Letter from Bassetlaw – January 31th 2016

12573236_10153642000856773_7824302917179026797_nMy apologies for the lack of a Letter from Bassetlaw last weekend but I was cajoled in to celebrating my 60th Birthday by my family and simply couldn’t find the time.

Our winter still continues to surprise.  After a few days of frost & cold, we have had some rain then some sun and even a bit of snow, all mixed in with a lot of wind.

While this isn’t conclusive proof of man-made Climate Change, the weather we have had this winter and over the last few years, is a good indicator that something fundamental has changed, and is still changing, in our climate.   The speed of this change and amount of it we are seeing points to it being more than natural variation.  With this in mind, can we take the risk of assuming it is not driven by the emissions we make in our modern society?  Can we take the risk of not doing all we can to reduce those emissions and looking for ways to make sure that our need for energy is met from sources that do not emit carbon dioxide or methane into the atmosphere?

This is why looking for more and more marginal sources for gas & oil is so crazy.  Even if we can extract them in a way that does not damage the environment (which is far from being the case), we simply cannot afford to burn them.  The extra carbon that would emit into the atmosphere would cause a great deal of damage and stop us reducing our emissions as we need to do.

This leads me on the County Council’s recent decision to allow test bore drilling near Misson.

Let’s be clear, while the County Council Planning Committee (& Bassetlaw’s Planning Committee before them) have been spineless in not voting against the development, the reality is that it is the Tory Government’s desire to press ahead with Fracking at all costs meant that the drilling was always going to be allowed, if not by the County Council then by DCLG.

However, we also need to be clear that the reasons behind this have nothing to do with filling our imminent energy gap or even to secure the UK’s supply of gas in years to come but all to do with making surer that the big energy suppliers keep their hold on our energy supply.

Even the most optimistic prediction says it will be at least 5 years before gas in usable quantities comes out from any shale gas wells, be it by fracking or other techniques, yet we could be facing energy shortages as soon as next winter.  In spite of this, our Government has been moving subsides from renewable energy which could plug that gap to hydrocarbons that cannot.  It simply beggars belief that Cameron, Osborne & others are doing this simply to make sure that the big oil & energy companies (most of which donate money to the Conservatives) keep control of the energy we use.

There are no reasons why Fracking should be allowed to continue apart from the greed of the large energy companies & their need to control our energy supply.  While we may have lost a skirmish in fight to against fracking when the County Council Planning Committee didn’t stop the iGas proposal to drill near Misson, that fight will definitely continue and we need to make sure that everyone realises that the drive for fracking is nor about securing an energy supply for the UK but all about securing control of the supply.

 

On another “Green” issue, I was disappointed to see that Bassetlaw ranks 322nd out of 326 areas[i] in England for recycling.  Only 3 London Boroughs & the Isles of Scilly had a worse “Percentage of household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting” than the 19.2% Bassetlaw managed.  This is truly appalling and Bassetlaw & Sherwood Liberal Democrats will soon be issuing a report highlighting this as well as asking the District Council what they will be doing to improve recycling rates in our area.

 

Finally, plans are advancing for the Remain In campaign launch in Bassetlaw and I hope to have news about this soon.  It is vital that the UK remains in the EU, not just for those like me who (to put it bluntly) have lived most of our lives but for the generations to come.  Outside the EU, our country will be a diminished place to love, diminished economically, diminished in our influence abroad, diminished educational & culturally.  We must not let this happen, we owe it to our children to stay in the EU, to “Remain And Gain”.

[i] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/env18-local-authority-collected-waste-annual-results-tables

Advertisements

Remembering the Holocaust is not enough

Holocaust Memorial DayToday is Holocaust Memorial Day, a day when we take time to remember those killed by the Nazis during World War II because of their race, their sexuality, their politics, their disability.

We also remember the others killed simply because they were from another tribe, another race, another religion in other Genocides in Bosnia, in Rwanda, in Kurdistan & Iraq, in Syria, in India & Pakistan, in Sri Lanka, in Burma, in Tibet & far too many other places around the world.

