Keeping the NHS local

Martin campaigning for local health services

It has never been more important to stand up for the local NHS.  As your local MP, Martin campaigned tirelessly for free, local health services.

Martin is married to a doctor himself and four generations of his family have been cared for by Cheltenham GPs and hospital staff so he never forgets how valuable it is to have a good local health service free to all.

Martin has campaigned for many years to defend the emergency department at Cheltenham General Hospital and to see the full overnight A&E service restored in Cheltenham.  After ‘critical incidents’ were declared at Cheltenham and Gloucester, Martin asked the NHS regulators to investigate what went wrong in Gloucestershire and what role the new 111 service played, how well the various local health and social care providers are working together (for instance when they refer patients in to A&E and allow patients to be discharged) and whether local management decisions have made the situation worse by downgrading Cheltenham A&E at night and routing all unplanned admissions through A&E.

Under the coalition, Martin refused to vote for Conservative Secretary of State Andrew Lansley’s Health & Social Care Bill which he believed broke the coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats which promised no top-down reorganisation of the NHS. But he supported the coalition in raising overall spending on the NHS from £98bn in the last year of the Labour government to more than £110bn a year in 2015.  The Conservative government since 2015 has failed to match that rate of growth.

Far from bringing extra money into the NHS, Brexit will now put this progress at risk by damaging the economy and the so the resources available to the NHS, as well as driving away European staff and damaging recruitment.

Back in 2006, under the last Labour government, Martin was a leading member of the coalition of local campaigners that fought the 26 different cuts and closures that threatened the long-term future of Cheltenham General and many local services. Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters have a rose-tinted belief that Labour has always been a good friend of the NHS but that’s not how it felt then.

Martin led the campaign to save Cheltenham’s maternity ward

That campaign secured the future of Cheltenham’s St.Paul’s maternity ward which was earmarked for closure.  Martin will continue to campaign for the services that matter most to people, like maternity and A&E, to be kept local.

Other cuts like IVF services were also restored after pressure from Martin and others and as MP he took up many individual cases for local people who felt let down by local healthcare providers.  But he has always taken time to praise NHS staff and volunteers for their tremendous work and to give credit to local NHS management when they get things right.  Under the coalition, they managed to increase expenditure and deliver a small net surplus after achieving more than £17m in efficiency savings.

But as the chart from the independent King’s Fund below shows, in the few years since the Conservatives took power on their own, the majority of NHS trusts have plunged into deficit – and this now includes Gloucestershire too.  This is a direct threat to the future of local NHS services.NHS_into_the_red_under_Tories.png

Martin also campaigned consistently for good mental health services in Gloucestershire to make sure mental health service users get not only the services professionals think they should have but the services they want and need – just like those suffering from physical health problems.  He believes there is a particular crisis in child and adolescent mental health.  Before the coalition ended, he backed Lib Dem Deputy PM Nick Clegg’s announcement of £1.25 billion over five years for children’s mental health – but tragically this spending has not been maintained by the Conservatives since 2015.

At the 2015 General Election, only the Liberal Democrats pledged the full £8 billion extra which the NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said the NHS needed over the following five years and pledged equal status for mental health within the NHS, including children’s mental health and new mums who may need rapid access to treatment.

Flooding

A footpath in Hesters Way in 2007

Based on the experience of 600 flooded properties in Cheltenham in the summer of 2007, Martin strongly supported a new national deal on flood insurance and responsibility for drainage and extensive government-funded flood defence work in Cheltenham and elsewhere, but also a more sustainable approach to naturally holding water in the landscape, for instance by extensive tree-planting and landscape management.

Martin was home in Cheltenham when the June and July 2007 floods hit. Although he had to rescue his own children from a flooding car and lost his water supply along with the rest of us, he escaped lightly compared to many constituents who were left homeless or had their business premises wrecked or lost priceless possessions in the waters. Martin has repeatedly acknowledged the debt we all owe to the emergency services, the army, the environment agency and local council and NHS staff.

During the passage of the Floods and Water Management Act 2010, Martin was the Liberal Democrat spokesperson on flooding. He won a series of concessions from ministers and tabled many amendments to the bill calling for changes that have been highlighted by people in Cheltenham since the floods in 2007:

  • more steps to protect critical infrastructure like the Mythe water treatment works and Walham electricity sub-station
  • clearer responsibility for flood prevention including clearing and maintaining culverts, drains and small rivers and all forms of flooding
  • encouraging flood management that works with nature, for instance using land management and woodland to hold back water uphill not just expensive flood defences in our towns

On two key votes pressed by Martin, the Conservatives (including the current MP for Tewkesbury) failed to support him and his amendments were voted down which would have promoted fairer insurance policies and given local authorities clear powers to refuse planning permission in flood risk areas where overdevelopment can make matters worse.

