Thursday, 31 October 2013

Commissioner Welcomes Revised Victims' Code

Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Sir Graham Bright, has welcomed the revised Victims’ Code published earlier this week.

The new Victims’ Code will entitle victims to read their Victim Personal Statement out in court. The statutory Code will also:

  • Ensure enhanced support for victims of the most      serious crimes, persistently targeted victims or the most vulnerable/intimidated
  • Provide extra support to victims of stalking, domestic abuse, terrorism and families bereaved by violent crime
  • Ensure all victims are automatically referred to victims’ service by the police so that all victims receive consistent and immediate access to support services
  • Give victims a clearer means of redress if they are not given the support they deserve
  • Have a section written for young people and their parents or guardians so they can understand and take ownership of their journey through the Criminal Justice System, and
  • For the first time give businesses, who are victims of 9.2million crimes committed each year, will be able to have their say by writing an Impact Statement to explain to the court how a crime has affected them.

Sir Graham said: “I welcome anything that puts the victim in the driving position, ensuring they receive the necessary help in the aftermath of a crime committed against them. For many, the offence against them is only the start of what can seem to many to be a traumatic process and it is our collective duty to ensure they are effectively supported throughout the criminal justice system.

“The Code is recognition of the importance of victim’s specific needs. While many victims may choose not to read out a personal statement, those who do will undoubtedly feel that they have been given a voice that, in the past, may not have been heard. That very personal testament is an important aspect of ensuring that the offender understands the emotional impact of their offence on the individual.

“But it is not only the individuals who are given a voice through the revised Code. I am also encouraged to see recognition given to businesses who are victims of crime. Some offenders choose to view crimes against businesses as victimless crimes when this simply is not true as these offences can have a much wider impact on both the business itself and the local community. I believe that the Impact Statement will help to shine a light on the problems many businesses face as a result of crime committed against them.”

Stay Safe During Tomorrow's Strike Before Bonfire Night

Everyone in Cambridgeshire is urged to Be Safer... Be Slower... Be Vigilant between 6.30pm and 11pm tomorrow (Friday, November 1), while a national Fire Brigade Union strike goes ahead.

Residents are urged to be extra safe with bonfire and firework celebrations during this time and pay even more attention to the 'Be Safer... Be Slower... Be Vigilant' message during the planned strike action.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service will still continue to function during industrial action but it will have reduced cover. This means incidents involving a life risk will take priority.

Chris Strickland, Deputy Chief Fire Officer at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "We would like to reassure members of the public that we will still be able to attend 999 calls, where a person's life is at risk, including house fires, road traffic collisions and vehicle fires. We will attend using fully trained fire and rescue service officers to crew our fire engines.

"As this second strike falls on the Friday before Bonfire Night, just before Diwali and coincides with half term, people need to be really careful with fireworks and bonfires. As always, if you want to see fireworks, it's safer to go to organised displays than setting off your own and lighting bonfires.

"By embracing the Be Safer... Be Slower... Be Vigilant motto, members of the public can greatly assist us by reducing their chances of dialling 999."

Residents can help to reduce their chances of dialling 999 on Friday by doing the following:
  • Visiting an organised firework display rather than holding one in their garden. 
  • Taking greater care on the road during Friday night rush hour. 
  • Ensuring homes have smoke alarms that are tested regularly 
  • Take extra care when cooking and smoking
  • A second strike date is planned for Monday, November 4, from 6am until 8am, and during this time motorists especially are asked to take extra care.
For further information on the strike and further safety advice, log onto www.cambsfire.gov.uk

Cambridge City: Interested In Becoming A Councillor Next May?

Elections for 14 of the 42 seats on Cambridge city council will take place on Thursday 22 May 2014.

Anyone interested in becoming a city councillor is invited to come along to an information briefing on Wednesday 6 November, 6:30 – 7:30 pm in the committee rooms of the Guildhall.

The briefing will cover how the council works, what being a councillor involves, how councillors are elected and key dates for the next election.  Anyone is welcome to attend – there is no need to book.

Cambridge City Council chief executive Antoinette Jackson said:  “Being a city councillor is an interesting and varied role and it is important that our councillors have different backgrounds and experiences so they can best represent all Cambridge people.

“Healthy local democracy is essential if the city council is to offer a good quality of service to all its residents.

“Councillors don’t necessarily have to be associated with a political party.

“I hope anyone who is interested in being a city councillor will take the opportunity to attend the information briefing.”

Further information is available on the city council’s website at www.cambridge.gov.uk/would-you-like-to-be-a-councillor.

Deadline For 2014 Secondary School Applications ** TODAY **

Just a quick reminder that today is the deadline for Secondary School applications in Cambridgeshire.

Parents in Cambridgeshire who have a child born between 1 September 2002 and 31 August 2003 must submit an application for a secondary school place to Cambridgeshire County Council by 31 October 2013.

Parents of children who are transferring from middle school to upper school must also apply for a school place by today.

The process, which opened on 12 September 2013, can be completed online at www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/admissions or by returning a paper form, which can be obtained from any Cambridgeshire primary school. The form must be returned to the Admissions Team at the County Council.

The completed applications must be received by the Admissions Team by the national closing date, midnight on 31 October 2013.

If parents submit their applications late - or do not make an application - there is a risk that their child will not be offered a place at one of their preferred schools, including their catchment school. Other children’s applications - those received by the deadline - will be processed ahead of theirs.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Five-Year-Old Reuben Raises Money For Fostering Charity

Foster carers, their children and staff from Cambridgeshire County Council took part in the Walk the Difference fundraising campaign in support of Sons and Daughters week.

Over 150 people showed their support by walking the 5-mile route covering a number of London’s bridges, with their friends and family. The event helped to raise funds for the Sons and Daughter of Foster Carers charity and generate funds for the Fostering Network.

In October Cambridgeshire’s Fostering service celebrated its annual event (Children Who Foster) and provided a funded activity day in recognition of the important contributions that children of foster carers make.

Foster Carer Vicki Allen said: “We wanted to take part in the event not only to raise money but also to celebrate the Sons and Daughters of Foster Carers. I am extremely proud of Reuben, he shares his mummy and his home with babies we foster and he gives them as much love and care as I do. We are a team and had a great day together in our favourite city. Reuben said it was good exercise and was really excited, we are pleased to say that we raised £200.”

Sam Pett, the County Council’s Team Co-ordinator for Fostering, added: “We had a really enjoyable day and took our time to enjoy the sights. I really felt passionate about the walk and it is my personal way of saying thank you to all of our children and young people.

“I am glad that I was able to raise money and also help promote and encourage more foster carers to come forward and support us.”

Foster carers provide a stable family support network for local children and young people when they are unable to live with their own family. If anyone can offer stability, security and the positive experience of a loving family then the fostering service wants to hear from you.

Ofgem and Scottish Power

Ofgem has fined Scottish Power for breach of licence conditions. We welcome the conclusion of Ofgem’s investigation.  The outcome clearly demonstrates that energy companies will not be allowed to get away with bad practice.

The Government is giving Ofgem powers, through the Energy Bill, to require energy companies to make direct payment to consumers harmed by such activities rather than rely on a voluntary approach.

We want to help hard-pressed households with their bills. That’s why we’re legislating to force energy companies to put people on their lowest tariffs. We’re also encouraging more competition in the energy market and shale gas exploration to bring prices down.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Stay Firework Safe On Strike Night

Residents are urged to be extra safe with bonfire and firework celebrations on Friday (November 1), as Fire Brigade Union (FBU) members prepare to take industrial action during the evening.

The public are encouraged to pay even more attention to the 'Be Safer... Be Slower... Be Vigilant' message during planned strike action from 6.30pm until 11pm on Friday (November 1), owing to the festive time of year.

Residents across the county should be reassured that Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service has back up plans in place to ensure it can still answer 999 calls. These plans will not match the Service's normal day-to-day cover, but will be enough to ensure that life-threatening incidents, such as house fires, road traffic collisions and vehicle fires received a 999 response.

Chris Strickland, Deputy Chief Fire Officer at CFRS, said: "The strike falls on the Friday before Bonfire Night. It is just before Diwali and coincides with half term, so people need to be really careful with fireworks and bonfires.

