Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Watch Nick Clegg's New Year's Message

Want to know more about what the Lib Dems are delivering? Sign up here...

Friday, 26 December 2014

Cambridge MP calls for rail fares to be made more affordable

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has continued his campaign to reduce rail fares, and has tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in Parliament ahead of the latest increase coming into effect, saying that rail fares are already too high and need to be reduced in real terms, to make train travel more affordable for commuters and other railway users.

Julian said “I have been lobbying the Government every year about this important issue. Many people use our railway system to travel, whether it be to and from work, to visit friends and family, or for leisure. The fact that the UK has some of the most expensive train fares in the world already is a cause for concern, as we should be looking to encourage people to use the train to ease congestion and pollution, rather than put them off by increasing what are already high costs.”

“The Labour government had a deliberate policy to make train users pay more, by increasing rail fares above inflation year after year. That’s why rail fares went up a colossal 66% under Labour. Although this government continued the increases, thanks to pressure from me and my colleagues that has now been reduced, so rail fares go up in line with inflation only. That’s an improvement, but I want to go further. I want to see rail fares reduced in real terms, to make rail travel more affordable for all.”

“I hope that Labour and Tories alike will abandon their policies of rail fare increases, and agree with me and fellow Liberal Democrats that fares are already too high and need to be reduced.”

The full text of the EDM reads as below, and has received support from Lib Dem, Labour, and Tory MPs:


That this House expresses its concern that rail fares are too high, making it expensive for commuters and other travellers to travel by train; notes that from 2004 onwards the then Government set as its policy on rail fares that they should go up by one per cent above the retail price index (RPI) each year; further notes that this policy was continued under the current Government until 2012; further notes that it was then replaced with a policy of RPI-only increases; welcomes this reduction and the end of the era of above-inflation raises in rail fares, but believes that rail fares are currently too high; and calls on the Government to ensure that rail fares are reduced in real terms.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Pupil Premium will deliver more cash for our schools by Cllr David Jenkins

Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government have given schools in Cambridgeshire a £12 million Christmas present.

The cash is an increase in the Pupil Premium funding, which targets extra money to schools depending on the number of children from disadvantaged backgrounds they have. It is a major Liberal Democrat priority that is being delivered by the Coalition Government.

In Cottenham, Histon and Impington 424 pupils are expected to be eligible, meaning that our schools are set to benefit from an extra £381 thouand to support disadvantaged children.

The Pupil Premium covers any primary or secondary school pupil that has been registered for Free School Meals in the past six years. For 2013/14, the Premium will be worth £1.65bn, or £900 per pupil, in total.

David says: ‘This is good news and is a step towards ensuring that children are not held back by poverty and disadvantage. For too long, social background has been a deciding factor in a child’s chances for the future. It’s good that the Liberal Democrats are helping every child to reach their full potential.’

‘This money does not just help the poorest children, it helps every child. Fewer children falling behind means less disruption in class and a better education for everyone.’

Details of the extra income for our schools is given in the table below.

SchoolNumber of PupilsExtra Funding
Cottenham Primary School51£45,450
Cottenham Village College90£81,000
Histon and Impington Infant School16£14,400
Histon and Impington Junior School42£37,800
Impington Village College169£152,100
Oakington CofE VA Primary School12£10,800
Orchard Park Community Primary School44£39,600

Friday, 19 December 2014

Record number of disadvantaged students getting university places

As the number of university entrants passed 500,000 for the first time this year, the gap between the most advantaged and the most disadvantaged students is at its lowest.

Liberal Democrats put safeguards in place to encourage disadvantaged young people to go to university. Setting the system on a sustainable footing, with the poorest 30% of graduates paying less overall than under the old system.

According to a UCAS report released today, disadvantaged young people are over 10% more likely to enter higher education than they were a year ago.

The Liberal Democrats recognise that we couldn't deliver our policy on tuition fees. The truth is that both Labour and the Conservatives supported higher fees, so we were unable to carry out our promise without backing from the two parties.

However, we have worked to make sure the system is as fair as possible in order to protect lower earning graduates. No student pays up front and they only pay back once they're earning over £21,000.

Click here to find out more about tuition fees.

£12m to help people with mental health issues return to work

Liberal Democrats in government have announced a further £12 million investment to help people with mental health conditions get back into work.

This ties in with the Liberal Democrats' commitment to bringing treatment for mental health problems out of the shadows and in line with physical health.

You can back our campaign to help us stamp out the stigma attached to mental health here.

The funding will be used in four pilot areas to test whether better coordination of mental health and employment services can help people to find and stay in work, whilst improving their mental health.

The pilot areas include Blackpool, Greater Manchester, North East Combined Authority and West London Alliance. They will trial a number of approaches, including:
  • Support packages to help claimants create bespoke action plans and coordinate exisiting local support services 
  • Support for new employees to make sure they can stay in work and cope with anxiety and other ongoing problems 
  • Training employment advisors to identity mental health problems and for GPs to recognise the importance of work in improving mental health 
Nick Clegg said:

"It is shocking to think that mental health is now the leading cause of illness in the workplace. It's even more shocking that many of the people suffering are simply not getting the support they need.

"That's why I'm working hard in government to bring mental health out of the shadows. I'm heading up a dedicated mental health taskforce and pushing for investment in pilots like this to help create a fairer society where people get the right support and treatment they need, when they need it."

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Cambridge MP welcomes month on month fall in unemployment

Cambridge’s unemployment figures continue to fall and more and more young people are finding work.

The news that 666 people were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in the city last month, 536 lower than the same period last year, has been welcomed by MP Julian Huppert.

Figures also show that 115 18 to 24-year-olds were claiming, 135 lower than the same period last year; and the number of long term unemployed is also falling with 160 people claiming for more than 12 months, 145 lower than last year.

Julian said: “It’s really encouraging that month on month we see these figures coming down. This is good news for the people searching for work, good news for companies and good news for the city’s economy generally.

