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.”

Schools funding ‘hoax’ condemned

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:

Baseline funding 2016/17 Funding under NFF Loss/gain % change Protected Yr1 funding under NFF Loss/gain % change
Pate’s £2,675,000 £2,614,000 -£61,000 -2.3% £2,636,000 -£39,000 -1.5%
Balcarras £4,499,000 £4,399,000 -£100,000 -2.2% £4,434,000 -£65,000 -1.4%
Bournside £6,174,000 £6,189,000 £15,000 0.2% £6,189,000 £15,000 0.2%
Pittville £3,135,000 £3,238,000 £103,000 3.3% £3,225,000 £90,000 2.9%
All Saints £4,147,000 £4,461,000 £314,000 7.6% £4,268,000 £121,000 2.9%

Source:Department for Education (http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/schoolsnet/article/122078/DfE-Announcements-on-a-national-funding-formula-for-schools, spreadsheet at https://consult.education.gov.uk/funding-policy-unit/schools-national-funding-formula2/supporting_documents/Impact%20of%20the%20proposed%20schools%20NFF_20161220.xlsm)

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.”

Autumn Statement means no extra cash for desperate local NHS

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.’

NOTES

  • 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.

Hinkley C a ‘bad deal’

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.
NOTES

Tories break broadband promise

The former Cheltenham MP who first raised the issue of poor broadband service in parts of Cheltenham has accused the new Tory government of breaking its promises and his Tory successor of dropping the ball.

Former Lib Dem MP Martin Horwood called a special debate in Parliament in November 2014, just months before the May 2015 general election, once it became clear that many hundreds of houses across Cheltenham with historically poor broadband speeds were being left out of both commercial upgrade opportunities by BT and Virgin AND the government subsidised programme administered in Gloucestershire by the County Council under the name ‘Fastershire’.

‘The Tory minister spent most of that debate on his mobile phone but he did promise to ‘knock heads together’ and get the problem sorted. And the coalition government’s pledge was that by 2016 everyone in the country would have a decent basic connection speed of at least 2 megabits per second’ said Martin. ‘Both those promises have been broken: the gaps in Cheltenham haven’t been filled despite the fact that just before the election I supplied both commercial suppliers and the County Council with the addresses of more than 600 affected homes so they had no excuse that one side wasn’t telling the other who had been left out. Parts of Cheltenham are still plagued with very low connection speeds and still have no prospect of an upgrade, making it nearly impossible to do business, online homework, online banking and shopping and many other transactions many of us now take for granted.’

‘The Tory County Council’s Fastershire programme hasn’t solved the problem and the Tory government has dropped the coalition’s 2 megabit pledge, pretending the only places affected are in the Outer Hebrides or other far flung rural areas where people ‘don’t want to be connected.’

‘My team and I were hot on the heels of ministers, commercial suppliers and the County Council right up to the election. Since then my Tory successor seems to have completely dropped the ball. He was very quick to jump on the bandwagon during the election campaign but seems to have fallen right off it afterwards.’

NOTES

  • The worst affected areas combining both poor connection speeds and inability to upgrade are in Pittville, Up Hatherley and Benhall wards. Cheltenham councillors in some of these these areas include Cllr Dennis Parsons 07540 398914, Cllr Roger Whyborn 07960 240090 and Cllr Nigel Britter 07752 109307.

Technical note: the historically slow broadband speeds in Cheltenham are due to the unusual centralised telephone exchange which leaves outlying areas with a really poor broadband service, often under 2Mbps. Commercial suppliers, principally BT and Virgin have delivered ‘superfast’ broadband upgrade availability across much of the town where they believe this is commercially viable – mainly via large BT cabinets serving whole neighbourhoods. But newer estates like the former Midwinters site off Tommy Taylor’s Lane in Pittville ward, Manor Farm in Up Harherley ward and Grace Gardens in Benhall typically have cabinets serving smaller populations and failed the commercial suppliers’ viability test. The County Council has been subsidised by the government to provide for less viable areas but has exclusively targeted more rural areas (see  http://www.fastershire.com/where-when ), having broadly categorised entire Cheltenham postcodes as ‘commercially viable’ and so ineligible for subsidy under EU competition rules – but failing to find out from commercial suppliers which exact addresses, for instance in newer estates, were not actually commercially viable.  This subsidised programme – which they have called ‘Fastershire’ – has completed much of its work and is due to end by 2018.

Lib Dems vote to ban fracking

Fracking.JPG
The Liberal Democrats Spring Conference in York has voted for an outright ban on fracking – the extraction of shale gas using the high-pressure hydraulic fracturing of underground rocks.

