolve power and money, we need to make sure that they have the infrastructure they need.”