However, it is not enough to just to remember.  We must also learn from these Genocides, we must learn to watch for the signs the precede them, actions and talk that pave the way for such hatred, that open the door to allow such behaviour.

Today we see the rise of people around the world who are peddling the same hate speak that we saw in the 1930’s, politicians who try to make an entire people or religion the scapegoat for problems, public figures who suggest “sensible”, “common sense” policy aimed at restricting a certain sector of the population, headlines in papers that make the race or colour of a criminal part of why we must condemn them.  Sometimes these action are small and may seem justified or proportionate to deal with a perceived problem but slowly, over time, these small actions can build & build as they did in pre-war Germany.

We see this in the USA, in countries here in Europe, in Turkey, in parts of Africa, even (and as a Jew & Israeli most painfully) in Israel.  The demonising of the “other”, the making of the problem not simply an individual or certain organisations but the whole people, taking the bad actions of a few individuals and saying that every one of the same colour, race, nationality or religion are to blame.  Here in the UK we are even seeing newspaper headlines from the 1930’s that stoked hatred against Jewish refugees from Germany now being reprinted to preach hatred of Syrian refugees.

So go to the special exhibitions & concerts being held today, go and remember the inhumanity was inflicted on others by “ordinary” people but also remember that what happened then can happen again now, that it can happen again anywhere unless we are vigilant, that unless we learn from the past the remembrance of the Holocaust is a hollow gesture.

Letter from Bassetlaw – 17th January 2016

Well we finally got a taste of winter this week and have even seen a light covering of snow, although as I write this, it is already melting.

While the cold weather may stay for a few more days the forecast isn’t showing any more snow for a while yet (regardless of what the Express and other doom mongers might say) so we won’t have any extra days off due to heavy snow.

 

Behind the big headlines, there have been a couple of changes to the Student Loans system that have been pushed through with hardly a murmur.  One will affect all students who have taken out loans since 2012, under the changes made by the Coalition Government and the other will affect new students from poorer backgrounds.

When the Coalition Government introduces the new Tuition Fees regime in 2012, one of the key points was that the £21,000 earning threshold for starting to repay the loans was going to rise with average earnings so would keep it real value.  George Osborne changed this in the last Autumn Statement so that not only will this threshold not rise in future for any new Student Loans, he retroactively changed the conditions of existing loans so that the threshold for those loans will not rise either (see Martin Lewis’s blog on this here).

This may seem a small technical point and, in a period of low earning inflation, won’t make much difference to graduates as they start to repay their student loans.  However, if over 10 years, incomes go up by 10% (which is not very much), graduates will be paying nearly £150 a year extra.

What is even more disturbing, is that the Tory Government feels that it is OK for them to change the conditions of existing agreements, the agreements students made when they first took out the loans.  If a bank or loan company tried to do this, it would be rightly condemned as being illegal but the Tories seem to think it is OK for them to do this.  It sets a terrible precedent that Government can change the conditions of an agreement unilaterally if it feels like it!

The other change is just as petty and nasty, the withdrawal of grants for the students from deprived backgrounds will hit those from many parts of Bassetlaw who want to go to Uni but now will either have to take out even bigger loans or give up on a chance to improve themselves.  What is worse is, as the article says, this was done without even a vote in the Commons or even a mummer from Labour about it.  It fell to the Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, who criticised the these moves.

“This is a very frightening prospect for young people and their parents … Plans to cut maintenance grants are wrong and we will fight these plans tooth and nail. Social mobility is a real priority and these changes threaten to further entrench inequality. It is something I oppose.”

 

These changes, along with the attacks on social housing & it’s handling of the Junior Doctors dispute this week, show yet again how much this current Government cares about making UK a fairer county.  While Labour seems intent on tearing itself to pieces than opposing the actions of this Government, we need the Lib Dems to lead the opposition and take the fight to the Government.

Letter from Bassetlaw – January 9th 2016

EaMiLD Conf 15-A 1So we have been back at work (or school) now for a week and slowly life is returning to normal.  The decorations are down & put away and thoughts are turning to summer holidays.