Martin helping out with fresh water supplies in Oakley in 2007

After the 2010 Act, the coalition government struck a new national deal with the insurance industry called Flood Re to secure affordable insurance for all. Martin welcomed Flood Re but still wants government to actively monitor the affordability and availability of flood insurance, which has affected many people in Cheltenham since 2007. The coalition also strengthened planning guidance relating to flooding in the new National Planning Policy Framework although, again, Martin believes this could go further.

Flood defences need to work with natureMartin has also consistently called for more funding for anti-flooding works. Cheltenham’s multi-million pound scheme including Cox’s Meadow did hold back 75,000 litres of flood water and more work was later done by the Environment Agency to the River Chelt and adjacent areas and by Severn Trent to sewers and drainage all over town, including Warden Hill.

Martin’s own car stranded in the 2007 floods in Leckhampton

Anyone concerned about flooding can find the latest information on the Environment Agency website or by following @EnvAgencyMids on Twitter.

They can also sign up to Flood Alerts via the Flood Alerts Facebook App   http://www.facebook.com/FloodAlerts or by calling the Environment Agency Flood Line on 0345 988 1188 or 0845 988 1188.

Experts fear global warming will mean extreme flood events will be much more common in future. So we have to take every step we can to reduce the risks from flooding and avoid making it worse.

Fighting crime

Martin strongly defended a well-funded local police force, called for smart sentencing and innovative approaches like restorative justice to cut re-offending and involve victims more in the justice process.

There were more than 7,000 recorded crimes in Cheltenham in Martin’s last full year as an MP – still far too many but more than 27% less than in 2010.  Domestic burglary, drug offences, bicycle theft, public order offences, possession of weapons offences and vehicle offences were all sharply lower then in Cheltenham than they were in 2010.  This is a tribute to Cheltenham people including Neighbourhood Watch volunteers, to Gloucestershire Constabulary‘s effective community policing and preventive work and to innovative projects like the Aston Project and the Halt project who have worked to reduce the risk of offending amongst young people.

Martin backs community-based policing

Martin criticised Conservatives on the old Police Authority for refusing funding for our police which would have avoided cuts and has welcomed new Police & Crime Commissioner Martin Surl’s more careful approach and backed his successful campaign as an independent candidate in the last PCC election.

Gloucestershire Constabulary has a strong record of community-based policing and effective action against crime – including anti-terrorist arrests like the Gloucester ‘shoe bomber’ Richard Reid and clampdowns on organised crime families. The force’s finest hour was their emergency leadership role during the 2007 floods.  Under the last Labour government there was a serious plan to wind up local police forces like ours and set up a centralised south west England police force.  Martin was one of many MPs who lobbied strenuously against this plan which was duly dropped as unworkable and unaffordable.

Seeing_town_centre_policing_first_hand_bw.jpg

Martin has been a critical friend of the police when necessary, pointing out problems emerging in outlying areas of town like Hatherley and Springbank that needed nipping in the bud. He strongly supported the force’s move towards more community-based policing and also highlighted residents’ and tenants’ concerns about crimes on specific estates around town and the time it sometimes seem to take for the police and other authorities to take action against anti-social behaviour.

Martin has also supported honest sentencing – so that life really means life – and smarter sentencing – leaving proper discretion to juries, judges and magistrates but offering the alternative of ‘restorative justice’ involving victims more in setting the punishment.  Gloucestershire is already a leader in this novel approach which promises lower re-offending rates and puts victims at the heart of the justice process.

Martin also supports tough community payback schemes to make community sentences fit the crime and innovative projects like Cheltenham’s Aston Project and Halt project which offer positive alternatives to young people at risk of getting into trouble.  Early results suggested they could have a dramatic effect on offending rates.

A stronger economy – locally and nationally

In 2015, after five years with the Lib Dems in government locally and nationally, Cheltenham was enjoying its strongest economy in years with a big drop in unemployment, local businesses reporting healthy order books and both businesses and householders still enjoying low interest rates and mortgage payments.  As MP, Martin backed both the coalition government and Cheltenham’s LibDem-led council in taking the tough decisions necessary to build sustainable prosperity and worked hard to lobby for and promote local business.