"Some residents will be planning to hold their own firework celebrations on Friday and we are urging them if possible to rearrange their plans to another evening. If you want to see fireworks, it's safer to go to organised displays than setting off your own and lighting bonfires.

"If you do decide to light a bonfire or fireworks, please follow simple safety measures to stay safe. By preparing to follow this guidance, members of the public can greatly assist us by reducing their chances of dialling 999."

Residents can help to reduce their chances of dialling 999 on Friday by doing the following
  • Visiting an organised firework display rather than holding one in their garden.
  • Taking greater care on the road during Friday night rush hour. 
  • Ensuring homes have smoke alarms that are tested regularly 
  • Take extra care when cooking and smoking
  • A second strike date is planned for Monday, November 4, from 6am until 8am.
For further information on the strike and further safety advice, log onto www.cambsfire.gov.uk

Building A Stronger Economy And A Fairer Society

Only the Liberal Democrats can be trusted to anchor Britain in the centre ground by building a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling every person to get on in life.

That’s why in government we have:

  • Fixed the mess left by Labour
  • Reduced the deficit by a third
  • Kept interest rates down
  • Helped business create over a million jobs
  • Eased the squeeze on household budgets
  • Cutting income tax by £700 for 24 million people
  • Giving every 5, 6 and 7 year old a free school meal daily
  • Giving 15 hours free child care to all 3 and 4 year olds and 40% of 2 year olds
  • Freezing fuel duty
  • Delivering the biggest ever cash rise in the state pension

Voters face three choices in the coming election. A left-wing Labour party, a right-wing Tory party or a liberal party of the centre ground. Neither Labour nor the Tories can be trusted to govern Britain from the centre ground.

Labour can't be trusted with the economy. In government, they borrowed and borrowed and nearly bankrupted Britain. Now they want to borrow even more, putting everyone at risk all over again.

The Tories can’t be trusted to treat people fairly or protect your freedoms. That's why we have blocked Tory plans in government to:

  1. Allow bosses to fire staff for no reason
  2. Let local schools be run for profit
  3. Introduce a ‘snooper’s charter’ that would force internet service providers to keep records of all your texts and emails

Now, with your support, we want to keep building a stronger economy and a fairer society by:

  1. Increasing our income tax cut for low and middle earners by lifting the point at which you start paying from £10 000 to £12 500 a year, saving 24 million people another £500. 
  2. Helping business create a million more jobs by promoting apprenticeships, giving financial support to promising businesses, protecting the science budget to drive innovation and cutting business tax.

Let's never go back to the way things were, because Labour can't be trusted with your money and the Tories can't be trusted to treat people fairly.

Only the Liberal Democrats in government can be trusted to anchor Britain in the centre ground and build a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling every person to get on in life.

Liberal Democrats on Cyber Defence

As we transform our Armed Forces to face future threats, it is vital that we protect our networks from cyber espionage or attack. The Joint Cyber Reserve Unit will ensure we can draw on the latest specialist expertise from industry and civilian life.

We are using a flexible approach to recruitment for the cyber reserves, with more flexible eligibility criteria in relation to age, medical and fitness in order to attract the most skilled and talented personnel.

When addressing the issue of criminal convictions, all applications to the Armed Forces, whether they are regular or reserve forces, are looked at on an individual basis and decisions are made on the type of conviction and the sentence imposed. They would still be required to go through the security and vetting process as well as other selection criteria related to their suitability.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Dedicated Firefighter Is Recognised For 30 Years' Service

Thirty years of jumping out of bed in the middle of the night and fighting fires has been "all for the community" for one firefighter who has received a long-service award.

Alan Baker was presented with his award at Linton Fire Station on Wednesday (October 23) for completing 30 years of service as a firefighter at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service¿s on-call station.

The 59-year-old architectural technician joined the Service after moving to Linton from nearby Ashdon in 1983, and has experienced many incidents and seen numerous changes in the 30 years.

When Alan joined the Service, it was "all yellow plastic over trousers, heavy thick fire tunics and a helmet made of cork" - a far cry from the top quality firefighting kit of today.

About his role as an on-call firefighter, he said: "What I like about the job is you just do not know what to expect when the bells go down. It is varied to the extreme. It might be an automatic fire alarm in a factory or it could be anything from a road traffic collision with persons trapped or a house fire with persons reported.

"It is a great job that for me has become a serious hobby. We are a group of guys who have trades outside of the fire service and the fire service benefits from these trades at certain times when we are at an incident, whether that trade is building construction, plumbing or computing.

"The way I see it, is there are no firefighters in Linton - but two electricians, one alarm engineer, one airport firefighter, one computer engineer, one shop assistant, one house husband, one night shift worker, one building contractor and one architectural technician, who attended 87 calls last year to help keep their community safe."

The father-of-two grown-up children fits his on-call firefighting around his architectural work and home life and said his friends and partner Heather, who also gets woken up when his alerter goes off at 3am for a job, are incredibly flexible.

Alan, of Back Road, said: "During my 30 years as a firefighter I have attended so many incidents it is impossible to count. There have been thatch fires, house fires, rescued people from house fires and released people from road traffic collisions.

"But I will always remember working with a friend, Nigel Darling, who is sadly no longer with us, on a fire at Foxton Hall. We had been in the job about six years and we went in to the building wearing breathing apparatus to help extinguish a fire in the roof on the first floor. We were trying to pull the ceiling down for about 15 minutes. We stopped to take a rest and we both stepped back to stand in a wide doorway. Literally seconds later the whole ceiling dropped down in front of us.

"Above all, we are serving the community in which we live. I prefer to say `helping' rather than `serving' because we are a fire and rescue service and our community only call us when they need our help; but I am sure they feel safer knowing we are there in case they need us."

And Alan doesn't intend on hanging up his fire boots yet. He explained: "When my alerter goes off at some unearthly time of the night I still jump out of bed, pull on my jeans, slide my feet into a pair trainers, grab a t-shirt and as I run downstairs, check that I have a sock in each pocket - no socks means blisters and you don't want that - and get to the fire station as soon as I can.

"The time I will give up is that time when my alerter goes off and I stop to look at the clock to see what the time is."

The 30-year award was presented to Alan at the station's drill night by Area Commander Maurice Moore, who himself started out his own career in Linton.

Maurice added: "These days, it is exceptional for on-call firefighters to complete 30 years service to the community. It requires real commitment and dedication with modern day pressures to serve this length of time at a fire station. We commend Alan for his service and dedication to the people of his community."

One Week To Go - You Choose How To Spend County Council Budget

‘You Choose’ is a county-wide interactive survey which has been running since September, asking residents to put themselves in the seat of councillors in making decisions where to invest and save money.

Cambridgeshire County Council is expected to make further savings over the next year of around £39 million. This is following savings of £42 million last year, and a further £32 million this current financial year. These savings have to be made whilst supporting and investing in services such as adult social care, protecting children, boosting the economy and looking after roads and transport.

People have had the opportunity to show the Council how they would balance the budget, by cutting funding in areas or raising council tax to balance the books. But the survey closes on November 1 and there is just a week to make sure you have your say.

So far we have had an excellent response from door-to-door surveying. Hundreds of people have also told us what they think via the online survey itself. With one week to go, the Council is inviting people to have their final say and what the authority should prioritise.

Please get involved and fill out the survey here

So far some of the things we fund that people have been looking at include:
  • services that help people get around the county
  • mental health services for adults in the county
  • long-term investments
  • the County’s property portfolio
  • Using more services online
If people are unable to complete the web survey , comments about the Council’s priorities or ideas for delivering services better or more efficiently can be sent to:
Research & Performance Team: Budget Consultation,
SH1306 Shire Hall,
Castle Hill,
Cambridge CB3 0AP
Councillor Martin Curtis, Leader of the County Council said: "Councils across the land have some hard decisions to make and we want Cambridgeshire residents to have a big say in ours. You Choose puts residents at the heart of the decision making, having to face the challenges we do to balance the budget. No decisions have bean made at this point, but like last year, the suggestions and priorities indicated by residents will help shape the budget.

