Letter from Bassetlaw – March 6th 2016

Leon DuveenIt has been a busy week, especially the last few days.  Having to arrange a flight at short notice for my wife to visit he father in hospital in Gouda made me realise how much easier this kind of travel is these days than not so many years ago and appearing in a “Question Time” event for the 6th Form at The Dukeries Academy in Ollerton with the local MP, Mark Spencer, & County Councillor, Mike Pringle, made me realise that there is no reason for young people of this age not to be able to vote note just in the upcoming Referendum but in elections in general.

 

This week’s developments on the proposed “Devolution” plans for the North Midlands has been interesting to say the least.  A number of Derbyshire local councils have rejected the plans and High Peaks (the bit of Derbyshire that sticks up towards Cheshire & Manchester) is looking at closer links to the new Greater Manchester Authority.  Also Chesterfield has voted to link to the Sheffield City Region Authority rather than North Midlands.  Meanwhile Bassetlaw Council is dithering about what to do and John Mann is campaigning to join Chesterfield in linking to Sheffield & South Yorkshire.

The problem for Bassetlaw with linking as full “Constituent” member to Sheffield City Region (even if that is allowed) is that so many of our services are provided by Nottinghamshire County Council and no one has any idea how these would be affected.  Public Transport, Roads, Training and may other budgets are all County Council areas and will be affected (at least in part) by the establishment of the North Midlands Authority.  If this does happen, it would lead to a very complicated effort to switch the funding for those areas that we get from Nottinghamshire to get it through the Sheffield City Region with no guaranteed that the new Mayor in Sheffield won’t spend any extra cash at his disposal in Barnsley, Rotherham or Doncaster rather than in Bassetlaw.  As usual, Mr Mann has taken a position that looks to get the maximum publicity for himself, looks popular on the surface but, when you check the underlying facts, simply doesn’t hold water.

I am no fan of the proposals for North Midland Authority and I hope that after the inconclusive meeting of the leaders of 19 different Councils involved last Friday, the whole idea gets shelved.  I would prefer to see proper devolution of power to local councils, not a rushed plan that doesn’t move power at all.  We need to take time to get it right and make sure that we involve the residents in the plans and that any new arrangement is answerable to them.

 

A couple of weeks ago I promised to go into more detail about each of the five areas that we need to think about.  First up is Prosperity, will remaining in the EU make the UK a richer nation than leaving?

In Bassetlaw over 6100 jobs are dependent on the EU[i].  That is a lot of jobs to put at risk.  Even if only ½ those jobs are lost if we leave the EU that is 3000 people looking for work in Bassetlaw, 3000 families losing a large part of their income.  And it isn’t just those 3000 families who would be affected, they will have left to spend in local shops, visits to restaurants & pubs will go down, there will be less money in the Bassetlaw (and also the British) economy.

At the same time, unless the UK can conclude a trade deal with the reduced EU, our imports will go up in price simply because of the Tariff Regime[ii] that will come into effect.  So as a country, the British people will have less money to spend on more expensive goods.

I mentioned Trade Deals above, these are very complicate agreements to conclude and often take years to conclude.  If we vote the leave the EU & the Government give notice of our intention to leave the EU, according Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, we have 2 years to negotiate an agreement with the remaining 27 countries “setting out the arrangements for its (our, in this case) withdrawal”.

Because we are an English speaking country with a highly developed economy inside the EU’s Single Market, the UK attracts 40% of all inward investment in to the EU.  Companies like Toyota, Bombardier & Honda are willing to put money in to their factories here as they know that the cars & trains can be sold to other EU countries with no added customs & tariff costs.  Outside of the Single Market, the UK would be a far less attractive place to invest.  Already we are seeing some of these companies[iii], as well as banks & other institutions, say they will have to reconsider any investments if we leave the EU.  This is one of the reasons that leaving would cause the loss of jobs I mentioned earlier.

So if we leave, we will have an economy getting smaller, with less money in people’s pockets while the cost on imports will be going up.   At the same time, we will be trying to negotiate trade agreements from a position of weakness.   Many nations (the US included[iv]) have already said they would not be looking at talking with us for a trade deal.  This does not strike me as a recipe for making sure we have a prosperous nation.

You may feel I am being overly pessimistic, but these are the facts.  We have a choice between remaining in an imperfect EU, working with our partners in Europe to make it better, attracting investment in from around the world to boost our economy or leaving to face a very uncertain future with few allies on our side.    I know which I will be choosing.

[i] http://www.europarl.org.uk/resource/static/files/ukjobs.pdf

[ii] https://www.gov.uk/trade-tariff/a-z-index/a

[iii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/engineering/11842649/Nissan-denies-scare-mongering-over-Brexit-as-it-invests-100m-in-Sunderland-plant.html

[iv] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/oct/29/us-warns-britain-it-could-face-trade-barriers-if-it-leaves-eu

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Letter from Bassetlaw – February 28th 2016

At Hodsock PrioryAnother dry Sunday has given me the chance to do something that I haven’t done before.  Finally, after living in Worksop for over 25 years, I have been to see the snowdrops at Hodsock Priory.  It was well worth the visit and the shame is mine that I have not been before as I driven passed the entrance countless times during the season and never made the time to go before to see what is a wonderful site.

 

It certainly made a change from how I spent yesterday, which was at a school in Kettering at the East Midlands Liberal Democrats Spring Conference.  While the day was spent inside, it was just as exciting and interesting.  It was great to meet up with so many friends & colleagues around the Region.

