Can I say thank you to everyone who voted in Thursday’s Cheltenham Borough Council elections and particular thanks, of course, to those who generously voted for me and placed me top of the poll in Leckhampton. Two seats were being elected here this time and the second went to Conservative Stephen Cooke, just 13 votes behind. Commiserations to the other candidates, in particular Glenn Andrews, the brilliant Lib Dem candidate who worked his socks off in the ward and has promised to keep working hard for local people, and also sitting councillor Chris Nelson who lost out to his Conservative colleague by just 2 votes. Thanks to him and retiring independent councillor Ian Bickerton for all their work for Leckhampton.
Across the town it was a great night for the Lib Dems. Despite already holding nearly three quarters of the Borough Council’s 40 seats, we made three gains and increased our total to 32. The Conservatives now hold 6 seats and the People Against Bureaucracy 2.
The full result in Leckhampton was:
Martin Horwood, Liberal Democrats 1,082 Stephen Cooke, Conservative 1,069
Chris Nelson, Conservative 1,067
Glenn Andrews, Liberal Democrats 834
Votes spoiled: 1 Voter turnout: 52%
For the full ward by ward results across town, see Gloucestershire Live here. And for more comment and coverage of the elections see their site here.
Councillor Max Wilkinson has been elected by local Liberal Democrat members as their new parliamentary candidate.
Former Lib Dem MP Martin welcomed the news: “Max is a terrific local campaigner, a good friend and he works to get things done. Unlike the Conservative MP, he lived and worked in Cheltenham before becoming a parliamentary candidate here. He’s already working hard for local people as a member of the borough council. I have every confidence that with Max in the lead, we can close the slender gap between us and the Conservatives at the next General Election, whenever it comes.”
“Cheltenham badly needs a new voice for tolerance, internationalism and openness in Parliament, and the country badly needs an alternative to this shambolic, divided government which is going to drive us over the cliff-edge of a very hard Brexit. So that election can’t come soon enough.”
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.
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.
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!)
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.”
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 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?’
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.”
The Liberal Democrat party obtained these numnbers through a Freedom of Information request:
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’s Lib Dem parliamentary candidate and former MP Martin Horwood has condemned as a ‘hoax’ the government’s planned National Funding Formula (‘NFF’) which was supposed to deliver ‘Fair Funding’ for local schools and correct the historic underfunding of counties like Gloucestershire but is actually going to mean two Cheltenham secondary schools LOSING £161,000 a year between them and gives only a fractional increase in funding to a third.
The figures buried deep in a Department of Education spreadsheet reveal the following changes from the planned ‘NFF’ for Cheltenham schools. The first year of the NFF limits losses to 1.5% in Year 1 but the table below shows the hit schools will take if the NFF is later implemented in full:
So Pate’s stands to lose at least £39,000 in Year 1 and then £61,00 a year if this formula is implemented in full. Balcarras stands to lose £65,000 in Year 1 and then £100,00 each year if the formula is then implemented in full. Bournside gains only a fractional 0.2% increase under the formula.
Martin said: “We fought a cross-party ‘Fair Funding’ campaign for years to correct the historic underfunding of Gloucestershire schools. If the government presents this as the answer to that long campaign, then this is a complete hoax. Two out of our five secondary schools are going to lose out even more – over a hundred thousand pounds a year between them even in the protected first year. Our biggest school Bournside gets only a derisory 0.2% increase. This doesn’t only do nothing to correct the longstanding unfairness in school funding for Gloucestershire, it’s actually going to make things worse for thousands of Cheltenham students.
Worse still, the deficits I warned about in the election campaign if Tory spending plans went ahead are still on the cards and this will do nothing to stop them. Within two years, schools across Cheltenham are either going to be plunging into deficit like our NHS trusts or cutting back on classes and facilities. The speed with which this Conservative government is unravelling the good financial mnanagement of the coalition years is breathtaking.”
Today’s Autumn Statement by the Chancellor Philip Hammond includes no extra cash for local NHS trusts facing spiralling deficits and looming cuts to local services.
The Chancellor said in his speech: ‘The government, Mr Speaker, has pledged to invest in our NHS and we are delivering on that promise: backing the NHS’ Five Year Forward View plan for the future with £10 billion of additional funding a year by the end of 2020-21.’
But this ‘additional’ funding was a re-announcement of current plans and was first promised during the General Election campaign after the Liberal Democrats manifesto raised the issue of NHS finance. The Government’s version of this funding has been condemned as misleading by the Commons Health select committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston who recently wrote to the government telling them that they were giving a “false impression that the NHS is awash with cash” and that they had “given the NHS what it asked for” when this was not true and that in fact local NHS trusts faced “overwhelming” financial pressures.
Liberal Democrats in parliament had called for an urgent extra cash injection of £4 billion for health and social care this year, on top of already announced plans.
Meanwhile, according to a recent report by the independent health think tank, the King’s Fund, two-thirds of NHS trusts across the country are now in deficit and the trend for the NHS as a whole is going sharply downwards [see link to King’s Fund charts below]. Nothing in today’s statement changes this. Cheltenham Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood said today: ‘Astonishingly the Chancellor barely mentioned the NHS and only then to repeat an earlier funding announcment which has already been exposed as misleading. It is quite clear from independent analysis that there is a mounting financial crisis in the NHS and that two-thirds of local NHS trusts are now deficit – in contrast to the situation under the previous coalition government. We now know this includes Gloucestershire with Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS hospital Trusts alone facing an estimated £24 million pound deficit this year.’
‘This poses a direct threat to valued local NHS services like A&E, mental health services and local maternity units’ he said. ‘Without that extra cash injection local NHS chiefs will be forced into making damaging cuts. I understand that Brexit has made the financial situation much tighter with lower projected growth next year and for years ahead. But the government has found enough money to put off the fuel duty increase and spend welcome billions on infrastructure, so they should have realised that the NHS needed invetsment too.’
‘The time for our local MPs to speak out is now. Most of them have a record of complete loyalty to Theresa May’s Brexit government so far – Cheltenham’s new Conservative MP has voted as the party whips have told him in every single vote. But this Autumn Statement poses a direct threat to valued local NHS services. So now is his moment to break ranks and speak up for and vote for local NHS services.’
Commons Health select committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston’s letter to the Chancellor accusing the government is giving a false impression of NHS finances can be found here.
Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb MP’s call for extra tax revenue for the NHS can be found here.
The independent King’s Fund report into NHS finances can be found here but key charts highlighting how the NHS is funded and its deteriorating financial situation are shown in the previous news release post.
Cheltenham Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood today [Monday] moved a motion at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton to oppose the planned nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C.
He quoted a National Audit Office report that confirmed the likely cost of Hinkley to UK energy billpayers had risen from £6 billion (estimated in 2013) to £30 billion. And he criticised the Conservative government for reversing Coalition support for renewables and ditching the promise not to provide public subsidy for nuclear power. He warned that the 35 year Hinkley deal would burden a generation with higher energy bills.
“There hasn’t been a single nuclear power station built anywhere in the world on time, on budget and without public subsidy” he told delegates in Brighton. “And the EPR model being used at Hinkley hasn’t actually been built at all yet. And the two in progress, in Finland and France, are billions over budget and years late.”
“Just four new large offshore windfarms would add as much electricity to the grid as Hinkley”.
“Hinkley C is a bad deal. We need a UK energy policy based on renewables, energy efficiency and storage and interconnection with other countries.”
The motion opposing Hinkley C was passed overwhelmingly.