“We have seen real growth in the jobs’ market as companies grow in confidence and many long-term unemployed are now finding work. I am also delighted to see that there are increasing opportunities out there for our young people.

“Clearly, the run-up to Christmas presents more seasonal opportunities but I hope many of those jobs will turn into permanent positions in the New Year. Obviously it’s tough for those still searching for work and no more so than at this time of year but I am optimistic their fortunes will change soon.”

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert backs call to safeguard refuges for domestic violence victims

MP Julian Huppert has backed a call to the government to make sure women suffering domestic violence and their children have a safe place to go.

He has co-sponsored a Parliamentary 10 Minute Rule Bill which would ensure that there was a network of women's refuges around the country, and ensure local authorities do not insist on restricting access only to women living in a particular town or city.

The Bill, presented to Parliament today (Wednesday, December 17) by Lib Dem MP, Norman Baker, has been drawn up after some refuges became the targets of local authority cuts.

Julian said: “We have come a long way in recognising domestic violence and encouraging women to seek help safe in the knowledge that someone will listen. But when they do come forward we need to make sure there is a safe place for them and their children to go. Turning them away because they are not local is abhorrent - women and children fleeing domestic violence are often best advised to go to a different city from the abuser.

“This Bill aims to make sure that local authorities meet a set of rules to safeguard these refuges and give victims a chance to escape the perpetrators. One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lives – this is a startling statistic and one that demands our full attention.”

Julian welcomed the government’s recent £10 million investment in women’s refuges but added that it needed to go further.

He said that women were now having the confidence to come forward and report domestic violence but that around a third of all victims are turned down by the refuges where they seek help.

“Behind these statistics are real lives,” added Julian. “These are women and children running away from dangerous situations in their own homes and they must have places where they can feel safe and get the support to rebuild their lives.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid said: “We very much welcome the debate in Parliament today on refuge funding. A long-term funding solution for specialist refuges is vital to ensure the safety of women and children fleeing domestic violence.

“We thank Julian Huppert, MP, for his co-sponsorship of this Bill, and his continued support for our campaign to ensure there is a safe space for every women and child fleeing domestic violence who needs it.”

The Bill is scheduled to have its Second Reading in Parliament on January 23, 2015.

Cambridge MP welcomes news city could get £5m New Homes Bonus

MP Julian Huppert has welcomed the news that Cambridge could receive almost £5 million in New Homes Bonus from the government, as well as £4.2 million going to Cambridgeshire County Council.

The money will be paid to Cambridge City Council as a reward for providing homes including building new and affordable properties and bringing empty homes back into use.

Julian said: “This is excellent news for Cambridge where we are seeing huge growth. We desperately need new homes for families and the New Homes Bonus gives us some money to help us achieve that.

“During the Labour years, the number of social and council houses fell 421,000 and waiting lists almost doubled, leaving our housing supply in crisis. Under the Lib Dem-run City Council we put in measures to address that including bringing empty homes back into use and making sure new developments include 40 per cent of affordable homes.

“The New Homes Bonus rewards that effort giving us money to provide more housing and make sure services and community facilities keep pace.”

The New Homes Bonus provisional figure for Cambridge of £4,963,189 has been calculated on a total of 1,205 units, including 11 empty homes and 547 affordable homes.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Cambridge MP welcomes end to detention of mentally ill teenagers in policecells

MP Julian Huppert, who has been campaigning to improve treatment of people with mental health problems, has welcomed news that reforms are to be announced by the Home Secretary.

Julian, who has been conducting an inquiry with the Home Affairs Select Committee on mental health and policing, said the end to “outdated practices” including detaining mentally ill teenagers in police cells are long overdue.

“We are starting to give mental health priority on our government’s agenda,” said Julian, who led a Westminster debate on mental health last week and launched a petition for £500 million extra funding a year. “We are starting to talk about it openly and act to improve care rather than neglect it as happened in the past which has led to the problems we face today.

“For far too long, we have failed to address the real need for crisis care for mentally ill people. The police and acute hospitals have faced a heavy workload as they receive mentally ill people who have nowhere else to go. We have followed outdated practices that have risked adding to a person’s confusion and mental state because there was not enough investment in alternatives.

“Now young people with a mental illness will be treated as they should be and found a place where they can get the mental health support they need, not left languishing in a police cell. And our Lib Dem initiated Crisis Care Concordat, which Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have signed up to, seeks to encourage joined up working between the NHS and the police for prevention and early intervention by sharing information so that we can make better provision for people from the outset.”

Julian has been contacted by Pinpoint and Healthwatch and many constituents about child and adolescent mental health.

“Those who experience their first mental health problems at that stage can often be helped to recover completely,” said Julian. “Early intervention can be so vital but waiting lists are far too long.

“In Cambridgeshire, the health committee is trying to work with Centre 33 to provide more counselling support for young people. And Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group is allocating an extra £1.5 million to mental health this year and a further £2.2 million from April to improve patients’ access to psychological therapies.

“I am delighted that mental health has been given parity of esteem with physical health, but now we need year on year investment so that the one in four of us who will suffer a mental health problem in our lifetimes will get the immediate help we need.”

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Cambridge MP meets apprentice chalking up valuable training in class

Apprentice, Andrew George has gone back to school to chalk up valuable training that could lead to a career in teaching.

Andrew, 18 is taking an advanced apprenticeship in support for teaching and learning in schools and tomorrow (Friday, December 12) he will meet Cambridge MP, Julian Huppert to tell him more about his role.

Julian has been invited to Cambridge’s King’s Hedges Primary School as part of his monthly Celebrating Apprenticeships initiative.

“I wanted to do an apprenticeship because I felt I would get a better understanding of what it is like being a teacher and if it is really what I wanted to do,” said Andrew. “I’m really enjoying working as an apprentice because I feel I am learning something new every day and also getting some money as well, which is always good.”