"The County Council services are very wide-ranging and touch everyone’s lives. From looking after young people and adults during vulnerable periods in their lives to maintaining the County’s roads and recycling rubbish. But with less money from Government and increasing demographic and inflation pressures we have to find millions of pounds in savings while delivering front line services.

"The County Council has worked hard to be efficient and we saved £42 million last year, and a further £32 million this current financial year. But next year we have to find further savings of £39 million. You Choose is an easy to use survey which will put residents right at the heart of making those decisions and we can use this to help shape our budget and priorities for the future."

The survey closes on Friday, 1 November. Anybody requiring assistance with YouChoose please email research.performance@cambridgeshire.gov.uk or call us on 01223 715300.

Awdry House Just The Ticket For Delivery Of Local Services

A new purpose built Council facility was officially opened in Wisbech today (October 28) to make it easier for people to access a range of services under one roof.

Awdry House, which replaces several outdated properties in the town, is next door to the College of West Anglia.

It houses several teams from Children's Services, including locality teams, social care, children’s centres, family intervention, statutory assessment and resources, youth offending, support for learning and learners with learning disabilities and/or difficulties.

The building also contains the registration service, the community engagement team and YMCA partner services. All these services provide support to the communities of Wisbech.

Construction was completed on time and has recently been reported as delivering an underspend of £600,000 against the original budget of £6.5 million.

The investment comes as part of the Wisbech 2020 vision to encourage jobs, improve the economy and improve service delivery for the people of Wisbech.

Awdry House was officially opened by County Council Chairman Cllr Kevin Reynolds and Council Leader Cllr Martin Curtis. They were joined by local Councillors, headteachers, partners Fenland District Council, contractors Morgan Sindall and Fusion Project Management, some of the services from Awdry House and officers from the Council who helped deliver the project.

Building was finished earlier this year and people have been relocating to the offices throughout the summer. Teams have moved from a number of buildings that were in a poor condition, were unsuitable and were unfit for purpose. A number of these buildings were also leased and this is something the Council is keen to move away from.

Occupants and users of the office are already seeing the benefits of the services being co-located together in this brand new facility

Lisa Riddle, Wisbech Locality Manager, said: “We've noticed customers and staff are much happier in the new building, which really is a big improvement as we now have a range of flexible meeting spaces, and better IT facilities. There's also been a benefit to us as a result of bringing together several of the Children's teams into one location and we are also able to link up more easily with other educational establishments in the area.”

The public chose to name Awdry House after voting on the Shape Your Place website. The building was named after Reverend Wilbert Awdry (1911-1997) who was Vicar of Emneth near Wisbech from 1953-1965 and was also the author of the famous Thomas the Tank Engine children's books.

The development of Awdry House next door to the College of West Anglia is part of a larger investment on the College site, totalling £13 million. As part of the same construction contract a new technology centre was built to provide the college students with state-of-the-art workshop facilities for engineering, motorsports, motor vehicle engineering and electrical and electro-technical programmes.

This building was funded by Cambridgeshire County Council (£5 million), Fenland District Council (£1.5 million) and the College themselves. Construction for this building was completed in March 2013. The two projects were very closely linked and were developed with a planned time lag between them so a single construction contractor (Morgan Sindall) could carry out the work in the most cost effective way.

County Council Leader Martin Curtis, said: “This is a substantial investment in Wisbech and the local community. It brings many of the Council’s services together in one place, making it easier for the community to access them. This is part of a wider programme of improvements through the Wisbech 2020 Vision that we have been working with partners on to encourage jobs, improve the economy and raise the quality of life.”

Local People To Have Their Say On Highway Improvements

Cambridgeshire County Council is again giving local communities a chance to have a real voice in deciding on highways improvements in their area.

The Council is inviting communities to apply for funding which has been made available for the next financial year, and parish councils, community and residents groups and charities are all eligible to apply.

Successful projects will be those providing highway improvements that benefit the local community. For example, better signing and road markings, pedestrian improvements, parking controls or dropped kerbs.

Applicants can seek up to £10,000 as a County Council contribution to their scheme with an expectation that they will provide 10% or more of the overall cost. The County Council is also offering loan facilities for those who wish to spread their contribution over 2 or 3 years.

County Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Highways and Community Infrastructure, Councillor Mac McGuire, said: “We know that local people know local needs, so we are giving communities a real say about what goes on in their area. This funding presents a real opportunity for them to put forward ideas for improvements to the highway network that will benefit everyone in their area and to work in partnership with the county council – it’s localism in action.”

Applicants have until December 9 to submit details of their scheme and an application form is available online at:
http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/transport/localism/highway-improvements.htm

Stoptober - It's Not Too Late To Quit



Smokers are being reminded that it’s not too late to stub out for good and turn this Stoptober into something really special.
Stoptober is a mass quitting attempt where people across the country get support to become smoke free for good.
The campaign is well under way in Cambridgeshire, but health chiefs at the County Council want local people to know that they can still join in and ditch the habit.
CAMQUIT, the local stop smoking service, would love to hear from smokers and offer a detailed step by step programme on how to quit.  For more information and to join the biggest stop smoking challenge of its kind, visit smokefree.nhs.uk/Stoptober or contact CAMQUIT on 0800 018 4304.

Research shows if people stop smoking for 28 days they are four times more likely to stay smokefree.  Longer-term, those who stop smoking reduce their risk of heart disease and lung cancer as well as protecting others from their second hand smoke.
Claire Mead, CAMQUIT co-ordinator, said: “It’s really not too late to quit this Stoptober and Camquit is here to support you every step of the way towards your goal of being smoke free. You will save money, experience physical improvements including a better sense of smell and taste and more energy.

“Willpower alone isn’t always enough so ring CAMQUIT your local NHS stop smoking for information and support on 0800 018 4304 or visit www.camquit.nhs.ukto find out how.”

County Council Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Councillor Tony Orgee, said: "I  absolutely support Stoptober, which will help cut the number of people who smoke and reduce the possible health problems it can cause. Smoking is one of the biggest causes of premature death in Cambridgeshire each year. I’d urge smokers across the county to take part in Stoptober and achieve something special.”

For more information and to join the biggest stop smoking challenge of its kind, visit smokefree.nhs.uk/Stoptober or contact CAMQUIT on 0800 018 4304Smokers wanting to quit can also access Camquit's stop smoking services all year round.

Liberal Democrats, Immigration, and Immigration Vans

Liberal Democrats believe we should have a firm but fair immigration system that is tolerant to those who live, work and contribute here but intolerant of abuse. However, these vans crossed a line. They were divisive and, ultimately, counter-productive.

The ‘go home’ poster vans were not cleared or agreed by Liberal Democrats in Government and we made clear we would not support any expansion of the scheme.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Cambridgeshire Herald - October 2013

The latest edition of Cambridgeshire Herald has just been published and is in the process of being delivered throughout the County. This issue has the following stories;

  • Cambs Economy Gets European Funding Boost
  • Duff Backs Campaign For Better Local Train Services
  • Using Your Mobile Abroad Has Just Got Cheaper Thanks To MEPs
  • Better Together
  • Lib Dem MEP Concerned About Anglo-American Snooping
  • Fishing More Sustainable As Discarding Fish Is Banned
  • Getting A Fair Deal From The Banks 1 & 2
  • Deliveries Go Green As Bike And Trikes Replace Vans
  • Get Lorries Off The A14 Onto Rail
  • Don't Let The Criminals Get Away - European Arrest Warrant Must Stay Says Duff

If you'd like to contact Andrew Duff MEP then his address is;
Andrew Duff
Orwell House,
Cowley Road
Cambridge
CB4 0PP
Alternatively you can telephone him on 01223 566700, email at mep@andrewduffmep.org, or via his website at www.andrewduff.eu.

Change.org: David Cameron: Stop The 11% Pay Rise For MPs' Salaries (New Petition)

Seriously ... ?
Within weeks David Cameron will be making a decision on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority recommendation for a 11% pay rise on MPs' salaries.

That's a little over four times the September inflation rate of 2.7% - just in case you needed a sense of perspective.

The initial argument was that the 11% was justified because MP's would be giving up their generous expense accounts - not that's changed and they want the 11% rise *as well* as the generous expense accounts.