All this is now at risk from the Conservatives’ suicidal drive towards ‘Brexit’ which could could see the UK drop out of the world’s largest single market like a crate of eggs out of the back of a lorry.  The Conservatives’ initial arrogance and aggressive approach towards the EU negotiations and their chaotic and unco-ordinated approach to Brexit generally is undermining business confidence further.

Click on the image to watch Martin working for local business when he was MP: opening the new Chamber of Commerce business centre

Back in 2010, the new coalition government inherited a massive financial crisis from the last Labour government.  Whoever you blame, the situation in the 2009/10 financial year was that:

  • Government was spending £153 billion pounds* a year more than it was raising
  • This represented 10.2%* of GDP (the value of the economy)
  • If this hadn’t been brought under control, our economy would quickly have gone the way of Greece and others and our interest rates – which set the cost of borrowing by businesses as well as your mortgage – might have skyrocketed, doing serious damage to the economy, increasing the cost of living for homeowners and throwing millions out of work
  • Unemployment in Cheltenham was already 2251 or  4.5%**, the highest in years
Martin at Safran (then Messier-Bugatti-Dowty)

To strengthen the economy, Martin and the Liberal Democrats backed the tough decisions – opposed by Labour – which did bring public spending under control, reduced that overspend by a third and reassured financial markets so that business borrowing and mortgage rates in Cheltenham were kept low as we fought off recession. By 2015:

  • Government overspending was expected to be £91.3 billion*, still very high but down by a massive £61 billion a year
  • This represented 5% of GDP* – half the value it was five years previously
  • The economy was the fastest growing economy of any of the G7 group of major economies, growing 2.6% in 2014/15 and it was estimated to keep growing at 2.5% a year – until the disastrous Brexit vote
  • Earnings were finally starting to go up too.  Together with the fall in fuel prices, this helped everyone by bringing the cost of living down this year.  The Office of Budget Responsibility confirmed living standards were higher in 2015 than they were in 2010.
  • Unemployment in Cheltenham fell to 854 or just 1.6%** Under the coalition, the UK had the strongest employment growth in the G7.  The number of young people claiming unemployment benefits was at its lowest since the 1970s.

Sources: * Office of Budget Responsibility 2014/15 ** Department of Work & Pensions

But a stronger economy isn’t just a fast-growing one – it must be sustainable too:

  • The coalition launched the world’s first Green Investment Bank and locked investment in low-carbon energy into energy markets through the Energy Act and has created a record number of green jobs. In Cheltenham, Martin has backed local companies like Tidal Lagoon Power and Commercial who have pioneered sustainable jobs and business
  • The coalition created more than 2 million new apprenticeships, 2,610 of them in Cheltenham, building skills for the future
  • Whether we were still in recession or growing again, the coalition kept investing in infrastructure, maintaining spending on public transport and committing another £6 billion investment to flood defences, including more flood defence work in Cheltenham to protect another 240 properties
  • The coalition committed to the largest ever sustained investment in Britain’s science base, including a £2.9 billion Grand Challenges fund to enable the UK to invest in major research facilities.  This progress is now particularly at riosk from Tory Brexit plans.

The economy was stronger locally too.  Cheltenham’s LibDem council faced cuts along with other local authorities –  their net budget fell in cash terms by about 12% over seven years, from £16.1m to £14.2m – but despite the cuts, there was no crisis at Cheltenham Borough Council:

  • £8.5m was found in savings and additional income and ‘austerity’ has had little impact on frontline services. Savings have been made by radical management efficiencies, sharing back office functions and major functions like waste collection with other councils, and turning arts and leisure management over to a charitable trust of which Martin is now an unpaid trustee.
  • Martin and the borough council worked together to win major new investment in developments like the Brewery, North Place and in local transport, including £5m for local sustainable transport, £45m for the redoubling of the Swindon/Kemble line to improve services  to Swindon, Reading and London and an ambitious plan to upgrade parking, access and facilities at Cheltenham Spa station which has now won widespread backing.

In stark contrast, The Conservative-led county council has lurched from crisis to crisis – taken to court over its library closures, signing up to a wasteful incinerator contract turned down by its own councillors then forced through by the administration, slapping new on-street parking charges on small business areas and leaving our roads in a total mess.

Martin on a return visit to the Cheltenham business where he worked before being elected MP

As MP, Martin lobbied for and promoted local companies from publisher Edward Elgar to worldbeating clothes retailer SuperDry, from engineering firms like Spirax Sarco, DIS and CF Roberts to IT firms like Innov8ive software.  He worked with business organisations like the Chamber of Commerce, Gfirst LEP and Cheltenham Connect to promote and support local business.