The New Year brings new land marks and new challenges.  This year I celebrate two major anniversaries, a 60th birthday and our 30th Wedding Anniversary.  Both make me stop and think what I have achieved so far, bringing up 3 children to be responsible adults is definitely the biggest.  As for challenges, working to make sure that the EU Referendum (which looks likely to be held in June or early July) is won by “Remain In” to safeguard not just our future but that of our grandchildren.

Remain to Gain

Which brings me to the Remain In campaign.  As I wrote last week, I am in the process of arranging a public meeting to launch the campaign locally.  In the meantime, I will continue to highlight the benefits we get from EY membership on my Facebook page (Leon Duveen for Bassetlaw) and elsewhere.

As you will be aware the Out Brigade (motto Leave & Loose), are continuing to pump out their propaganda.  Much of what they write is unsubstantiated, incorrect or simple lies.  The way to tell if post has any truth behind it is to see if there are any links to sources to back up the assertions being made.  If there aren’t any, then there is a good chance what is being written has no basis in fact and should be ignored.

What I would recommend you do to all those who, like me, are trying to convince you one way or the other is question them, ask them why they are saying what they are saying and to justify it.  If they rely on nebulous concepts or statements that have no proof behind them then you can be pretty sure that they have (or they are repeating others who have) made it up.  Just to say it was in the Daily Mail, The Sun or even The Guardian does not make it true.  There is nothing like checking for yourselves which you can do on sites like Full Fact or Channel 4’s FactCheck.

 

D2N2 – North Midlands Devolution

This week, the plans for “devolution” to the North Midlands (Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire) were published.  You can download & read them here.

Sadly, they do not make for very pleasant reading.  They seem to imply that much of the power in many areas will flow from County, City & District Councils to the new Executive Mayor.  This is not devolution but the imposition of another, less accountable, layer of Government, take the real decisions even further away from the people who matter, you and me.

Even our MP John Mann agrees with the Lib Dems on this (although his colleagues on Bassetlaw Council have other views) although he spoilt his argument by making irrelevant claims over the future of Bassetlaw Hospital (see this Our MP gets in wrong over health “devolution”).

I am talking with Lib Dem colleagues from across both counties tomorrow to work out the best way to oppose these proposals and will get back to you next week.

 

Tickets for teenagers at the Savoy Cinima

I was asked by a parent of a 15 year old to find out why the Savoy Cinema charges 15 & 16 year old teenagers Adult prices when those under 14 can get Child tickets and older teens in full time education, with student cards, can get Student tickets which are the same price as a Child ticket.  This is really unfair to teenagers in Yrs 10 & 11 who can’t get part time jobs but are being asked to pay adult prices to see films.

I wrote to Wayne Gregory, the Manager at the Savoy, to ask for an explanation and was told that “the age of an ‘adult’ ticket is influenced by the British Board of Film ‘15’ Classification. A ’15’ rated film will contain adult material that could be offensive or disturbing to anyone under that age and we set our adult price in line with that certificate.”  He went on to say that they are looking at changing their pricing structure and may introduce a “Teen” ticket in the future.

Fingers crossed for the teenagers getting a fairer deal in the future then.

Nottinghamshire County Council Budget Proposal

The County Council has made proposals on how to meet their £62 million shortfall.  They don’t own up to any mismanagement in allowing the shortfall to happen but we are where we are.  You can see the proposals for yourself and make your comments on the consultation form on-line here.  I haven’t had a chance to go through them in detail but from what I have seen, it there will be tough times ahead for anyone needing any help from the County Council!