Given the current state of the economy, the cuts to education, the NHS, and the police forces it's beyond belief that MP's could even consider voting themselves an 11% pay rise. The idea that it's harder to be an MP than a trauma nurse, or a front-line police officer just shows how completely deluded anyone who would think of supporting this rise is.

The online petition against the rise is available here;

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-cameron-stop-the-11-pay-rise-for-mps-salaries

It's slightly disappointing, and you can think of this as a "top tip" when you're setting up petitions like this if you really want everyone to sign, that the person who created this petition seems to be dragging in many side-issues such as the press royal charter (which has literally nothing to do with this) but also the bonus culture, and "the actions of this government" whilst giving the previous Labour government a pass on getting us all into this mess in the first place.

Anyway, despite these reservations I am strongly opposed to an 11% rise for MP's - please sign the petition!


Liberal Democrats and Motoring

We have announced measures to help motorists to cut the cost of running a car by freezing MOT prices, cracking down on whiplash fraud and announcing a new scheme that will reduce the cost of fuel at motorway service stations.

The cost of running a car can still be high. Thanks to changes we've made to no-win, no-fee deals and action on rogue claims firms, motor insurance has already dropped by 12 per cent – the equivalent of an £80 reduction on an average policy.

We’re also taking action to clamp down on people who cheat the insurance system and force up the price for everyone else, so that from next year whiplash fraudsters will be targeted by new independent medical panels.

In addition, the maximum prices of an MOT test for a car will be frozen until 2015, potentially saving up to £50m for drivers each year, and trialling new road signs comparing motorway fuel prices at different service stations. This will help hard-pressed people by tackling high insurance premiums and bearing down on some of the key costs of running a car.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Last Week in the EU

Liberal Democrats were pleased to emerge as the only major party making gains in last Sunday's general election in Luxembourg. Though not the largest party, we may yet secure the prime ministerial role in a Liberal-SocDem-Green coalition. As in Germany, however, it may take a number of weeks for the parties to agree the new coalition.

The tiny republic of San Marino voted in a referendum the same day to apply to join the EU (though only by the narrowest of margins). I imagine we might see other micro states do the same as the crackdown on tax evasion renders their 'offshore' status less attractive.
 
The European Parliament met in Strasbourg. On Tuesday in committee and on Thursday on the floor of the house an emergency measure was approved in the form of a draft amending budget to prevent the European Commission running out of money to pay its bills (which might seem vaguely familiar). Part of this was also to secure from the 28 member states sufficient flexibility in budgetary rules to prevent such a near crisis happening more regularly (which might also ring a few bells). 

It looks like the heads of state are attempting to have things both ways; calling for cuts in the overall EU budget whilst at the same time insisting the EU does more and more things.
 
The highlight of the week was the visit by Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma/Myanmar, who came to the foreign affairs committee on Monday evening and to the floor of the House on Tuesday to collect the Sakharov prize she was awarded in absentia 23 years ago. She also met the 28 member state foreign ministers in the EU's Council of Ministers.
 
On Wednesday Parliament voted at second reading to reject proposals for public aid to fishermen to modernise their fishing boats (other than for the purchase of more fuel-efficient engines). Aid should be available to compensate fishermen for spending fewer days at sea. The final shape of this final measure in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy must now be taken in 'co-decision' between Council (the 28 fisheries ministers or their representatives) and Parliament.

Changes To Elections: Opting Out Of The Edited Register ** DON'T MISS YOUR CHANCE **

By now everyone in Bar Hill and the surrounding villages will have received their application form to register to vote in the 2014 elections. Unfortunately this year South Cambridgeshire District Council has decided that it's not going to carry across the option to "opt out" of the publicly available edited register - requiring everyone to re-state their intention to not make their details publicly available to marketing companies.

It's quite disappointing that South Cambs have decided to adopt this approach. While national guidance has been issued that, broadly, states;
In order to comply with Section 11 (Right to prevent processing for purposes of direct marketing) of the Data Protection Act Councils should not carry forward your preference unless the Notice has been completed.
This has not stopped other Councils pre-ticking the "out put" box on people's forms if they had it ticked in previous years - something South Cambs has decided not to do.

The following form was included in the pack in case you missed it;

South Cambs: Changes to the Edited Register of Electors
I think it's quite poor that the Council has chosen to make it unnecessarily hard to opt out and I'll be checking to see what effect this change has had when the edited register is published (i.e. how many additional people have been included in the marketing register because of this change).


Nick Clegg on Qualified Teachers in Education

In his speech a few days ago Nick Clegg said:

“Parents don’t want ideology to get in the way of their children’s education. They don’t care about the latest political label attached to their child’s school. What they want, and expect, is that their children are taught by good teachers, get taught a core body of knowledge, and get a healthy meal every day.

“What is the point of having a slimmed-down national curriculum if only a few schools have to teach it? Let’s teach it in all our schools.  And what is the point of having brilliant new food standards if only a few schools have to stick to the rules? Let’s have quality food in all our schools.

“That’s my philosophy. Diversity amongst schools, yes. But good universal standards all parents can rely on too.  And, frankly, it makes no sense to me to have qualified teacher status if only a few schools have to employ qualified teachers.

“That’s why I believe we should have qualified teachers in all our schools. That means free schools and academies too. “

Why did Liberal Democrats vote for Gove’s school reforms?

Liberal Democrats are strong supporters of more freedom and autonomy for schools, so voted for the Academies Act in 2010.  There was nothing in the Act that meant academies were no longer required to employ qualified teachers.  The requirement was removed by Michael Gove in August 2012 and did not require legislation.

We are clear that in 2015 Liberal Democrats will have a distinctive offer on education, supporting school freedom but underpinned by some basic standards that all parents can expect for their child.

Do David Laws and Nick Clegg disagree on this?

David Laws and Nick Clegg both voted for the party’s policy on qualified teachers in March 2013 and David Laws has been closely involved in writing this speech.

In the House of Commons on Thursday David Laws stated very clearly that “we want to ensure that teachers in schools have good qualifications and the capacity to teach”.  Schools can bring in experts to take occasional lessons and many do an excellent job – but full time classroom teachers should have a professional qualification.

Liberal Democrats on Better Care in the UK's Hospitals

We want to build a fairer society and that means providing better care in every hospital. Following the Francis Inquiry, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has introduced radical changes to hospital inspections, with a new Chief Inspector, Sir Mike Richards, leading significantly larger inspection teams which are headed up by clinical and other experts.

This next step will help to give the CQC a good picture of risk within trusts. Patient safety should be the first in everything the NHS does and we expect the CQC to act where it finds failings of care.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Prison Reforms For Women Will Improve Family Life And Employment Opportunities

The reforms will provide employment opportunities for low risk offenders.

Prison service staff will be responsible for forging links with local employers and providing practical training so offenders are able to join the workforce on release.

Next year we will be piloting a new open unit at HMP Styal focused on helping women into jobs on release. Only thoroughly risk-assessed female offenders would be eligible to be located there.

These reforms will help build on a falling female prison population, down by 10 per cent since 2010, alongside falling crime rates.

Commenting, Lord McNally said:
"When a female offender walks out of the prison gates, I want to make sure she never returns.

"Keeping female prisoners as close as possible to their homes, and importantly their children, is vital if we are to help them break the pernicious cycle of re-offending.

"And providing at least a year of support in the community, alongside the means to find employment on release, will give them the best possible chance to live productive, law abiding lives."

Liberal Democrats In Government Driving Economic Growth

The figures show Britain's economic growth of 0.8% with a 2.5% rise in construction.

Today's figures show the economy is growing and that Liberal Democrats in Government have helped to stabilise the economy. This recovery would not be happening without Liberal Democrats in Government.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:
"Today's GDP figures are encouraging and show that we are firmly on the road to economic recovery.

"This Government has set Britain on the right course by repairing the country's finances and helping to create 1.4 million new private sector jobs.

"We must continue to work hard to build a stronger economy and do it fairly, with investment in jobs and measures such as the increased personal tax allowance putting more money in the pockets of hard-working people."