He promoted Cheltenham’s Festivals in Parliament with an eye to drawing even more valuable visitors to the town and encouraged council backing for areas like the Lower High Street that deserved more support.  He supported a more determined strategy to market Cheltenham to visitors, investors and relocating businesses which has now happened with the recent creation of Marketing Cheltenham.

Martin pledges to keep hunting ban

The campaign group Keep The Ban (http://www.keeptheban.org.uk/) are asking all parliamentary candidates to commit to keeping the hunting ban if they are elected on 8 June.  And Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat candidate Martin Horwood has been quick to sign the pledge.
 Fox

The Conservatives have again said they will bring forward a vote on repealing the hunting ban, on which MPs are traditionally allowed a free vote.

Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat candidate and former MP, Martin Horwood, has been quick to sign the pledge and put this video on social media this morning: https://twitter.com/ClareSoftley/status/864423997542457344. 

Martin said: “We were warned that the hunting ban would wreck the rural economy, stop even the valuable social side of hunts and make it impossible to protect livestock.  None of that turned out to be true and I don’t think Parliament should go back to condoning the hunting of animals for fun.”

Martin took up many animal welfare causes as an MP, many in conjunction with Cheltenham based charity Naturewatch (naturewatch.org).  He successfully campaigned for more money for alternatives to animal research, voted for the ban on wild animals in circuses, supported the international whaling ban and opposed the badger cull in Gloucestershire and elsewhere.  In 2009 he was voted Animal Welfare Champion by fellow parliamentarians of all parties at the Dods political awards.

Martin added: “At the Trinity church hustings in 2015, all the parliamentary candidates were asked to say yes or no to keeping the hunting ban. Alex Chalk famously replied ‘free vote’.  Well, we all know it’s a free vote but that was just dodging the question!  We then found out he was being actively supported by members of the Vale of White Horse Hunt, North Cotswold Hunt and the pro-hunting organisation Vote OK – so it’s pretty clear where he stands on this issue.  The question is: will he have the courage to say so this time?”  (He didn’t.  Despite again receiving active support from hunt members, Alex Chalk replied ‘pass’ to the same question at the same hustings in 2017!)

LibDems pledge cash for NHS as Gloucester A&E wait hits SIX HOURS

Outside Cheltenham A&E at the last election. Photo: Anna Lythgoe 07801819711

The Liberal Democrats have announced they would plug funding gaps for the NHS and social care by putting a penny on income tax, in their first major manifesto commitment of the election campaign.

The tax would raise an additional £65m for Gloucestershire, with £42m for the NHS, including mental health, and £23m for social care each year.

This is the party’s flagship spending commitment and its first major policy announcement for the election. The Liberal Democrats will also set out a ‘five-point recovery plan’ for NHS and social care services in their manifesto.

At least 70% of Brits would happily pay an extra 1p in every pound if that money was guaranteed to go to the NHS, an ITV poll found last October (link).

Former Liberal Democrat MP and now parliamentary candidate, Martin Horwood, said:

“This morning in Gloucester the waiting time to be seen by a doctor or nurse hit a staggering six hours while Cheltenham A&E was still turning away ambulances until half an hour ago because of the night-time downgrade.  This can’t go on.  It’s blindingly obvious we need two fully-functioning A&E departments in this county and that Gloucester Royal just can’t cope on its own at night.”

“This is a national problem as well as a local one.  Our NHS Trust isn’t the only one that has plunged into deficit in the last two years of Tory government.  And the Conservative candidate here voted for all the spending plans and Budgets that are making this happen.  He didn’t even mention Cheltenham A&E in Parliament for the best part of two years.

“The Liberal Democrats are prepared to be honest with people and say that to secure the future of the NHS we will all need to chip in a little more.
A penny in the pound here could be used be to pay hard-to-recruit rates and get the doctors we need into both A&Es, while the extra money for social care would ease pressure on the NHS too.  Only the Lib Dems seem to want to make this happen.

“This Conservative government has left our health and care services chronically underfunded – and while the crisis gets worse they just don’t seem to care.

“We cannot continue asking the system to deliver more and more without giving them the resources they need.”

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson and former health minister Norman Lamb said:

“The NHS was once the envy of the world and this pledge is the first step in restoring it to where it should be.

“A penny in the pound to save the NHS is money well spent in our view.