A spokesperson at King’s Hedges Primary School said: “We as a school decided that an apprenticeship might offer us access to a young enthusiastic individual who wanted to train to be a teaching assistant. Although it took a long time to find a suitable candidate, we feel that we have an apprentice who has now become a valuable member of our team.”

Since 2010 there have been 2,010 new apprenticeships started in Cambridge and 15,540 across the county with 330 businesses receiving the £1,500 apprenticeship grant.

Julian said: “I’m really looking forward to meeting Andrew and finding out more about his role. He is clearly enjoying his apprenticeship and hopefully it will prove really useful in helping him to make a decision as to whether to enter the teaching profession.

“Our apprenticeship programme has been hugely successful giving young people the chance to get paid while they train and find out so much more about their chosen industry. And it gives businesses the opportunity to train members of staff to meet the requirements of their specific companies while at the same time giving a young person that first crucial step on the job ladder.

“I hope more companies across the county will see the value of the apprenticeship programme and offer young people a chance.”

Cambridge MP supports campaign to give people with learning disabilities a voice

MP Julian Huppert has signed up to support a national campaign to make sure people with learning disabilities and their families are heard in the run-up to the General Election in May.

He is supporting Mencap’s Hear my voice campaign which is backing the 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK, many who feel they are not listened to by those in power.

Julian said: “This campaign is really important to make sure people with learning disabilities and their families are heard on the issues that are important to them such as better healthcare and education.

“If they don’t have a voice many of the issues that affect them could go unheard and potentially unresolved.”

Campaign organisers have launched a manifesto which explores the issues that matter most to people with a learning disability and their families and on which they want to see action from the next UK government. These include improving healthcare for people with a learning disability, ending disability hate crime and improving support in education.

And through the new Hear my voice website: www.hear-my-voice-org-uk people with learning disabilities and their families can share their experiences with the local MPs and, in return MPs and election candidates can show their support by signing up.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Cambridge MP welcomes investment to help city's homeless young people

MP Julian Huppert has welcomed government funding of almost £76,000 to help homeless young people across the city and the county.

The money is being paid to Cambridge City Council which will work in partnership with the other local authorities across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to make sure young people with the greatest need are prioritised for help.

Under the Fair Chance Fund, the council will receive £75,981 this year and a further £126,636 has been provisionally awarded for next year subject to Treasury approval.

The fund is designed to pay for sustained housing, employment and educational support for homeless 18 to 24 year olds with investors putting in money through social impact bonds.

Julian said: “In an ideal world, all young people would have a supportive family and a good home life, but that’s not the reality for some. They find themselves on the street with no prospects and it’s difficult to find a way through that.

“This fund will go some way to making sure homeless young people get the help they need to turn their lives around. It could give them a chance to find accommodation, gain qualifications and move into work.

“And it brings long-term benefits for the taxpayer and our county generally because homelessness can lead to crime, alcohol and drug dependency and poor health. Through this fund we have the opportunity to identify those most in need and offer them much-needed support.”

The funding for Cambridgeshire is part of a £23 million investment by the government to tackle homelessness. The Fair Chance Fund is being set up with £15 million to give 1,600 homeless young people the chance to get their lives back on track and £8 million is being invested in a Help for Single Homeless Fund to support around 22,000 people.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Cambridge MP takes fight for better health funding to Parliament

MP Julian Huppert is taking his fight over Cambridgeshire’s cash-strapped health services to Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday, December 10).

He will lead a debate in Westminster Hall on Mental Health and the Cambridgeshire Health Economy as he pushes for a fairer deal for the county.

And today (Tuesday, December 9) Julian led a delegation of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Trust and Clinical Commissioning Group to see Health and Social Care Minister Norman Lamb to discuss the issues.

Julian will tell Parliament how Cambridgeshire receives £35 million less than the Government's own calculations for a fair allocation of NHS money. This leaves us as the second lowest funded per head in the country. In a fast-growing county with an ageing population this puts an incredible strain on services, he says.

“And, in addition we have the massive costs of the Hinchingbrooke Hospital privatisation and the huge PFI contracts at Hinchingbrooke and Peterborough Hospitals – a result of poor decisions made by the Labour government,” says Julian. “The Peterborough PFI contract actually costs 18 per cent of the total annual budget for the hospital – that’s a huge bill.”

Julian will welcome the extra £2 billion of government money for the NHS, and in particular Mental Health and the legislation that achieves parity of esteem between physical and mental health. He will press for a fair share of that money to go to areas like Cambridgeshire that get low funding levels, not just to top up those already running surpluses.

And he will welcome the decision of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group to allocate an extra £1.5 million to mental health this year and a further £2.2 million from April to improve patients’ access to psychological therapies.

“But we need to go further,” said Julian, “and we can only do that if we get a fairer funding share allocation and more money for mental health. That is why I have launched my petition calling for an extra £500 million to be spent on mental health year on year. Mental Health has been ignored for far too long, causing harm to many vulnerable people.

“In contrast, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary has said that the NHS should not have any more money until it becomes more efficient, that would mean depriving patients of essential treatments and potentially cutting back on services; this is absolutely wrong.

“Labour was also wrong to push ahead with privatisation in the NHS – it left the country with a huge financial burden. As a result of the deals they struck medical spending on non-NHS providers increased from £1.1 billion in 1997/8 to £7.5 billion by 2009/10. They left our hospitals on the verge of bankruptcy with health outcomes well below the EU15 average.

“I was determined to try to stop this government making the same mistakes; that is why I opposed Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill and voted for a Private Member’s Bill which set out to undo the worst bits of that legislation.”

Julian will welcome the recent decision to allow Cambridgeshire’s contract for elderly services to stay within the NHS, for which he campaigned hard. And he will welcome the Lib Dem initiated Crisis Care Concordat for mental health, to which Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have signed up, which seeks to encourage joined up working between the NHS and the police for prevention and early intervention by sharing information.

