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.”
For reasons unconnected with politics, as one of my predecessors once said, I wrote yesterday to Cllr Paul McCloskey, chair of the local Liberal Democrats, to let him know that I have decided not to put my name forward in any forthcoming selection of a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham.
I do regret having to take this decision and I very much hope to return to frontline politics in the near future. But I can’t commit to that right now. We ran a tremendous campaign in Cheltenham earlier this year, bucking the national trend by increasing our vote significantly and making this one of the most winnable Liberal Democrat / Tory marginals in the whole country, so I understand why the local party will want to crack on with selecting a candidate as soon as possible. But the timing isn’t right for me.
Luckily, the Liberal Democrats have many able campaigners locally and nationally who will be very interested in taking on this challenge. I wish them every success and I hope to be able to give them my wholehearted backing.
For the record – since this question is often asked – Cheltenham remains home and I have no intention of going anywhere else. I remain a trustee of three local charities and I will be continuing with all of those commitments and continuing to help Cheltenham Liberal Democrats as much as I can.
The Conservatives are making a tragic mess of our country and their inept handling of Brexit in particular threatens all our futures. Jeremy Corbyn’s increasingly embarrassing personality cult and his 1970s policies provide no realistic alternative. Here in Cheltenham, we continue to see Lib Dem victories in local elections. So I see no reason why the Liberal Democrats should not go from strength to strength again, nationally and locally. We have a new national leader in Vince Cable and we now need a new standard-bearer in Cheltenham too. But there is still everything to play for.
Well we didn’t quite do it. But we did buck the national trend to increase our vote share by 8 points, adding six thousand to the Lib Dem total and slicing the Tory majority from 6,500 to 2,500.
We suffered from a national campaign that struggled to break through despite excellent leadership from Tim Farron, the lack of a UKIP candidate locally sending pro-Brexit votes straight to the Tories, and an increased Labour vote swept along by the Corbyn surge which in Cheltenham ultimatelyhelped the Tories win as well. Sometimes the cards just fall the wrong way during a campaign.
But the fact that we came so close is a credit to everyone from all over Gloucestershire and further afield who volunteered, delivered, stuffed, donated, delivered, called, knocked on doors, tweeted, posted and generally worked their socks off for weeks. Thank you SO much.
And thanks as well to those who co-ordinated ward efforts, led canvassing, covered Cheltenham in Lib Dem diamonds, gave advice on policy and messaging, wrote copy, handled emails, managed the money, produced video, promoted the campaign on social media and fundraised. We would never have come so close without you too.
Its invidious to name anyone in particular but I have to name check our core campaign team: my agent Steve Jordan, Andy Williams’ political intelligence and hard work at the printing presses in Hewlett Road, our vital national link Dave Wood, Chris Twells on the outstanding literature and many people’s superstar of the campaign, Chris Ward, who read the data and directed the huge volunteer effort at the Bakery and across the town. You were a fantastic team and put together a strategy that should have won us the seat – and would have done if the national tide had just flowed a bit more strongly in our direction.
But Theresa May’s gamble in calling the election misfired so catastrophically for the Tory party that we may all be back here again before long. Overturning a 6,000+ majority always looked like a bit of a longshot. But your tremendous effort this time means that whenever the next election comes, we’ll start within spitting distance of victory.
Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham 2017
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. 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.”