“But simply providing more money on its own is not enough and that’s why this is just the first step in our plan to protect health and care services in the long-term.”
NOTES

  • The Liberal Democrats manifesto will set out a ‘five-point recovery plan’ for NHS and social care services. This will include a 1% rise on the basic, higher, additional and dividend rates of income tax in the next financial year raising around £6bn per year, which will be ringfenced to be spent on NHS and care services and public health.
  • A regional breakdown of how the £6bn would be distributed, based on current funding allocations for both the NHS and social care, can be found here
  • Emergency departnment (A&E) waiting times at Gloucester Royal and Cheltenham General can be checked online here
  • Alex Chalk’s failure to mention Cheltenham A&E in parliament until 11 January 2017 can be checked on the independent website theyworkforyou.com.  He is no longer technically the MP following the dissolution of Parliament for the election.

Former MP says he won’t take second job if elected

Martin Horwood on the campaign trail for the 2017 General Election. Photo: Anna Lythgoe 07801 819711

Former Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood has signed the national petition calling on the Conservative MP for Tatton, former Chancellor George Osborne, to resign following his appointment as editor of the London Evening Standard. 

The petition on campaign website 38degrees now has 189,000 signatures.  The website highlights the impossibility of Mr Osborne doing a proper job for his constituents as well as that of editor of a major newspaper.  It also points out the inevitable conflcits of interest.

‘I always found being Member of Parliament was more than a full-time job and I certainly won’t take a second one if I’m elected as MP for Cheltenham again in the future.  Some of George Osborne’s appointments – such as chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership which he championed as Chancellor, don’t seem that inappropriate,’ commented Martin ‘but taking a one-day a week job advising an American fund management firm and then taking the editorship of a major newspaper as well is just taking the mickey.  If I was one of his constituents I’d want my money back.’

Mr Osborne is reputed to be earning £650,000 for the one day a week job with fund managers Blackrock.

‘MPs earn a good enough salary at £75,000 a year’, added Martin.  ‘I know my successor as MP for Cheltenham has earned nearly £4,000 on top of that as a London barrister since being elected in 2015.  I understand he wants to keep his hand in.  But that’s small beer in comparison to the sums George Osborne expects to rake in when he should be representing his constituents.  It’s simple, old-fashioned greed and he should resign.  And in any case, how he can possibly be an independent editor, holding ministers to account, while taking the government whip in the Commons?’

NOTES

  • Alex Chalk MP’s outside earnings are declared in the Register of Member’s Interests which can be seen on theyworkforyou.com at https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/25340/alex_chalk/cheltenham.   Earnings marked “0 hours since election” are discounted from the £3,941 total earned since the election.

Rate of EU staff leaving Glos NHS trust has doubled

68 EU nurses, doctors and other staff nurses quit Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 2016

The Liberal Democrats have called for an “NHS Passport” to secure the rights of EU nationals working in the NHS, as figures have revealed a sharp rise in staff from the EU in Gloucestershire quitting the health service.

68 EU nurses, doctors and other staff left the NHS here in 2016, just over double the figure two years ago.  The number, obtained in a freedom of information request by the Liberal Democrat party, includes 26 nurses, 26 doctors and 16 other staff and covers the period leading up to and including the Brexit referendum.   The sharpest rise was between 2014 and 2015, the period covering the General Election campaign and the announcement of the EU referendum but 2016 saw the total number rise even higher.

Separate figures from the Royal College of Nursing have shown the number of EU nationals registering as nurses in England has dropped by 92%, while there are 24,000 nurse jobs unfilled in the NHS.

The Liberal Democrats have called for an immediate guaranteed right to live and work in the UK for all EU citizens working in NHS and care services, in a motion passed by members at the party’s Spring Conference this week.

Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood commented:

“These figures are really alarming and show the significant support that EU nationals provide for the NHS is at real risk.  It’s quite possible that the anti-European rhetoric of the General Election and Brexit referendum campaigns have played a big part in this sharp rise by making NHS workers from the rest of the EU feel so unwelcome.

“My own message to EU workers in the local NHS is ‘Please stay. Our health service needs you.’

“The Conservative Government’s heartless and divisive approach to Brexit risks driving away the hard-working nurses and doctors on which Cheltenham General and other local hospitals rely. And their reckless decision to abolish bursaries for student nurses has led to a huge fall in the number of people studying to become nurses.

“If I’d voted Leave on the basis that Brexit would help the NHS, I’d be feeling pretty cheated by Boris Johnson and the rest right now.