“We have made some real headway in addressing some of the problems in our NHS but there is still a long way to go to achieving efficient, cost-effective health services and we can only do that if we invest,” added Julian.

“I will continue to push for a fairer funding deal for Cambridgeshire so that our county and others across the country can get the money they need to deliver the level of care we deserve.”

Julian’s debate Mental Health and the Cambridgeshire Health Economy will take place tomorrow (Wednesday, December 10) at Westminster Hall at 4pm.

Friday, 5 December 2014

[huppertmedia] Press Release: Huppert calls on Government to invest more in mental health

MP Julian Huppert is calling on the government to invest an extra £500 million a year in mental health to get a fairer deal for patients.

He is launching a petition on Saturday (November 6) on the Liberal Democrat stall at Cambridge’s Mill Road Winter Fair in a bid to get the government to do more to address the decades of neglect in mental health funding.

And during the event the Lib Dems will be raising money for Centre 33 – the charity which offers help to young people with their problems - with a children’s lucky dip.

Julian said: “One in four of us will experience mental health problems at some time in our lives and yet only £1 in every £9 of NHS spending is on specialist mental health services.

“Mental health has been neglected by consecutive governments but we are changing that. We have written into law equality for mental health with physical health and we are introducing the first ever waiting time standards for mental health.

“We also need more research to find better treatments and we need to end the stigma around mental health.”

Juliet Snell, Centre 33’s Director said: “It is really great that the Liberal Democrats will be supporting the work of Centre 33 on their stall at this year’s Mill Road Winter Fair where they will also be calling for the government to put more funding into mental health services.

“Centre 33 provides free and confidential mental health and counselling services for young people locally. No matter how big or how small the problem we’re here to help. Our team are used to talking to young people about all sorts of issues, whatever it is, it’s always OK and safe to talk about it with Centre 33. Details will be available on the Liberal Democrat stall or you can visit our website at www.centre33.org.uk.”

Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Ed Cearns, who represents Cambridge’s Market ward said: “We want the government to put more money into mental health so that we can address the years of underfunding.

“We want to transform mental health care so that people get the help they need. An extra £500 million year on year could make a real difference to treatments and research.

"I'm pleased that as well as raising awareness we will be raising money for a fantastic local charity."

Lib Dem MP celebrates victory on international aid target

MP Julian Huppert is celebrating victory after Parliament backed legislation he was co-sponsoring which commits 0.7 per cent of the country’s gross national income to overseas aid.

Britain was one of many countries which promised to hit this target in 1970, but it was only under this government that it was finally achieved, making us the first G7 country to do so.

“This legislation has been hard fought and it is time we made a commitment in law to meet this target,” said Julian. “This new law will save lives. It will allow us to provide aid and shelter to families fleeing countries torn apart by war and provide nutrition and better health for starving children. We will be able to buy vital medicines and equipment for countries fighting Ebola to help stop the spread of this deadly disease.

“I am delighted to have co-sponsored this Lib Dem-led Bill and to have won cross party support to get it passed. We agreed this aid target almost 45 years ago and have finally met that target thanks to the Lib Dems in government.

“Britain is leading the way on this and I hope it will be what is needed to encourage other G7 countries following. We cannot sit back while children are going hungry and families don’t have safe places to live when we can do something about it.”

The aid commitment was a Lib Dem general election manifesto promise and part of the 2010 coalition agreement.

The International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill was led by Lib Dem ex-cabinet minister, Michael Moore, who topped the ballot for Private Member's Bills.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Cambridge MP backs campaign to drop the learning tax

MP Julian Huppert has backed a campaign to “drop the learning tax” calling on the government to refund hundreds of thousands of pounds of VAT charged to Cambridge’s sixth form colleges.

Julian, a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sixth Form Colleges, has added his name to a petition launched by the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association.

The move is the latest in a long-running campaign by Julian to get a fairer deal for the city’s Hills Road and Long Road Sixth Form Colleges and Cambridge Regional College.

Just two weeks ago he brought Business Secretary, Vince Cable to Long Road Sixth Form College to find out for himself the huge amount of money lost to the students’ education because of the government’s VAT rules.

The rules state that sixth forms attached to schools and academies have the right to claim back VAT on goods and services while stand-alone sixth form colleges do not.

Julian said: “I am absolutely determined to get the government to overturn this unfair tax. Our colleges are among the best in the country with students who are progressing well and impressive results. But there is so much more they could offer, especially in terms of extra curricula activities and support if they were put on the same footing as schools with sixth form classes.

“It makes no sense to single them out in this way. I welcome this action by the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association and urge everyone to get behind this campaign to drop the learning tax.”

The Association claims that the average sixth form college is left with £335,000 less to spend on education because of the VAT rule.

More information about the campaign can be found here: www.dropthelearningtax.org and there is a link to the e-petition.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Cambridge MP lobbies Parliament for fair deal for fire-fighters

MP Julian Huppert is lobbying the Government to get a fairer deal for fire-fighters after they fear planned changes to their pensions could leave them thousands of pounds worse off in their retirement.

The changes mean that if fire-fighters are unable to achieve fitness standards at the proposed increased pension age they could be sacked with no job and no pension.

Julian met representatives from the Cambridgeshire Brigade Fire Brigade Union in Westminster to listen to their concerns and promised to act in a bid to try to solve a three year dispute which has led to strikes across the country.

Fire-fighters fear that the planned proposals could lead to up to 66 per cent of their members failing fitness tests between 55 and 60 resulting in them being sacked or losing a quarter of their pensions to which they personally contribute £4,000 a year. These statistics are drawn from evidence uncovered within government’s own review by Dr Tony Williams on the impact of the proposed increased pension age for frontline fire-fighters.

Julian has signed a Commons’ Early Day Motion calling for the new regulations, which were presented to Parliament last month, to be annulled.

He said: “We clearly have to find a compromise here. This dispute has been running for three years and we are no further forward.