 

Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Cheltenham voted for the successful motion: “Fracking poses really significant risks to the local environment wherever it is allowed” said Martin, “from the millions of litres of water pumped below the water table and lost to local water systems, to the pollution and disruption caused by the thousands of trucks transporting water and gas to and from the wells. I’m horrified that the Conservatives even plan to allow fracking in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty like the Cotswolds.”

“It’s also a crazy energy strategy. We’ve just committed to a low-carbon future for the planet in the Paris Climate Change Agreement. So why put direct investment into a new fossil fuel industry instead of energy efficiency and renewables? Fracking for gas won’t even displace coal because dirty coal will be on the way out anyway by the time fracking delivers any significant supply in the 2030s.”
During the General Election campaign last year, Alex Chalk – now Cheltenham’s Conservative MP – promised to oppose fracking in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. But in December 2015, he voted to support it.

Local pharmacies face cut in government spending

 

Millions are being cut from the government’s support for local community pharmacies and Cheltenham’s former LibDem MP has added his voice to those of pharmacists who are raising the alarm. The cuts are to the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework which pays local pharmacists to provide minor ailment services and public health advice, reducing pressure on GPs and the NHS.

The Department of Health (DH) plans to reduce funding by £170m from October 2016 as part of the government’s comprehensive spending review.

National pharmacists’ representative Sue Sharpe has said the cuts “will deliver a destructive blow to the support community pharmacies can offer to patients and the public.”

Former Cheltenham LibDem MP Martin Horwood says the cut could have a real impact in the town. “Local pharmacies like Badhams have hugely increased the range of services and advice they provide to local people. They don’t just dispense pills these days. They can take your blood pressure, give you lifestyle advice and review medication. The clear direction in Gloucestershire and nationally in recent years has been to support community pharmacy and take pressure off GPs and the local NHS.  Now the new Tory government is putting that policy into reverse.”

The cuts are all part of Chancellor George Osborne’s plan to cut faster and deeper than the coalition government.  Lib Dem ministers distanced themselves publicly from Conservative spending plans before the 2015 election.

Leading local pharmacist Peter Badham says “The future of community pharmacy is at a crossroads.  Patients are receiving mixed messages: pharmacy first, use your local pharmacy for minor ailments, flu vaccinations, advice on medication and so on.  And then that up to 3,000 chemists will close!”

“It is clear the cuts are going to implemented, with no negotiation or consideration of impact on patients'” he added.

NOTES


Stopping climate change

Martin has campaigned tirelessly at local and national level for tougher action to stop climate change – and for smart planning for the inevitable effects of climate change too.  As MP, he was a member of the Aldersgate Group which brings together leading MPs, businesses and green organisations committed to fighting climate change and was on the advisory board of the Energy & Climate Change Information Unit which actively promotes accurate and accessible facts about climate change in the UK media.

He campaigned hard for climate change to be prominent in the Lib Dem election manifesto and was delighted that, despite some Conservatives trying to put the brakes on green policies, LibDems in the coalition government achieved great progress on the environment:

  • the biggest carbon dioxide reduction on record for a growing UK economy
  • the world’s first Green Investment Bank
  • investment in low-carbon energy locked into UK energy markets through the Energy Act
  • 200,000 green jobs
  • a million trees planted
  • renewable energy generation in the UK more than doubled with solar energy generation going up 60% just in the last year

Many of these achievements have been put at risk since the Conservatives took power on their own in 2015 with support for renewables cut, the Green Investment Bank sold off, the energy efficiency Green Deal plan scrapped with no replacement and greenhouse gas targets now likely to be missed.

Martin has consistently spoken out for tougher action both to stop making climate change worse by reducing greenhouse gases but also adapting to the now inevitable impacts of climate change, including at the 2014 LibDem conference – you can watch Martin’s speech here.

From 2006 until 2010 Martin was his party’s shadow environment minister, and jointly tabled the amendment to the Climate Change Bill in 2008 that increased the reduction target for UK emissions by 2050 from 60% to the 80% all serious scientific opinion believed was necessary.

He also helped to develop Liberal Democrat policies on achieving a Zero Carbon Britain and on protecting the natural environment – which the party has followed up with a pledge to pass five green laws covering issues from access to green space to zero waste to green transport and green planning.

He called for higher standards of energy efficiency and reduction in energy use, as well as championing huge expansion of renewable energy at international, national, community and household level. He opposed the new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent, supported a moratorium on fracking and spoke out in parliament in favour of more wind, tidal, solar and other renewable forms of energy.

Protecting animals

Martin was President of Cheltenham & East Gloucestershire RSPCA and a member of the all-pFox arty parliamentary group for animal welfare.

He has been active in Cheltenham and in parliament promoting the welfare of animals in the UK and abroad.  He opposes repeal of the hunting ban, has called for an end to commercial whaling and successfully supported legislation to ban wild animals in circuses and to introduce universal microchipping of dogs.

