Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Housing in a nutshell! (by Lib Dem PPC Sebastian Kindersley)

Many residents have asked us about our policies on Housing; we hope this clear and concise statement will help.

For far too long Britain has built many fewer homes than we need; unless we build enough to meet demand, year after year, we will find housing costs rise further out of reach.

That is why we have set an ambitious target of increasing the rate of house building to 300,000 a year. Within the first year of the next Parliament, we will publish a long-term plan that sets out how this goal will be achieved. Our plans will include:

  • At least ten new 'Garden Cities' in England, in areas where there is local support, providing tens of thousands of high quality new homes, with gardens and shared green space, jobs, schools and public transport. We will encourage rural local authorities to follow these principles on a smaller scale, too, developing new garden villages or suburbs as part of their plans for growth.
  • Up to five major new settlements along a "Garden Cities Railway" between Oxford and Cambridge. This will be subject to communities deciding for themselves to put forward their names for Garden City Status and will not be imposed upon them.
  • Ambitious targets for development on unwanted public sector sites through the Homes and Communities Agency, with local authorities given new powers to ensure development happens on any unused site in which the public sector has an interest.
  • A review of Compulsory Purchase legislation to facilitate site assembly, including for Garden Cities. We will also pilot techniques for capturing the increase in land values from the granting of planning permission, helping to deliver our Garden Cities.
  • A government commissioning programme to boost house building towards our 300,000 target; where the market alone fails to deliver sufficient numbers, government agencies will directly commission homes for sale and rent to fill the gap. We are already piloting this direct approach in Cambridgeshire.
  • A new government-backed Housing Investment Bank to provide long-term capital for major new settlements and help attract finance for major house building projects."

Julian Huppert comes out with top marks for his work as Cambridge MP

Julian Huppert has come out with top marks on a report card which reflects his performance during five years as Cambridge’s MP.

According to the website mpreportcard.co.uk he took part in more than twice as many debates as average, he attended more votes that average and he asked more than double the average number of written Parliamentary questions. In contrast, his expenses were £12,542 less than the average MP.

The report card compares the activities of all 650 MPs grading them on Parliamentary and constituency performance.

While dealing with more than 32,000 pieces of casework Julian, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Cambridge also replied to more letters sent through the website Write to Them than average.

Julian also put Cambridge before party loyalty voting against his party much more often than the average MP - in the top 10 per cent of rebellious MPs.

He said: “I have been honoured to stand up for Cambridge in Parliament and I have taken every opportunity possible to speak out on the issues that are important to our city and make sure our residents’ voices are heard.

“I have always put Cambridge first and voted against tuition fees, Andrew Lansley’s Health Bill and military action in Syria and Iraq because it was the right thing to do.

“I have campaigned hard to get an extra £23.2 million for our schools and almost the same again for our health services, including extra for mental health. I have fought for a fairer deal for rental sector tenants, to protect our independent shops and pubs and put cycling at the top of the government’s agenda.

“I also spent as much time as I could in the constituency, giving people the chance to meet me at my surgeries or raise issues through my constituency office which dealt with more than 32,000 pieces of casework on a huge range of issues.”

Julian’s report card shows that he:

  • Spoke 1,130 times in 686 debates – the average was 280 debates;
  • Attended 954 out of 1,239 votes – an attendance of 77 per cent – the average was 70 per cent
  • Answered 977 written questions – the average was 325;
  • Signed 802 Commons’ Early Day Motions – the average was 331.

Cambridge MP scores another victory over Labour at student hustings

Liberal Democrat Julian Huppert scored another victory over Labour at the latest student hustings, with Labour falling into third place at the end of the debate.

His performance at the event held by Anglia Ruskin Student Union, together with CamFM last night (Tuesday, April 28) represented a 6.5 per cent swing to the Liberal Democrats from Labour.

By contrast, Labour's vote share fell by almost 10 per cent from 29 per cent to start with to 19.1 per cent after all the candidates had spoken.

Julian's latest victory follows a similar impressive performance at the Cambridge Union where the Lib Dems again scored victory with a 12 per cent swing from Labour.

On that occasion, Julian started the evening with 17 per cent of the vote increasing to 39.5 per cent by the end of the hustings - a rise of 22.5 per cent - and taking an outright win.

In contrast, Labour began the evening on 24.2 per cent but lost votes over the evening.

Julian said: 'It is great to hear that when students listen to all the candidates, they are more likely to vote for me and less likely to vote Labour. I think students know I have stood up for them in Parliament, and share many of their values.

'They trusted me on tuition fees and I didn't let them down, sticking to my promise and voting against the fee increase. By contrast, the previous Labour MP promised not to introduce fees and then broke that promise.

'I have also fought to deliver financial help for post-graduate students, who normally had to pay their fees upfront. This caused huge problems for social mobility, and I am glad that after working with the NUS and others, our campaign was successful.

'I fought to get more money for our health services, including mental health, changed the law to ban revenge porn and campaigned for a fairer deal for rental sector tenants. When the students hear me speak they know that I am on their side and working for them.”

Student survey reflects Cambridge MP's concerns over mental health

Many Cambridge University students have suffered some form of mental health problem and struggled to get the treatment they needed even though most sought help, a survey by Julian Huppert has discovered.

The survey found that that 75 per cent of those who took part had experienced mental health issues either while at university or at another time.

Most said they would go to their GP for assistance but more than half said they would seek help from their colleges. Almost 40 per cent said they would look for answers on the internet.