“Theresa May must do the decent thing and give the right for EU nationals in Gloucestershire to stay, with an immediate guarantee for those working in health and social care.”

NOTES

  • The Liberal Democrat party obtained these numnbers through a Freedom of Information request:
NHS TRUST TOTAL EU NATIONALS LEAVING EU NURSES LEAVING EU DOCTORS LEAVING EU OTHER STAFF LEAVING
2014 2015 2016 2014 2015 2016 2014 2015 2016 2014 2015 2016
Gloucestershire Hospitals 33 66 68 4 36 26 20 21 26 9 9 16

Budget fails Cheltenham

Philip Hammond’s first and last Spring Budget today has failed Cheltenham, say local Liberal Democrats.

‘This was the crunch moment for NHS funding and an opportunity to put right the looming financial crisis facing many Cheltenham schools as well’ said Martin Horwood, Cheltenham’s Lib Dem parliamentary candidate and former MP. ‘And on top of that he has hit our 6,800 strong army of self-employed workers with a bigger bill too.’

‘Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust (which runs Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal) is in the red and going deeper into the red’ he said ‘and after the failure of the Fair Funding campaign headed by our own MP, we now know many local schools are heading that way too.’
‘The Chancellor could have sorted out both these problems today but he failed on both counts’.

‘The NHS got an extra £425m but that won’t even clear this year’s deficit of nearly a billion pounds. The NHS could have received a much bigger cash injection while all parties discussed a long-term solution to the funding of social care, acute hospitals and mental health in this country, as the Lib Dems in parliament have been calling for. We heard more for social care which is welcome but won’t get Cheltenham General off the critical list’

‘And the Chancellor announced money for new grammar and faith schools but nothing at all that will help secondary schools like Balcarras, Pate’s and Bournside and many local primary schools which are now facing the prospect of growing deficits and some very hard choices after the failure of the Fair Funding campaign. Far from correcting the historic underfunding of Gloucestershire schools, the government’s proposed new national funding formula is actually going to leave many existing local schools worse off and the Chancellor did nothing to help with this looming crisis today.’

‘To cap it all, he has hit the self-employed with a National Insurance hike as well, breaking a clear Conservative manifesto pledge. Cheltenham has a big self-employed population – over 6,800 people according to a recent survey and the Conservatives have told them that instead of sharing in the benefits of the economic growth they are helping to create, they basically have to cough up more.’

Cheltenham EU citizens deserve right to remain

Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood has called on the government to accept their defeat in the Lords on Wednesday and accept the right of EU citizens already in this country to remain after Brexit.

Speaking to a meeting of Cheltenham’s Polish Tenants & Residents Association earlier this week he strongly condemned the government’s plan not to guarantee the right to remain of citizens of other EU countries until reciprocal rights for British citizens in the rest of the EU had been secured as part of the ongoing Brexit negotiations – ‘as soon as they can’.

“Those negotiations could drag on for many years and agreement might never be reached” Martin told the TARA. “Yet the government could sort this tomorrow if it wanted.  It is just immoral to use people as bargaining chips in this way. People have lived here for years and have always been told they had the right to remain here.  They have jobs, families, children that can’t simply be uprooted. They are working hard, paying taxes and keeping the NHS and care sector functioning.  No-one imagines that a sane British government would actually deport them on the day we leave the European Union but employers and landlords and banks would start to ask for evidence of their right to live and work in the UK and make life more and more difficult.  Yet it is entirely within the power of the UK government to guarantee their right to remain regardless of the negotiations.”

Cheltenham is thought to have thousands of citizens of other EU countries living and working here, including in the NHS and in local technology companies.  Martin Horwood criticised Theresa May’s hardline stance on this issue during the Conservative leadership contest last year (http://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/martin-horwood-criticises-theresa-may-over-eu-citizens-stance/story-29478677-detail/story.html).  The TARA meeting heard many Polish Cheltonians complain about the uncertainty the row had suddenly caused them and how current Home Office systems to grant permanent leave to remain were simply not set up for people who had always had that right and never before needed documentary proof of permanent residence.

Following Wednesday’s House of Lords vote Martin Horwood added: “The House of Lords have shown the government the way by amending the Brexit bill to guarantee EU citizens’ right to remain.  The government should accept this defeat gracefully and do the right thing for our European friends, neighbours, family members and workmates.  The House of Lords isn’t seeking to stop Brexit, just impose some moderation and humanity on the process.  The government should follow their Lordships’ lead and make the guarantee now.”