“It is unacceptable for these men and women, who put their lives at risk to rescue others in dangerous situations, and their families to face hardship in their later years because we couldn’t find a better way.

“We need to look at all the options so that we can find a way to move forward and show these people the respect they deserve.”

Cambridgeshire Brigade FBU Secretary, Cameron Matthews said: “The current proposals are unfair, unachievable and unworkable.

“It is a fact that we are going to get older and as government’s evidence suggests the majority of people won’t be able to reach the levels of fitness required of a fire-fighter. But there are no transferable non-frontline jobs which will allow them to keep their current terms and conditions. That means that if unable to meet fitness standards the majority will lose tens of thousands of pounds from their pensions at the end or be sacked just for the crime of getting older.

“Cambridgeshire fire-fighters welcome and appreciate the support from Julian in this vitally important matter, through signing EDM 454 and backing the campaign for justice and a fair deal.

"We truly hope it will encourage other Liberal Democrat MPs to now also take the real opportunity to view the overwhelming weight of evidence and support their fire-fighters against the Fire Minister’s unfair, unaffordable and unachievable pension proposals."

Mr Matthews added that alternatives to Westminster government’s proposals had been offered to fire-fighters in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales with a view to protecting them. As such, fire-fighters under the devolved governments had not taken strike action following receipt of these alternatives.

“Currently only English fire-fighters are in this position,” added Mr Matthews. “We are perplexed as to why the Prime Minister cannot offer us these options or similar.”

Friday, 21 November 2014

Lib Dems meet residents over controversial Parkside bus stop

MP Julian Huppert will join Liberal Democrat councillors on Monday (November 24) to meet residents concerned about plans for a permanent long distance bus stop at Cambridge’s Parkside.

Their visit comes after they fought to prevent Cambridgeshire County Council making a decision on the £400,000 plan before carrying out a full review of alternative locations.

They claim the National Express buses would be better stopping at the railway station or Park and Ride sites instead where they could link up with other forms of transport and where infrastructure either will or can be more easily provided.

They also want residents living near the Parkside stop and passengers using the buses to have their say on its future.

Julian, who sat on the joint council committee which gave temporary permission for the bus stop, said: “When this permission was granted it was given on the understanding that it was never meant to be a permanent measure.

“This is such an important issue for the people living around Parkside and the people who use these buses. It’s a decision which cannot be taken until we have all the information and that means looking at all the alternative locations and listening to those who live near the bus stop and those travelling on the buses.

“We have received complaints from residents about the noise and fumes from the buses and it is important that their concerns are heard.”

Cambridge City Councillors supported a Lib Dem motion earlier this month to prevent the bus stop becoming permanent until the county council carried out a full review of alternative locations.

Cambridge Lib Dem Leader, Tim Bick, who will attend Monday’s meeting with residents said: “This was intended as a temporary bus stop and yet it has been in place for eight years during which time the county council has made no attempt to explore alternative locations.

“We don’t want the temporary use of Parkside to continue or permanent facilities put in place until this whole issue has been fully examined. We know we can do better than this satisfying both residents and those who travel on these buses.

"Long distance travellers should legitimately expect facilities such as toilets and a waiting room when getting on coaches or changing between them. But it is doubtful this is going to be possible to provide when the location remains at the edge of Parkers Piece, without throwing planning policy out of the window. To be able to look after their customers, National Express really needs to show some flexibility about the location and the county council some leadership."

Friday, 14 November 2014

Lib Dems celebrate as they claim back Queen Edith's from Labour

Liberal Democrats are celebrating victory after Viki Sanders took back the Queen Edith’s seat on Cambridge City Council from Labour last night (Thursday, November 13).

Addenbrooke’s Hospital sister, Viki, polled 933 votes – 143 more than her Labour rival – to claim the seat following the resignation of Labour Councillor, Sue Birtles.

She said: “I am absolutely delighted to return to the City Council to serve the residents of Queen Edith’s.

“I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all those people who turned out to vote for me yesterday and to the hard working Lib Dem team and others across the country who supported me.

“The Lib Dems have achieved so much in Queen Edith’s and our result is testament to the work we have been doing here. But there is still so much more to do and I look forward to working with residents to get the best for our community.”

Cambridge Liberal Democrat Leader, Tim Bick said: "This is a disappointing result for Labour, who, as their own former councillor acknowledges, show little interest in this part of the city.

“The Lib Dem team in Queen Edith's has campaigned for the community there for 30 years and I'm delighted to see Viki Sanders back with us on the City Council to reinforce their efforts and reduce Labour's overall majority.

“This is a great fillip to Lib Dems in both the city and south Cambridgeshire as we approach the general election."

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Cambridge MP pushes Government to safeguard ESA for disabled workers

MP Julian Huppert is pushing to make sure people too unwell to work don’t suffer benefit cuts after Conservative Ministers refused to rule out cutting the Employment and Support Allowance.

Julian challenged Work and Pensions Minister, Mark Harper to give assurances that the government would protect the benefit for people who have been assessed as too disabled or too ill to be ready for work.

But although Mr Harper told Parliament yesterday (Monday, November 3) that a news report on the issue “does not reflect government policy”, he failed to rule out any future cuts to the benefit.

Julian asked Mr Harper: “Can he reassure me and others that it will not become Government policy and that he will not consider making cuts in that area? People who are unwell or disabled often face additional costs to those faced by everyone else.”

Fears that the government might act to reduce the benefit comes after it was revealed that the support is likely to cost £8 billion plus over the course of this Parliament, more than originally planned.

And the Office for Budget Responsibility said: “spending would remain higher ….. because of the delays of the work capability assessment programme”.

Later Julian said: “I am determined to make sure that disabled people receiving Employment and Support Allowance get the benefits to which they are entitled. The Work Capability Programme, established by Labour, has caused many problems, and although we have now fired ATOS, who they hired to run it, improvements are still needed.