Nick Clegg And Julian Huppert Visit Sunflower Nursery

Nick Clegg was in Cambridge today promoting the Lib Dem's extension of free childcare to 2-year-olds. The scheme that started in September. Nick said this will make a "huge difference" to families struggling with the cost of living. It will ensure  that 130,000 2-year-olds from the poorest backgrounds will be given 15 hours of free childcare at nurseries like Sunflower.

Sunflower welcomed Nick, and have said that "additional funding for childcare will undoubtedly help parents to work and train". They also took the opportunity to raise with Nick how the scheme could be improved for those wishing to work full-time.

Nick also took the opportunity to praise Julian's work in Cambridge, with his typical concise manner.

Nick said - “if one looks at what Julian has done both locally, but also what he’s achieving nationally, I very much hope and certainly believe that Julian will be re-elected.”

Two Further FBU Strike Dates Announced

'Be Safer... Be Slower... Be Vigilant' is the message being reiterated to the public after the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) announced its members plan to take further industrial action.

The FBU has set two dates on which its members are to strike; Friday, November 1, from 6.30pm until 11pm, and Monday, November 4, from 6am until 8am.

Residents across the county should be reassured that Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service has back up plans in place to ensure it can still answer 999 calls. These plans will not match the Service's normal day-to-day cover, but will be enough to ensure that life-threatening incidents, such as house fires, road traffic collisions and vehicle fires received a 999 response.

Householders are also being reminded to start making preparations to ensure their chances of dialling 999 in the coming weeks are reduced, by following the 'Be Safer... Be Slower... Be Vigilant' routine:
  • Take extra care when you are cooking or smoking
  • Continue to dial 999 as normal. Be aware that calls could be prioritised
  • Smoke alarms - Make sure you've got one and check it works
  • Know what to do in the event of a fire - get out, stay out and dial 999
  • Share fire safety - Talk to friends and family (visit www.cambsfire.gov.uk for advice)
Non-residential premises are being reminded to prepare by ensuring their legislative duties are up to date:
  • Fire risk assessments should be in place and current
  • Fire safety management should be taking place - particularly around fire alarms, firefighting equipment and staff training
Chris Strickland, Deputy Chief Fire Officer at CFRS, said: "As a small service, the impact of industrial action is inevitably highly disruptive as it requires us to stop doing a lot of our normal day-to-day activities so we can support our frontline services.

"We would like to reassure members of the public that we will still be able to attend 999 calls, where a person's life is at risk, including house fires, road traffic collisions and vehicle fires. We will be doing this by using fully trained fire and rescue service officers to crew our fire engines.

"By preparing to follow this guidance, members of the public and non-residential premises can greatly assist us by reducing their chances of dialling 999."

For further information on the strike and further safety advice, log onto www.cambsfire.gov.uk

You Choose How To Spend County Council Budget

You Choose Website
Residents are being put in the budget setting driving seat by Cambridgeshire County Council.

‘You Choose’ is a county-wide survey, recently launched to ask residents to put themselves in the seat of councillors in making decisions where to invest and save money.

Cambridgeshire County Council is expected to make further savings over the next year of around £39 million. This is following savings of £42 million last year, and a further £32 million this current financial year. These savings have to be made whilst supporting and investing in services such as adult social care, protecting children, boosting the economy and looking after roads and transport.

Cambridgeshire Residents are being asked to give us their views on where we should be saving money, through an online consultation and face-to-face surveys. The consultation is set up to appear as a budget simulator, allowing residents to show the County Council what decisions they would make regarding Council Tax levels and individual service levels and budgets.

It means residents will deal with similar choices and pressures to those councillors face when trying to balance the budget. This year the budget has to be balanced with 7.1 per cent less money from Government and increased pressures on services from inflation and rising demography.

It has been designed to be easy to use so that people can see what effects their decisions have. No decisions have been made by the Council and the choices and options are indicative of some of the issues being faced.

If people are unable to complete the web survey at http://www.youchoose.yougov.com/Cambridgeshire comments about the Council’s priorities or ideas for delivering services better or more efficiently can be sent to:
Research & Performance Team: Budget Consultation,
SH1306 Shire Hall,
Castle Hill,
Cambridge CB3 0AP
Councillor Martin Curtis, Leader of the County Council said: “Councils across the land have some hard decisions to make and we want Cambridgeshire residents to have a big say in ours. You Choose puts residents at the heart of the decision making, having to face the challenges we do to balance the budget. No decisions have bean made at this point, but like last year, the suggestions and priorities indicated by residents will help shape the budget.

“The County Council services are very wide-ranging and touch everyone’s lives. From looking after young people and adults during vulnerable periods in their lives to maintaining the County’s roads and recycling rubbish. But with less money from Government and increasing demographic and inflation pressures we have to find millions of pounds in savings while delivering front line services.

“The County Council has worked hard to be efficient and we saved £42 million last year, and a further £32 million this current financial year. But next year we have to find further savings of £39 million. You Choose is an easy to use survey which will put residents right at the heart of making those decisions and we can use this to help shape our budget and priorities for the future.”

The consultation closes on November 1.

Community Rail Partnership Signing Is Just The Ticket

A groundbreaking Community Rail Partnership has been signed at Meldreth Station to help protect and enhance local rail services in the area.

The Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group, which last year won three national awards, has been working closely with First Capital Connect to draw up the partnership. This is the first community rail partnership for South Cambridgeshire and the first for First Capital Connect.

Network Rail, Cambridgeshire County Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council are joining the partnership, which has further support from local parish councils, local schools and businesses.

The aim of the partnership is to protect and support services which are vital for the rural areas they serve on the King’s Cross to Cambridge line.

The partnership was signed at Meldreth station today, Friday, 25 October and was attended by Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Growth and Planning; South Cambridgeshire District Councillor Pippa Corney, Cabinet Member for Planning Policy and Localism; Cambridgeshire County Councillor Susan van de Ven; First Capital Connect’s Managing Director David Stratham; Sallie Bates, Maintenance Protection Co-ordinator for Network Rail as well as supporters and residents.

Susan van de Ven, who chairs the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group, said: “Our purpose is to protect and enhance local rail service, which constitutes a vital public transport network for our area. The Thameslink Franchise, which will take over next year, will be the biggest in the country and we don’t want our small stations to be forgotten. We expect the next train operator to support our campaign achievements, and help us with projects in the pipeline. We want to keep our free and reduced parking arrangements, our 50% student discount and our booking office at Meldreth. We are now working hard to improve disabled access at Meldreth Station.”

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Ian Bates, Cabinet Member for Growth and Planning, said: “We are really pleased to sign this agreement and work closely with the community, local councils and the rail industry. Good transport connections are vital to help rural areas, reduce isolation and improve access to essential services and facilities. “

South Cambridgeshire District Councillor Pippa Corney, Cabinet Member for Planning Policy and Localism, said: "Today's signing is a positive step forward for this community and demonstrates their commitment to improving the local rail network. The partnership approach is a great way to give communities a sense of ownership in how their rail services are run and to better understand the needs of passengers."

Speaking at the launch of the Community rail partnership, David Stratham, First Capital Connect Managing Director, said: “As a railway operator, we play an integral role in the community. For many people across our network, we are their primary means of transport.

“By signing the Community Rail Partnership, we are affirming our commitment to being part of the local community here and helping to create stations that we can all be proud of.”

The Great War - Between The Lines - Cambridgeshire Remembers

The Great War - Between the Lines project needs residents’ help to commemorate the role Cambridgeshire people played in the Great War.

Remembrance Day this year brings with it special poignancy as it marks the start of the period of commemoration leading up to the Centenary of the outbreak of the Great War in August 2014.

On Monday, November 11, 2013, Cambridgeshire County Council's 'Great War - Between the Lines' project will be announcing more details about its programme of activities for 2014.

On the day the Council will also be running a 'bring your stories' event at Cambridgeshire Archives in Shire Hall as well as giving advice on how to research your own family.

The Council would like people to come and share their family’s experiences of the war.  There will also be original documents on display and advice on researching First World War Cambridgeshire and family history. The archives search room will be open following a short remembrance service at Shire Hall at 11am and will close at 2pm.