Our MP gets in wrong over health “devolution”

It seems Mr Mann is up to his old tricks of trying to scare people with a story which is pure  & he will then claim the credit for stopping it happen. He has form on this with his scare stories from 2011 about the supposed threat to services at Bassetlaw Hospital, a threat that the Chair of Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospital Trust has told me in an open meeting were completely unfounded.
The proposed North Midlands “devolution” is flawed for many reasons but it does not include any provision for changes to the existing relationship between NHS Bassetlaw CCG, which commissions most of the services at Bassetlaw Hospital, and Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospital Trust.
The only reference I can find in the proposal (available on line at North Midlands Devolution Agreement) about changes to how Health services are delivered is on page 20: “The Public Service Reform Board will have a defined scope set out in a Terms of Reference document, which could include, subject to local agreement, (but is not restricted to): health and social care integration, opportunities around collaboration of emergency services, offender management, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and Troubled Families, Policing, Street Scene and Community Safety Services (including Licensing and Regulation).” This does not cover acute (i.e. Hospital) or primary (GP) care so it seems that Mr Mann is either guilty of being misinformed or running a false scare story.
As I said, the overall “devolution” plan is flawed, on this Mr Mann agrees with me, and instead of devolving power closer to people, will introduce a new, added tier, of Government which will be even more remote from most people across Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire. An Executive Mayor for such a large area with only a weak Combined Authority to oversee and scrutinise is not a recipe for real devolution. I am working with others to give a full response to the proposal which we will publish when completed our investigations. Meanwhile, you read the proposal for yourself and come to your own conclusions. There is enough there that needs opposing without having to invent reasons that don’t exist.

Letter from Bassetlaw – January 2nd 2016

leafleting in Blyth - 150427 - cropped2015 has been a mixed year, politically very bad for Lib Dems but personally a year in which I achieved many things that a few years ago I didn’t think I was capable of.  To take part as a candidate in a number of election hustings (as I did this year) and to be able to hold my own against seasoned politicians was something that I never thought I was be brave enough to do.

In the coming year, because we do not have any major elections in our area (even the PCC election is in doubt as the job might be merged into the D2N2 Executive Mayor & Combined Authority) we will be focusing on rebuilding the Liberal Democrats throughout the Sherwood & Bassetlaw areas.

The Political Landscape

Since the General Election, we have had a Government formed purely by a Conservative Party that has not been restricted by being in a Coalition with the Liberal Democrats.  We have had over 7 months to see what this has meant, 7 months to see what the Lib Dems did (or stopped the Tories doing) in the preceding 5 years.

From Energy (where the restrictions on fracking have been relaxed & the help to the emerging renewables sector has been slashed) to Police (budgets cut, PCSOs & civilian staff made redundant); from Personal Freedom (the re-introduction of the “Snoopers Charter” & threats to the Freedom of Information legislation) to Education (the dogmatic insistence on Academies & the reintroduction of national testing on even the youngest pupils); from Welfare (cuts to benefits, tightening of eligibility criteria) to banking(where the inquiry into banking practices has been shelved) , we can see where the absence of Lib Dems in Government is being felt.

Across Government we can see clearly that the Tories in power without anyone to hold them back are able to impose, regressive, authoritarian polices.   Even if you think the Lib Dems did nothing else in the 5 years in the Coalition, it is impossible to deny that but for Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Danny Alexander & the other Lib Dem Ministers, the country would be far worse off today in many, many ways.

It is not as if we have an opposition in Parliament that is even trying to hold them to account.  Since the General Election, Labour has been engaged in a fighting an internal civil war.  First a long protracted leadership campaign then, the refusal of many MPs to accept the result.  I realise that there is probably over 4 years to go before a General Election, but because the labour Party cannot take any decisions on policy or present ideas for the future, they are failing as an opposition just at a time when we need a strong dynamic force to stand up to the Tories the most

As there are now serious doubts emerging that Labour can continue as a united party, let alone an effective opposition, we need another national party, united behind a dynamic leader, with experience of being in Government and willing to face up to difficult issues, to make the hard choices.  There is only one choice, the Liberal Democrats under Tim Farron.

 

Bassetlaw for Europe

As I have written elsewhere (Why we must fight to stay in the EU) we will soon be into the EU Referendum.  As no one else locally seems to be willing to step forward, I am setting up a non-party group to work for an overwhelming vote to stay in the EU.  Please join me.  In the next few weeks, I will be arranging an open meeting to publicly make the case for staying in & will let you know the details nearer the time.