He has consistently opposed the Gloucestershire badger cull and supported alternative approaches to keep both badger and cattle populations healthy as advocated by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.

In 2009 he was voted Animal Welfare Champion 2009 by his parliamentary colleagues of all parties.  He was nominated by Cheltenham charity Naturewatch.

Martin microchipping back in 2008 Martin was one of the leading MPs to successfully promote the routine microchipping of dogs, now a cheap and easy technology that will identify many of the 100,000 dogs dumped and lost each year in the UK. The coalition government has agreed to make this compulsory from April 2016. It will also help local authorities, charities like Cheltenham Animal Shelter and the police to correctly identify the owners of dangerous dogs and take firmer action and rehome the dogs more easily. Martin also supported moves in Parliament to extend restrictions on the docking of puppies’ tails.  Locally, he has been a friend of Cheltenham Animal Shelter and particularly its innovative Halt project which helps humans as well as animals.  Martin also pressed for reform of dangerous dogs legislation which has now begun to shift the emphasis away from a list of obscure breeds – often difficult to identify – towards a focus on dangerous behaviour and the poor ownership that causes it.

He also strongly supported the ban on wild animals in circuses which was passed into law by the coalition government and pressed for its early implementation.

Martin opposes repeal of the Hunting Act and was targeted by pro-hunting Martin welcomes the tail of a whale to Westminsteractivists in both the 2015 and 2017 General Elections as a result.  They moved hunt supporters in from the Cotswolds in both elections to support the Conservative candidate Alex Chalk who nevertheless repeatedly refused to say where he stood on the ban.

Martin strongly backed the international ban on whaling and met with the Japanese ambassador as part of the campaign to persuade Japan to drop its remaining hunting of these intelligent mammals in the name of ‘research’. He tabled motions in Parliament criticising Canada’s seal hunt and calling for a Europe-wide ban on commercial seal products.

As shadow environment minister in the 2005-10 parliament, he was a strong supporter of the Marine Act 2009 that helped to protect fish stocks for future generations and added to the protection for vulnerable marine birds like the puffin. He supported calls for new marine reserves around British overseas territories and tougher action to stop illegal birdhunting on the UK’s sovereign bases in Cyrprus.

He backed national campaigns like the RSPCA’s Freedom Food standard that promote animal welfare.

key_Martin_and_friend_support_the_Marine_Bill-small.jpg

Martin also worked with local Cheltenham-based charity Naturewatch to oppose all animal testing for cosmetics and promote the ‘3Rs’ in animal research – reduction, replacement and refinement. This approach seeks to promote alternatives to animal research, eradicate unnecessary use of animals and improve animal welfare where research continues.  Another Naturewatch campaign has succeeded – during the coalition, LibDem minister Lynne Featherstone confirmed the government would ban the testing on animals of ingredients used in household products, a pledge included in the 2010 Coalition agreement

Thank you

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Thank you. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the people of Cheltenham for ten years, so far, as your MP.  We have won many battles together – to protect local health services, keep treasured green spaces and win investment in the town and its public transport system in particular.  I will keep on fighting for those causes and for this town.

Thank you too for all the kind messages for me and my family which I have received since the election.  Cheltenham has a big heart.

To those of you who voted for me, and resisted the overwhelming professional marketing campaign dropped on us and many other LibDems from a great height by Tory central office and their millions, thank you so much for putting your trust in me again.  I’m so sorry we didn’t win it for you this time.

To those who voted Labour or Green, I understand your desire to vote for what you may have believed but, as we warned, it has helped to achieve the exact opposite of what you wanted under our rotten voting system, helping our new Tory MP into office and the Conservatives into a majority government.

To those who switched to Conservative to stop Ed Miliband and the SNP, I’m afraid the Tories’ real objective has now been achieved: to rule on their own, committed to deeper and faster cuts than any other party.  There will be no tax rises for the wealthiest now, but there will be a referendum on Europe that could prove as divisive as the Scottish one and lose us vital jobs, and a confrontation with the SNP in Scotland that could put the union at risk all over again.  It’s a grim prospect but the Liberal Democrats will keep battling for a fairer approach, just as we did in government.

Your new MP’s office address is:

Alex Chalk MP

Gloucestershire Conservatives

Regent Court

Gloucester Business Park GL3 4AD

Finally, thank you too to all those who were part of the LibDem volunteer army in Cheltenham that fought back like tigers against the Tory marketing machine.  You made me so proud to be a Cheltenham Liberal Democrat. It was the most phenomenal team effort I’ve ever seen and it bodes very well for this local party in the future.

If you want to join us in the fight back, click here.

Thank you again.

Martin