This project aims to bring to light the many 'hidden stories' about the role Cambridgeshire and its people played in the 'war to end all wars'. The Great War had an immediate effect on the county and its people, but also left a lasting legacy still affecting modern society.

During 2014 the Great War - Between the Lines project will :

  • deliver a series of touring exhibitions in a number of locations covering the war from different angles
  • publish a number of tourist routes following Great War themes and locations - covering locations such as Cambridge itself, Huntingdon, Wisbech and the Guided Busway route
  • run workshops designed to involve younger people in understanding the impact of the Great War in Cambridgeshire
  • end with a commemorative event at Hinchingbrooke Hall, Huntingdon on Sunday 3rd August 2014, which will include re-enactments, theatre, dance and exhibitions

To find out more and to view the growing collection of digital material being collected by the project - available for all to view for years to come, please visit www.great-war.ccan.co.uk '

People can contact the project through the website if they have materials they would like to add to the growing Great War digital collection or can upload it themselves via the ‘We need your help tab’.

Also people and organisations who have any Great War related events or activities taking place next year can also contact the team through the website.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Mac McGuire, Deputy Leader and Chairman of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Military Covenant Board, said: “The Great War touched many families across Cambridgeshire and we want to hear these stories before they are lost forever. It is not just the stories of the soldiers but also their families and the homefront that we want to record and add to our digital collection for future generations. On Monday, November 11, people can come and see us or learn more about how to research their family.”

The Great War - Between the Lines project, in which Cambridgeshire County Council is a partner, is an EU funded project (under the Interreg '2 Seas' programme) involving partners from the UK, Northern France and Belgium.'

Cambridge City Council: Successful Prosecution Of Littering Offence

A smoker was found guilty of littering at Cambridge Magistrates Court on 17 October 2013, for discarding a cigarette butt in Mill Road.

Ms Kayleigh Richardson of St Ives was proven guilty in her absence and fined £100 plus £200 costs and a £15 victim surcharge after she was witnessed dropping her cigarette butt in the street by one of the City Council's Litter Enforcement Officers.

Bob Carter, the Senior Manager for Streets and Open Spaces for Cambridge City Council, said: "Cigarette related litter is a significant nuisance, along with other litter, which spoils our beautiful city and costs hundreds of thousands of pounds each year to remove."

"The Public Realm Enforcement Team balance their enforcement activities with education and encourage the use of pocket ashtrays to enable smokers to dispose of their litter legally," said Councillor Jean Swanson, Executive Councillor for Environmental and Waste Services, who went on to say, "We issue fixed penalty notices as a means of avoiding a prosecution but if someone chooses not to pay the fixed penalty notice, the Council will prosecute. It is good that the Courts have issued this significant fine".

New Press Freedom Law To Open Up Town Halls

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles today (25 October 2013) announced that a new law will be put before Parliament to give the press and public new rights to film and report council meetings.

The legal changes to be sent to Parliament by Mr Pickles will enshrine in the law the right of residents, bloggers and journalists to report, blog, tweet and film council meetings in England.

The new laws will be part of the Local Audit and Accountability Bill, which is set to be debated by MPs in the House of Commons on Monday, having completed its Lords stages.

The Bill will abolish the residual parts of the Audit Commission; protect local press from taxpayer funding town hall propaganda sheets; and close legal loopholes so that all of the Council Tax bill is fully accountable to local taxpayers.

Last year, the government changed secondary legislation to open up councils’ executive meetings to the press and public. However, this did not apply to councils’ committee meetings or full council, nor to parish councils. Mr Pickles asked councils to open up their committee meetings, but many councils are still not complying.

A recent report from the Tax Payers’ Alliance revealed an alarming number of councils in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire who were still keeping democracy behind closed doors. Some councils had even banned local residents from recording, blogging and tweeting at council meetings. Ministers believe these councils are clinging to outdated analogue ideals in the face of a digital age.

Mr Pickles said:
An independent local press and robust public scrutiny is essential for a healthy local democracy. We have given councils more power, but local people need to be able to hold their councils to account. We are taking action against town hall Pravdas which are undermining the independent free press, but I want to do more to help the new cadre of hyper-local journalists and bloggers. 
I asked for councils to open their doors, but some have slammed theirs shut, calling in the police to arrest bloggers and clinging to old-fashioned standing orders. 
It was Mrs Thatcher who introduced the right to attend council meetings back in 1960. It is right that we now bring her legacy up to date with the digital age. Councillors should not be shy about the good work that they do. 
This new right will be the key to helping bloggers and tweeters as well as journalists to unlocking the mysteries of local government and making it more transparent for all. My department is standing up for press freedom.
On 14 June 2013, Eric Pickles published a new guide for local residents explaining how they can attend and report their local council meetings. The new guidance explicitly states that councils should allow the public to film, blog and tweet council meetings.

The new legislation applies to all councils in England.

Liberal Democrats Blocking Far-Right Conservative Policies

The Conservatives on their own cannot build a fairer society. In Government we have blocked Tory plans to:

  • Allow bosses to fire staff at will
  • Regional pay penalising public sector workers in the north
  • Let schools be run for profit
  • Tory backbenchers have shown their true colours in recent months, not least when a group of them released their Alternative Queen’s Speech, which included plans to:
  • Bring back the death penalty
  • Ban the burka
  • Privatise the BBC
  • Introduce an annual ‘Margaret Thatcher Day’

On Conservative attempts to take credit for raising the Income Tax threshold:
Cameron to Nick in the first leaders’ debate: “I'd love to take everyone out of their first £10,000 of income tax, Nick. It's a beautiful idea, a lovely idea. We cannot afford it”
Raising the tax-free threshold to £10,000 was on the front page of our manifesto. It was not in the Conservative manifesto.

The Conservatives’ top tax priorities at the last election were cutting Inheritance Tax for millionaires and giving some married couples a tax break.

Danny Alexander said this week:
“The Conservatives are apparently considering a proposal for their manifesto to increase the personal allowance to £12,500. An almost identical idea to our own policy of raising the personal allowance to the minimum wage that we first passed in our spring conference of 2012 and reaffirmed just one month ago at our Autumn conference in Glasgow. Once again, it is the Liberal Democrats who are shaping the future of the British tax system. 
“At every Budget and Autumn Statement since, we have made increasing the personal allowance our number one priority. The same cannot be said of the Tories. Before the election it was Inheritance Tax cuts for the very wealthy. Then it was reducing the top rate of income tax. And at their conference last month it was a tax break for married couples which doesn’t even benefit a third of married couples, and will cost the equivalent of £28 for every income taxpayer. But it is our policy of increasing the personal allowance that has already delivered the biggest set of tax cuts for people on low and middle incomes in a generation and which will deliver another tax cut this April.”

Liberal Democrat On Energy Bills

Everybody knows the Conservatives are getting cold feet on the environment and have failed to put any properly worked up policies in front of us.

The way to provide stable fuel bills now and in the future is not to make policy on the hoof.
Liberal Democrats in Government will not allow our commitment to the environment to be undermined; hurt the fuel poor; or destroy our renewable energy industry.

Nick Clegg has always said that we should stress test every policy to make sure that there isn't a penny more on bills than necessary. Of course, we will look at the specific details of what the Tories propose. That is Coalition Government.

We will discuss the means but we are not prepared to compromise on the ends – protecting the environment; helping the fuel poor; and safeguarding our green industries and jobs.

Currently, 4% of energy bills are spent on supporting cleaner energy and 5% on assisting the fuel-poor and improving energy efficiency.

Evidence-based Changes To UK Drug Policy

Drugs can have a devastating impact on individuals and families and can fuel organised crime. Evidence shows that our current drug policy is costly, ineffective and it is the poor and marginalised who suffer most. Liberal Democrats support an evidenced-based drugs policy, and at Autumn Conference in 2011 called for an independent panel to review current drug laws.

We want to ensure the Coalition Government has a clear focus on prevention and reducing harm by investing in education, treatment and rehabilitation, and moving away from criminalising individuals and vulnerable drug users.

Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010:

  • Ensure that financial resources, and police and court time, are not wasted on the unnecessary prosecution and imprisonment of drug users and addicts; the focus instead should be on getting addicts the treatment they need. Police should concentrate their efforts on organised drug pushers and gangs.
  • Always base drugs policy on independent scientific advice, including making the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, completely independent of Government.

Speaking to The Sun last year, Nick Clegg said:
“It’s time we told the truth. In politics, as in life, you can’t keep on doing something that doesn’t work. You can’t keep repeating the same mistakes.”
“If you were waging any other war where you have 2,000 fatalities a year, your enemies are making billions in profits, constantly throwing new weapons at you and targeting more young people — you’d have to say you are losing and it’s time to do something different. I’m anti-drugs — it’s for that reason I’m pro reform.”
“Politicians admit the war on drugs is not working. But when they’re in government, they say everything is fine. We’ve got to level with the British people and tell them what many people already know — it’s time to do something different.”

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Labour Shameless And Hypocritical On VAT

Stephen Williams MP
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson, Stephen Williams said: 
"Labour have spent the last three years aggressively attacking the Coalition for raising VAT. Now they admit they won't reduce it. This is rank hypocrisy from a party that has no answers to the big questions of the day - how to fix the economy, create jobs and help people with the cost of living.  
"Liberal Democrats have taken tough decisions in the national interest in order to clean up Labour's mess, and Labour has called us every name under the sun for doing so. They have been utterly shameless and deeply hypocritical."

Make Sure Its Just The Fireworks That Go Bang

Firefighters are asking residents to stay safe with fireworks and bonfires this year as Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) prepares to see an increase in 999 calls during the season.

Bonfire night is always one of the busiest periods of the year for firefighters, who will regularly be called to out of control bonfires and blazes started by fireworks that have set light to hedges, outbuildings and even homes.

CFRS is asking residents for their help to make sure this bonfire night fire engine sirens do not drown out the sound of fireworks.

Last year (2012), during the bonfire night season (October 22 to November 10), crews were called out to a total of 46 fires in Cambridgeshire. During the same period, crews were also called to 23 false alarms. The property involved in these incidents and false alarms was either outdoor (rubbish, hedges, trees, garden vegetation) or outdoor structures (including wheelie bins, skips, fences).

Gary Mitchley, Community Risk Manager at CFRS, said: "We are urging people in Cambridgeshire to ensure these events remain fun for everyone involved and that people stay safe this year.

"Bonfires can very easily spread to nearby homes, outbuildings, trees and fences. Fireworks are extremely dangerous if not used correctly and can easily maim or kill the person using them, or those nearby.

"We also get many 999 calls during the bonfire season to incidents that people think are fires, but are actually controlled bonfires in people's gardens. We would urge people to check - if possible - before dialling 999, but obviously if they are in any doubt they should dial 999 immediately."

How to stay safe while making sure your display goes off with a bang:

Bonfires
  • Don't light bonfires in unsuitable weather, particularly in windy conditions. Be aware of where smoke is blowing also. 
  • Don't leave bonfires unattended. 
  • If the bonfire has to be left it should be dampened down with water. Keep a bucket of water or a hosepipe handy just in case. 
  • Build bonfires well clear of buildings, fences and hedge. 
  • Never use flammable liquids to start the fire and never burn dangerous rubbish such as aerosols, paint, foam furniture, rubber tyres, batteries, etc. 
  • Before you light the bonfire, check children and animals are not hiding inside and are a safe distance away.
Fireworks
  • CFRS recommends going to an organised firework display instead of holding one at home. However, if you do intend to use fireworks at home:
  • Buy fireworks marked BS 7114. 
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box and follow the instructions. 
  • Light them at arms length using a taper and stand well back. 
  • Never go back to a lit firework. 
  • Never put fireworks in your pocket. 
  • Never throw fireworks. 
  • Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves. Sparklers can reach temperature of up to 2,000°C. 
  • Never give sparklers to children under five.
Note also that it is illegal to sell fireworks to anyone under the age of 18 and it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to possess fireworks in a public place

It is also worth noting if you own a business or residential property with automatic fire alarms, ensure all windows are closed, otherwise smoke from a nearby bonfire could enter the building and set off the alarms system.

Karting Company Found Guilty Of Health And Safety Breaches

The company in charge of a raceway in Caxton when a teenager died during an out-of-hours go-karting accident in 2009 has been successfully prosecuted for health and safety breaches.

Peterborough Raceway Limited pleaded guilty to a breach of section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at Peterborough Crown Court today (24 October).

The Manager of the track at the time, Paul Shinn, also pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 3(1)(b) Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Suzanne Cornwell was fatally injured when her scarf got caught in the axle of her kart in December 2009. Following the conclusion of a Police investigation and a coroner's inquest, South Cambridgeshire District Council commenced a prosecution under Health and Safety legislation.

Council investigators found that there had been a lack of health and safety risk assessments in respect of its go-kart track which could be attributed to the Company and a lack of staff training.

In addition, the safety briefings provided by marshals were inadequate and on occasion, there were inadequate numbers of marshals on duty. Generally, the premises and equipment at the site were in a poor condition. There was no evidence of a good health and safety culture being in place.

A sentencing hearing will be held on 4 November at Peterborough Crown Court.

Cllr Mick Martin, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for environmental services, said: “This was a tragic accident and first and foremost our thoughts have been with the family throughout this difficult time and I hope the conclusion of this process will help them in some way. It was right, proper and in the public interest for us to pursue this case under Health and Safety legislation as, in our view, there were very clear shortcomings from the company in their practices.

“We hope our action sends a clear message to other companies that they need to take their responsibilities very seriously.”

Peterborough Raceway Limited closed the Caxton track after the accident and no longer operates the site.

Nick Clegg MP Speech On Education

Nick Clegg MP
The fundamental reason why, I believe, education matters so much is to ensure every child has a fair chance of a successful life. That's also why, I expect, many of you got into this profession in the first place.

Yet despite the efforts of successive Governments and the progress made to raise education standards in this country, on average, children from poorer families still do worse than their better off peers.

As last week's report from the independent Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission shows, here in Britain, your parents' income still remains the biggest indicator of what you'll go on to achieve. More than your talent and potential. And more than in most other countries in Europe.

Some claim this is just a fact a life. They argue that any chance for social mobility in this country ended when the final bell rang for grammar schools, and disparage any efforts to break the link between disadvantage and achievement as social engineering at its worst.

I cannot accept this view. In politics, and in this Coalition, what motivates me and my party - more than any other issue - is increasing social mobility: building a fairer society, where everyone can succeed, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth.

So, when we came into government, in education, we prioritised three things:

First, ending Labour's micromanagement of our schools. For thirteen years, Labour responded to every problem in our education system with a new target from the central government - frustrating our teachers and stifling the creativity needed to drive excellence across the board.

Second, we wanted to use the muscle of the state to level the playing field so that all children can flourish - not just the well-off. That's what our £2.5 billion pupil premium is for - additional money to help close the gap, which we are beginning to see having an effect.

And, third, we wanted to make sure that the state is intervening where it can make the biggest difference - when children are young. Access to high-quality early years education helps give children the best possible start in life. That's why I have made the early years a personal priority: we have increased the hours available for three and four year olds and extended it to two year olds in families which are most feeling the squeeze. Last month I announced free school meals for all children in infant school; and, one of the first things David Laws did when he became Schools Minister was insist that we rebalanced the pupil premium so that more of the money goes to children when they are in primary school, to help them catch up before they fall too far behind.

Freedom for schools; a level playing field for all children: and more support for children in their earliest years.

It's an approach that seeks to drive diversity and autonomy within the schools system, but with the guarantee of opportunities for all.

So freedom, yes, but with fairness too. For liberals, it is essential we provide both.

FREEDOM WITH FAIRNESS

I'm proud of our work over the last three years to increase school autonomy, which, in Government with the Conservatives, has been through the academies programme. It is Liberal Democrat policy to give all schools, whether they are academies or not, those same freedoms to attract and reward excellent teaching, set their own term dates and vary their school day.

We believe greater autonomy enables school leaders to take responsibility in those areas where they know what's best for their pupils, whilst also giving them the freedom to innovate.