“It concerns me greatly that Mr Harper failed to rule out any future cuts to these benefits. We’ve managed to block it in Government so far, and I will continue to hold the government to account on this issue. It must not happen.”

Monday, 3 November 2014

Huppert and Cearns lead drive for better lighting

MP Julian Huppert and Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Ed Cearns are pushing for better street lighting in Cambridge’s parks and open spaces after students revealed their safety fears.

They are calling for joint funding from Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council after students spoke out following 10 sex attacks in the city in nine days.

And they have signed a petition launched by the student newspaper, TAB which calls for “better lighting in our parks and green spaces to ensure that when we walk through Cambridge at night, we feel safer and more secure”. 

The petition, which has 1,500 signatures, came as the County Council pushes ahead with its countywide programme to reduce street lighting to save money and energy.

Cllr Cearns, who represents Cambridge’s Market ward said: “There are real concerns about safety in our city and we must address those concerns.

“We are committed to getting extra funding to address this issue. “We will look at whether a joint funding formula can be put in place to pay for improved lighting on primary routes across out green spaces. And we will be pushing the City Council to make sure that all existing lights are working properly.”

Julian said: “It is clear by the sheer number of people who have signed this petition that there people are worried about the lack of lighting in our parks and open spaces. 

“Some people clearly don’t feel safe walking through parts of the city at night and that is not acceptable. We have look at this as a matter of urgency.”

Hospital sister Viki keeps street lights on for workers

Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital sister, Viki Sanders has helped to keep the street lights on around the hospital after canvassing staff.

Viki, who is standing for election to Cambridge City Council in the upcoming Queen Edith’s by-election, found that some staff were concerned about plans by Cambridgeshire County Council to turn off the lights to save money.

They were worried about the prospect of increased crime or the opportunity for potential attackers to hide in the shadows.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Amanda Taylor, who represents Queen Ediths, took the survey results to the council’s highways committee and succeeded in keeping the lights on.

Viki said: “Some people were genuinely worried about leaving or arriving at the hospital in the dark and walking through dark streets.

“Staff obviously work different shift patterns and have to use the streets between midnight and 6am when the lights would have gone out and streets are often deserted. They were concerned that turning off the lights could make them vulnerable to crime.”

Viki carried out her survey at Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust after it was proposed the street lights should be turned off between midnight and 6am and lights dimmed at other times by up to 70 per cent.

She added: “It is fair to say that we had mixed responses with some people being practical about the changes and saying they could carry torches. But I was concerned that some were genuinely unhappy about the proposal and that we should act.”

Cambridge MP Welcomes Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat

Julian Huppert MP has welcomed the signing today of a new agreement between the police and the NHS that seeks to improve mental health crisis care.

This project was initiated nationally by Minister of State for Care and Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb who in February announced that 22 organisations had already signed up to it.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough's local mental health Crisis Care Concordat sets out the principles that the NHS and emergency services will seek to implement to improve the system of care and support people with mental health conditions in a crisis. The principles include working together through prevention and early intervention, developing ways of sharing information to enable front line staff to provide coordinated support to people in mental health crisis.
The declaration also supports the principle of parity of esteem, where mental health is valued equally with physical health, by seeking to create a shared care pathway to safely support, assess and manage anyone who asks any of the organisations for help in a mental health crisis.
Julian said:  "It is fantastic that Norman Lamb's mental health initiative is already being taken forward locally. Mental health has been the poor sister of physical health in the UK for far too long, and crisis care is perhaps the most stark example of this lack of equality.

"It is completely unacceptable in my view that while we have 4-hour waiting times in A&E a young person who experiences their first psychotic episode can sometimes wait for months before they receive any support. The Crisis Care Concordat is the strongest statement yet that this must change. It seeks to ensure that urgent and compassionate care in a safe place is provided to those experiencing a mental health crisis.
He added: "This won't happen overnight, but what the Concordat should do is to bring together the vast amount of work that is already being done by local organisations and give it a much sharper focus and urgency. I hope that it results in a list of practical actions as soon as possible.
"I will also continue to make the case that improving mental health care means that a transfer of resources must take place within the NHS and extra funding will be needed while this transition takes place.  We have one of the most underfunded NHS areas in the UK because of a model that we inherit from Labour; more money is needed to support the transition to a more community and prevention-oriented service.”

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The truth about the Tories and the EU Referendum Bill

The Conservatives have pulled the plug on their own EU Referendum Bill, despite being given the opportunity by the Liberal Democrats to take it before the House of Commons.

Questions are now being asked as to whether this was a short term tactic to distinguish themselves form UKIP by being able to promise a referendum at the next election, which they couldn't have done if the Coalition had made it law.

For the first time, we are lifting the lid on some of the negotiations behind the scenes in order to reveal the truth to the public.

Quite simply, a deal was being made in government, where the Liberal Democrats offered to grant the required money resolution for Conservative MP Bob Neill's EU Referendum Bill in return for the Conservatives agreeing to a money resolution for Lib Dem MP Andrew George’s Affordable Homes Bill.

This is standard practice in government and is a completely reasonable deal - each party getting a money bill for a Private Member’s Bill they feel strongly about.

But the Tories decided to putting forward a proposal they know for certain will be turned down by the Lib Dems – a completely unfair deal where Andrew George's Bill would only get a money resolution, but Bob Neill's Bill would have both a money resolution and government time for the EU Referendum Bill.

The Liberal Democrats have been more than willing to sign up to a fair deal that is the same for both sides – i.e. a money bill being granted for both Andrew George and for Bob Neill. This is not the case with the Conservative's last ditched proposal.

A spokesperson for the party has said:

"The Liberal Democrats were never going to block Bob Neill's Referendum bill. We were happy to allow them to try and get it passed in the House of Commons. But the truth is they have folded like a cheap deck chair and are trying to make us take the blame by adding ridiculous conditions they knew we would not and could not accept."

The only logical conclusion that can be reached is that the Tories don’t really want their bill to pass and are trying to set the Lib Dems up as the scapegoats. Why else would they put forward a proposal they know cannot be agreed?