But those who sought treatment had mixed experiences with many feeling they did not get the help the needed.

Although others found the treatment they received from their colleges was generally good they struggled to get an initial counselling appointment or were only offered a limited number of sessions because services were over-subscribed with long waiting lists.

One contributor to the survey said: “My experiences with mental health care are broadly on a par with those who have found space for their support. There are few who manage to receive help so quickly, and there are obvious downsides to this.”

Some of those surveyed were worried about the stigma of mental health problems and said it prevented them from seeking help and they worried that it would affect them getting jobs in the future.

“I was very depressed during my first two and a half years at university,” said one contributor, “though due to the stigma surrounding depression I didn’t inform anybody. I now regret waiting so long to seek treatment.”

Another said: “I'm scared of there being a physical record of it if I had a mental health issue (e.g. if future employers ever asked for a medical history) so would avoid seeking help unless I was absolutely desperate.”

Julian, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Cambridge said: “This survey produced some extremely worrying results and my thanks go to all these students who have taken the time to speak out so openly about the problems they have suffered.

“For decades we have seen chronic underfunding of mental health services leaving young people with mental health problems waiting far too long to get initial appointments. The stigma that still surrounds mental health is a further massive barrier people face in getting support.

“It is totally unacceptable that a young person can sometimes wait for months before receiving any support. In some cases, this can have tragic consequences. We know that early intervention can make a real difference to a young person in the longer term helping them to lead normal lives.

“But despite the fact that one in four of us will suffer a mental health problem during our lifetimes, only £1 in every £9 of NHS spending has been on specialist mental health problems in the past. I set out to change this, lobbying Parliament to call for more money for health and mental health in particular. As a result, in Cambridgeshire we received almost £23 million more including £4.2 million extra for mental health.

“But I want us to do much better than that which is why I launched my petition calling for an extra £500 million year-on-year nationally for mental health. And for the first time we have put spending on mental health on a par with physical health.

“We have begun introducing maximum waiting time standards for mental health - the first ones ever. We also invested £400 million to provide access to talking and psychological therapies and a further £150 million to provide extra care for those suffering from eating disorders.

“We transformed mental health crisis care with our Crisis Care Concordat, to which Cambridgeshire has signed up, which will promote more joined up working between health services and the police. And we have ended the detention of mentally ill young people in police cells.

“There is still so much more we can do. We need more research to find better treatments and we need to end the stigma around mental health so that people don’t think twice about seeking help in the same way as they would for a physical problem.”

Julian’s survey received responses from 289 students. 55.56 per cent had experienced a mental health problem while at university with a further 19.7 per cent experiencing it while they were not studying.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Conservative MEPs refuse to back EU targets to slash plastic bag use

MEPs are set to give the final seal of approval today to binding targets to cut plastic bag use in the EU by 80 per cent by 2025.

Conservative MEPs are expected to abstain in the vote, after having refused to back the new limits in a committee vote last month.

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder said:"This is a huge step forward in tackling the plastic waste in Europe's oceans that kills thousands of marine animals each year.

"Liberal Democrats had to fight tooth and nail against the Conservatives to ensure a 5p charge on plastic bags will be introduced in England later this year.

"By refusing to back these much-needed targets across the EU, Conservative MEPs have shown their true colours.

"Left to their own devices, the Tories would lurch to the right on green issues. Only Liberal Democrats in government will ensure the environment stays at the top of the agenda."

Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey added:
"This is another clear example that Conservatives simply can't be trusted to deliver on the green agenda. 
"In Government we've dragged them kicking and screaming to agree to Liberal Democrat priorities including charges for plastic bags. 
"It's essential to have Lib Dems in Government as a toxic BLUKIP alliance would see the green agenda ripped up."

New online election map for South Cambs voters

A new interactive polling station map has been launched, allowing South Cambridgeshire voters to check online where they can cast their vote on 7 May.

By putting their home postcode into our "Find your polling station" map, voters will be able to see the address and location of their polling station, plus which elections are being held in their village.

Election infographics are also available for the first time, showing which candidates are standing in the South Cambridgeshire Parliamentary and District Council elections and the results for the last time each seat was contested. The infographics can be found at General and Local Elections - 7 May 2015

As well voting for MPs in the South Cambridgeshire and South East Cambridgeshire constituencies, local elections are being held in 19 District Council wards and for four Parish Councils.

Jean Hunter, chief executive and elections returning officer at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “We want to encourage as many people to turn out to vote as possible on 7 May, so have brought as much election information together in one place as we can. We hope that voters will find our new map and infographics useful both in the run-up to election day and on the day itself.”

Lib Dems invite all primary pupils to sit down to free school dinner

All primary school children in Cambridge will benefit from free school meals under Liberal Democrat plans to extend the scheme.

Julian Huppert, who joined the pupils at the city’s Spinney School last September to find out how the initial phase of the plan was working, said the initiative would save money on the family budget and give children a healthy lunchtime meal.

The move would benefit more than 200,000 children across the East of England saving around £400 per child a year.

Julian, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Cambridge said: “Our free school meals have been well received in the city and it was great to see the youngsters at Spinney School enjoying lunch with their friends.

“Studies have shown than free school meals lead to children eating healthier food and improve concentration and results.

“We want to make sure that all children have the best chance to make the most of their education. Our free school meals for all primary children along with our Pupil Premium to help disadvantaged youngsters and free nursery school places go a long way to helping to achieve that.”