But it shouldn't surprise you if I say that, although we work well with the Conservatives, our two parties still have differences of opinion - some strongly held. And looking to the future, there are aspects of schools policy currently affected by the priorities of the Conservative Party which I would not want to see continue.

For example, whilst I want to give schools the space to innovate, I also believe every parent needs to know that the school their child attends, whatever its title or structure, meets certain core standards of teaching and care. A parental guarantee - if you like.

Parents don't want ideology to get in the way of their children's education. They don't care about the latest political label attached to their child's school. What they want, and expect, is that their children are taught by good teachers, get taught a core body of knowledge, and get a healthy meal every day.

What is the point of having a slimmed-down national curriculum if only a few schools have to teach it? Let's teach it in all our schools.

And what is the point of having brilliant new food standards if only a few schools have to stick to the rules? Let's have quality food in all our schools.

That's my philosophy. Diversity amongst schools, yes. But good universal standards all parents can rely on too. And, frankly, it makes no sense to me to have qualified teacher status if only a few schools have to employ qualified teachers.

Over the last ten years, there's been a revolution in the way in which we've recruited and trained our teachers. Whether it's through the on-the-job learning offered through schemes like Teach First and School Direct or the continued contribution of our universities to educating generations of Britain's teachers.

Together, these diverse routes into the classroom have raised the public profile and status of our teachers and enabled more graduates, more teaching assistants and more people from a range of backgrounds to join this profession. What all of these routes have in common is that at the end of them you are recognised as a Qualified Teacher. And I want every parent to know that their child will benefit from this kind of high quality teaching.

That's why I believe we should have qualified teachers in all our schools.

That means free schools and academies too.

This view has sparked quite a bit of excitement this week - and some criticism: the idea that, if you seek to give parents reassurances on basic standards, you are somehow turning your back on school autonomy. And, equally, that having open differences of this kind is bad for Coalition government.

Let me say something on both points.

In my first ever speech as Lib Dem leader, back in 2008, I called for a new generation of schools which could be set up by different providers, like educational charities, parents and voluntary organisations, providing they had the right credentials. My party supports school freedom. At our conference in the spring of this year, the Liberal Democrats passed a motion celebrating the unprecedented freedom granted to head teachers and teachers by the Coalition Government. The party wants to see all schools have more freedoms like academies.

But I am totally unapologetic for believing that, as we continue to build a new type of state funded school system - in which parents are presented with a dizzying range of independent, autonomous schools, each with its own different specialism, ethos or mission - parents can make their choice safe in the knowledge that there are certain safeguards. A safety net, if you like, to prevent their children from falling through the cracks.

So, yes, I support free schools and academies, but not with exemptions from minimum standards. That's the bit I want to see change. And that will be clearly set out in our next General Election manifesto.

There is nothing - absolutely nothing - inconsistent in believing that greater school autonomy can be married to certain core standards for all.

And I am totally unapologetic that the Liberal Democrats have our own ideas about how we do that.

Ultimately, the Labour Party is hostile to school autonomy - their instincts always take them back to Whitehall's heavy hand.

Meanwhile, many on the Right are hostile to setting minimum educational standards. At least they are in academies and free schools. In maintained schools, however, the Conservatives seem to believe it is alright to micromanage things down to which ancient British kings are taught in history class. All that I ask is that we seek to deliver the same balance of freedoms and core standards across all schools.

And, in the liberal centre, the Liberal Democrats - and, I believe, most parents - know that there is a balance to be struck:

So in the future, the Liberal Democrats will seek to build on everything we have achieved in this Coalition - driving greater diversity and freedom in all our schools.

But, as we do, we will also strive to make sure that every parent can send their children off in the morning, knowing that, whatever kind of school they go to - academy, free school, maintained school, whichever - their sons and daughters will be taught core subjects, by qualified teachers and they'll get healthy meal.

On this and other aspects of education policy the Liberal Democrats will carry on setting out our stall: for example, last month I made it clear that I will want to see schools funding protected in the next Parliament - that's a Liberal Democrat priority for our next manifesto.

People have a right to know what our vision for the future is. And explaining that vision is perfectly consistent with the Liberal Democrats being proud of what we have done in this coalition, and continuing to work with our coalition partners to deliver radical reform and the strong government the country needs. Being in Coalition today doesn't prevent either of the Coalition parties setting out how we may differ in the future. That's how Coalition works.

TEACHERS

And I can tell you today that one area where we have agreed further reform is on better support for our teachers and school leaders - the people who are too often missing from the debate on structures and standards.

It's a cliché to say it, but no less true that what you never forget about your school days are those teachers who changed your life.

A good teacher knows how to inspire and enthral a class of children to learn - whatever the subject.

He or she recognises each child for the individual they are, and does whatever they can to help that child build on their talents for a happy, successful life.

As a father of three school-age children, I also speak from experience when I say these are the teachers that your children never stop talking about when they get home from school.

That special connection - with someone who makes you as enthusiastic about learning, as they are about teaching - is what defines, for many of us, the very best in education.

It's what we want for our children. It's what we expect from our local schools. And critically, it's what the brightest and best teachers in Britain strive to achieve every single day.

As Jemima Reilly, the head of this school, told us, "We are proud to attract and maintain good quality teachers...we give our teachers the space to grow and in turn their students grow and flourish alongside them."

And as Ofsted has pointed out, if you're a poor child going to school in some parts of Britain, you're less likely to do well than poor children here in Tower Hamlets.

This isn't just Britain's inner cities that we're talking about here. In some cases, these are relatively prosperous regions like West Berkshire and Shropshire and our seaside towns like Blackpool or Hastings.

The issue isn't that there aren't brilliant schools or teachers in these areas. There are.

But there are also weak schools and schools which have simply stalled.

These schools are failing many children - including from disadvantage backgrounds - who with the right support and attention could thrive.

The good teachers in these schools want to learn from their better performing neighbours. But they don't have a clear idea about how to start that conversation.

They want to improve. Do more for local children and parents from all backgrounds. But they don't have the right leadership and skills on site to boost their performance.

They want to share their own knowledge of what works beyond their own classroom with their colleagues. But don't know how to make that happen.

They can't progress. Their schools are stalled and could do much better. And, worse of all, the children they teach are heading for a life defined by their background not their talents.

We already know that some good Local Authorities are meeting that challenge by helping schools in their area find good leaders. And our 'Similar Schools' data is designed to help schools - without that kind of support - to link up and learn from outstanding schools tackling the same issues as them. So, as we improve the information available online, I'd encourage more schools to use it.

But we need to do more if we're to tackle this issue nationally and ensure that more schools can benefit from the expertise of our best head teachers.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE - HEAD TEACHERS

That's why I'm pleased to announce today that the Government will be setting up a programme to get outstanding leaders into the schools that need them the most.

The Department for Education will be setting out further details in due course. But what I can say is that there will be a pool of top talent within the profession, a Champions League of Head Teachers, made up of Heads and Deputy Heads, who will stand ready to move to schools in challenging circumstances that need outstanding leaders.

So if you're a school facing tough challenges and finding it hard to recruit an exceptional leader, you'll be able to call on this team and request someone with a proven leadership track record.

We're looking for experienced Head Teachers ready for a new challenge, or bright Deputy Heads looking to take the next step and lead a school.

If you are selected, we'd need you to make a real commitment to the school, its staff and its children.

You'll receive help to relocate to the areas where you're needed and the necessary professional support to turn around your school. And we will work to help you in your new role taking on this challenging school.

This is entirely voluntary. No one will be forced to accept one of these positions or move.

We want the first of these leaders to be in place from September 2014.

Initially the scheme will start small, but our ambition is for this team to become as important to our education system as Teach First.

CONCLUSION

So in conclusion, if we're to build a stronger economy and fairer society in Britain then we need every child in every region of our country to be succeeding.

That's the vision I have for education in this country. A system built on greater choice, innovation, accountability and excellence: designed to benefit everyone.

Where every school has the freedom, autonomy and resources to thrive.

Where every teacher is empowered to be the best, progressing and improving throughout their career.

Where every parent has a guarantee that their child will receive the best standard of education available.

And where every child gets the attention, support and excellent teaching they need to achieve the happy and fulfilling life they want.