We can only assume they would prefer it hadn’t become law by the time of the General Election. They would prefer not to be talking about their bottom lines in their proposed grand renegotiation and instead try and deal with UKIP by saying the only way to get a referendum is to vote Tory. They couldn’t do the latter if their bill had become law. They clearly never wanted the referendum bill to pass.

It is amazing that the Conservatives are prepared to sacrifice this Bill, which they say they care about, for some short-term tactical distinction from UKIP.

Unlock Democracy: William Hague is deciding the future of the UK

Over 7000 people have now signed our petition for a Constitutional Convention! The call for a Constitutional Convention is building momentum. Party leaders have heard the call with Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband, Caroline Lucas and Nigel Farage giving their support. It is time to step up the campaign.

A committee of cabinet ministers, chaired by William Hague, is still trying to reach a deal on what should happen next. And we want them to recommend a Constitutional Convention. We are working with the Electoral Reform Society to keep up the pressure. We have joined forces with 27 organisations and experts to write to William Hague. Will you join us in telling William Hague’s committee that when it comes to deciding the future of the UK, citizens must take the lead?

Take Action: Write to William Hague

Our letter asks William Hague’s Committee to back a Constitutional Convention that meets five key criteria.

  • UK-wide: the Convention should involve the people of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
  • People-led: a majority of the Convention participants should be randomly selected from the population, in a way which represents the UK as a whole
  • Focused on where power lies: the Convention should focus on deciding the balance of powers between the Westminster Government and our nations, regions, localities and people
  • Nations and regions recognised: the main Convention should be informed by discussions at a regional and national level, involving people from every section of society
  • Binding: there must be mechanisms in place – including a binding referendum – for ensuring that decisions made by the Convention are acted upon

The future of the UK shouldn’t be decided behind closed doors. We have a real opportunity to shape the discussion. We believe every UK citizen should have a say in how their country is governed. Please join the thousands people taking action and calling for a Constitutional Convention.

Best wishes,

Emily Randall

Senior Campaigner, Unlock Democracy

P.S. If you also receive similar emails from Electoral Reform Society, we thought you might like to know that we are working with them on this action.

New £2 million fund launched to tackle homophobic bullying in schools

Schools will be offered £2m to help them tackle homophobic bullying.

The funds will be offered to charitable and not-for-profit organisations that suggest creative ideas to stamp out homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools across the country.

Liberal Democrats want to stamp out homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying once and for all. You can show your support for this too by backing our campaign here.

For many victims of bullying, the memories of their experiences in the playground, classroom and corridors will stay with them throughout their lives.

Bullying can result in children from being uncomfortable in themselves and deterred from achieving their full potential.

Liberal Democrat Minister for Women and Equalities, Jo Swinson said:
“We know the damage bullies can have on young people’s self-esteem and educational attainment. There should be absolutely no excuse for this taking place in our schools. 
“Young people should grow up feeling safe expressing who they are, and we know that homophobic bullying stands in the way of this. 
“I am excited to see the creative proposals that this fund will bring about, to make sure we can bring homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying to an end.”

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

There must be parity of esteem between physical and mental health

Mental health charity Mind has said that the amount of public budgets spent on mental health prevention is too low.

In a report published by Mind today (October 28), figures reveal that £40m of council funds will go on mental health compared to £900m for physical health.

Responding to the report, Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb Tweeted:

Liberal Democrats are calling for parity of esteem between physical and mental health and want to stamp out the stigma surrounding mental health.

That's why Liberal Democrats in government have enshrined in law, the equal status of mental and physical health.

And because we believe that mental health conditions should be taken as seriously as physical health, we have also announced that from April 2015, there will be the first ever waiting time standards for mental health treatment.

This means that patients needing talking therapies will be guaranteed treatment in six weeks with a maximum waiting time set to 18 weeks.

Our 2015 general election manifesto includes a commitment to £500m of extra funding for mental health care.

Gender pay laws will help close equality gap

Reacting to the news that the UK has fallen to 26th in the ‘World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report’, Liberal Democrat Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson said:

"Today’s report shows that we need to take further action to tackle the inequality that still exists between men and women. That is why Liberal Democrats would introduce laws requiring large companies to publish their gender pay gap.

"Forty years after the Equal Pay Act was passed it is utterly unacceptable that women are not being equally rewarded in the workplace. The Liberal Democrats have successfully secured shared parental leave, extra childcare, a new right to request flexible working, and we are determined to tackle the gender pay gap. If women in the workplace are to have the same opportunities and choices as men, they must be properly rewarded for their talents and skills - it's as simple as that."

Back our campaign to close the gender pay gap.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Lib Dems fight to save Rouse Ball Pavilion fund

Cambridge’s crumbling Rouse Ball Pavilion could be under threat after the new Labour administration on the City Council indicated that it wants to spend its rescue fund elsewhere.

Liberal Democrats have fought to save the historic 1920’s building on Jesus Green setting aside £250,000 of developers’ contributions towards projected project costs of £500,000.

And they contacted Cambridge University’s Trinity College which agreed to match the council’s funding.

The project included refurbishing the building creating a community space, café and changing rooms for people playing sport on Jesus Green.

But now it looks like Labour may pull the funds for use elsewhere.

Councillor Andrea Reiner, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Public Places said: “We have put years of work into getting the money together for this hugely valuable project. Without this fund we cannot refurbish the building or provide the community amenities we had hoped.

“We held a workshop in the spring to talk about options for the pavilion which was attended by a number of residents; they will be bitterly disappointed by this setback.

“I will be fighting to save the funds we have set aside to rescue this historic building and the community facilities we had planned.”

Cambridge MP's campaign to outlaw revenge porn backed by Lords

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert’s campaign to outlaw revenge porn moved a step closer to success yesterday (Monday, October 20) when the House of Lords unanimously backed  calls for a change in the law.

The decision is one of the final hurdles in Julian’s fight for justice for the victims of revenge porn which has won support from national charity, Women’s Aid.

The charity sees the move as significant in pushing forward with its fight to allow “abused women to seek justice and protection for every aspect of domestic violence”.

Julian campaigned through the Commons to get the law changed to make it illegal for the sharing of private sexual images of people without their permission.

Lib Dem peers, including former Cambridgeshire Lib Dem Leader, Sal Brinton took the case to the House of Lords.

It now looks likely that it will become law in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

Julian said: “I have campaigned hard for this because it is so important that we give the victims of revenge porn protection in law.

“It is so incredibly damaging. It has huge implications for the victims, and in some cases, it has even led to suicide.

“But it’s also about educating people who are considering publishing these pictures to think again about what they are doing.”

Clare Laxton, Public Policy Manager for Women’s Aid said: “Perpetrators of domestic violence use revenge porn as a tool to control, humiliate, and traumatise their victims. The impact it has on abused women cannot be underestimated. That is why it is important to have the support of MPs such as Julian.

“Criminalising revenge pornography is a step in the right direction, and we are campaigning with the Domestic Violence Law Reform Campaign to ensure that the pattern of psychological, controlling abusive behaviour which underlies most incidents of revenge porn is also criminalised. This way, abused women will be able to seek justice and protection for every aspect of domestic violence.”

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Lib Dem fight set to pay off as dangerous junction earmarked for funding

October 15, 2014


Years of campaigning by Cambridge Liberal Democrats could pay off next week when a dangerous Cambridge junction looks set to get a share of a £2 million plus fund for improvements.

The Queen Edith’s Way roundabout junction with Fendon Road and Mowbray Road is used by more than 300 cyclists an hour and more than 150 pedestrians, many of them school and college students.

Lib Dems in Queen Edith’s have been calling for action to make the roundabout safer and for a pedestrian crossing. It has been identified as having the second worst accident record in the city for bikes with 34 crashes over a five year period.

Queen Edith’s City Councillor, George Pippas has been campaigning for a crossing and Cllr Tim Moore ran a traffic survey in the area. In just one hour he witnessed two near-miss accidents involving pedestrians and a further incident where a cyclist was forced to jump on the pavement to avoid being hit by a vehicle.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Amanda Taylor, who has been pressing for Section 106 funding for improvements said: “It’s extremely good news that funding is now available for improvements at this dangerous junction and they look set to be approved as part of a scheme to make Queen Edith’s safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

“We have been very worried that it was only a matter of time before someone was going to be seriously injured or even killed. This is a main route for children going to school and students heading for the sixth form colleges and they are forced to mix with heavy traffic.

“We want to make sure that everyone can use this junction safely and a crossing is desperately needed.”

The project is expected to share £2,317,000 worth of funding with two other schemes including improvements for pedestrians and cyclists on Cherry Hinton Road and signal improvements at the Robin Hood junction.

Councillors on the county council’s Economy and Environment Committee will vote on the schemes next Tuesday (October 21) at Shire Hall.

Huppert welcomes increase for 100,000 plus county pensioners

More than 100,000 pensioners across Cambridgeshire will get a rise of at least £2.85 a week on their basic state pensions next April.

The news has been welcomed by Cambridge MP, Julian Huppert as the Liberal Democrats’ triple lock pension gives pensioners more money in their pockets.

“We are committed to making life easier for those people who have worked all their lives so that they can have security in their retirement and plan for their futures,” said Julian.

The rise will bring the level of the state pension to at least £115.95 a week and will benefit 100,229 pensioners across the county.

It means the pension has increased by £18.30 more each since since 2010 when the Lib Dems went into coalition and means that the full basic state pension is £950 more than under Labour.

“We campaigned for this in opposition, delivered it in government and are committed to writing it into law in the next Parliament,” added Julian. “We have ensured that pensioners in Cambridgeshire will never again be subjected to the indignity of the 75p rise they saw under Labour.”

The triple lock pension delivers a rate either at the level of inflation or 2.5 per cent, whichever is the greater.

Safe standing would cut the cost of watching football

Liberal Democrat plans to introduce safe standing areas at football grounds would help to cut ticket prices, as new research shows ticket prices have grown by 4.4% in the past year.

The BBC ‘Price of Football’ study has revealed that the average ticket to a game in the football league is now £21.49, up 13% since 2011.

Commenting, Lib Dem Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson John Leech MP said:
"Modern football is expensive to watch, and this BBC study shows that prices are only going one way. We have to take action so that the average fan is not priced out of the national game. 
"Safe standing in other countries allows clubs to offer cheaper season tickets to fans who want to watch the game in standing areas. For example, Bayern Munich charge just £110 for a season ticket in their standing area, nearly 10 times less than a season ticket to watch Arsenal. 
"Safe standing offers supporters more choice, a better atmosphere and cheaper tickets. It is an idea whose time has come and I am proud that it is the Liberal Democrats who are the first political party to commit to delivering this."

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

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

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

Catherine Bearder MEP met recently with members of the European Freelancers' Movement, who handed over supporters' signatures and delivered a Manifesto raising a strong voice in support of independent and self-employed workers.

Almost 7,000 freelancers in 29 European countries joined the online campaign calling for improvements in EU policies affecting independent workers.

"Freelancers and self-employed workers are a large and growing part of the European workforce, but we are ignored and isolated," said Joel Dullroy, campaign manager of the European Freelancers' Movement. "We went to Brussels to tell policy-makers that we should be taken seriously."

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder commented:
"Self-employed workers and freelancers deserve to participate fully in the work and policies of the EU. 

"This should be one of the core principles driving the work of the new European Commission."

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

National review needed on Right to Buy - Cambridge MP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 6 October 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cambridge MP launches attack on Home Secretary over Bradbury case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vince Cable to bolster apprenticeship pay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vince Cable to clarify and enhance workforce rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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