One of the problems with being so involved with the party at this level is that at a meeting like this is that there never seems to be enough time.  As I was proposing one Policy Motion (see the details later), leading the session on our campaigning for the Euro Referendum, and also trying to contribute to other sessions, I never seemed to stop.  Even in the lunch break I was asked to give my opinion on issues in another local party.

All the same, I wouldn’t miss these Conferences, both Regional & our Federal Conferences (York in two weeks) at hey always help renew my energy for the campaigning ahead and remind me what a wonderful group of people the Lib Dems are, giving up their time &money to support the party, always (well nearly always) with a smile and a cheerful word for everyone.

 

As I said, I proposed a Policy Motion at the Conference.  This motion was on the Tory plans for what they call Devolution.  The full wording of the motion as amended is being compiled but for now you can see the original motion here and my speech proposing it is here.  As I say in my speech, the plans for devolution to our area are all about “… shifting the blame for cuts to services from central government to underfunded Mayors” rather than moving power away from Westminster down close to ordinary people.

I am pleased to say the Motion was overwhelmingly passed and that will mean that the Lib Dems will be leading the opposition to the plans to force an Elective Mayor with little effective oversite on our area.  Personally I am no less enamoured with the efforts of some to link us into a similar arrangement in South Yorkshire (which, if successful would result in a terrible muddle of conflicting authority over who runs services in Bassetlaw) rather than the North Midlands, both plans are terribly flawed and not in our interests.

 

The session I ran about our Euro campaign for the Referendum, concentration on how to put our messages across in clear concise language.  (It is an undeniable fact that Lib Dems like the sound of their own voices and prefer to use 10 words when 3 or 4 will do).  The session was run in conjunction with the Britain Stronger In Europe group (who we are working closely with to make sure we win the vote in June) and help generate a number of really good phrases that we will be using in the weeks ahead.

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 – December 19th 2015

Leon Duveen 140920aThis week has been dominated by two subjects, Fracking and the EU Referendum.  As I suspect these subject will continue to dominate in the weeks & months to come, it is right that I will use this, my last “Letter from Bassetlaw” for this year, to look at both.

Fracking vs Renewables.

This week we saw the Government renege on the commitments made before the election not the extract methane or oil from under National Parks & other sensitive areas of our countryside.  Now, it will be OK to Frack under places like Sherwood Forest & Clumber just so long as the site they drill from is outside the sensitive area.   They have also slashed subsides to the solar power industry by 65%.

Also this week Bassetlaw District Council’s Planning Committee voted not to object to iGas’s plan to drill a test bore under Misson to see if there is enough Methane there to make it worth Fracking.  Only 1 of the Councillors (and thank you to Cllr Graham Oxby) was brave enough to stand up to the bullies and vote against the application.  This was after compelling evidence had been presented to show that far from bringing jobs to the area, the drilling will put 75 jobs at risk on a local Organic farm as the chemicals used as lubricants in the drilling the bore would bit that Organic status at risk.  The application now goes on to Nottinghamshire County Council to approve or not

Since May, our Government (which only got the support of less than 37% of those who voted in the General Election) has rolled back all the safeguards against Fracking put in place by the Lib Dem Secretaries of State, Chris Huhne & Ed Davey, when they were in charge at DECC.  This is completely incompatible with the commitments made in Pairs last weekend to cut back on the burning of hydrocarbons.

After these developments, and prompted by a discussion I had been having with others, I posted a comment on my Facebook page.

Even if Fracking was clean, safe and economic, I would still oppose it as we cannot afford to burn more hydrocarbons.   We must move away from this dangerous reliance on a technology that is poisoning the planet and the sooner we start making serious moves to do so, the better it will be.

Fracking will not help the drive towards a clean energy future.  We must stop wasting time & money chasing ever harder to extract hydrocarbons and start make real investments into renewables.

The EU Referendum

In the run up to the European Parliaments elections, I was challenged to say why I was pro-EU so I wrote this post Why I am Pro-EU which I have reposted this week.   While some of the details may have change, the basic arguments are just as valid today as they were two weeks ago.  In some ways they are even more valid.

On a range of issues, from Climate Change to fighting International Crime, from combating terrorism & ensuring our security to making sure Human Rights are respected around the world, the problem cross national boundaries and can only be tackled by working closely with other countries.

The EU gives us that framework.  The UK needs to be taking the lead in using the EU’s standing & influence to solve these problems rather than walking away from it and diminishing bout our & the EU’s power to be a force for the better in the world.

I am not naïve to think that the EU cannot be improved.   Like most layers of Government, it can be over bureaucratic and remote from those it governs, just as Whitehall, County Hall and Queens Buildings can be.  These issues need to be address, indeed our concerns on this are shared by many across the EU, but would anyone seriously claim that Nottinghamshire (with 786,700 residents it is bigger than some members of the EU) should leave the UK because the UK Government in Westminster does not reflect what we want, does not take our concerns into account and cost too much?  No, and anyone suggesting that would be though to be a fool.  Well the UK is in the same position towards Europe as Nottinghamshire is to the UK Government.  We may have issues with it and what it does but to leave would be unthinkable.

 

D2N2

A couple of weeks ago, I promised to come back to you about what D2N2 means and how it affects us in Bassetlaw.  I had a meeting earlier this week with others from across Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire to explore this and found out that D2N2 is a “Local Enterprise Partnership” (LEP) for the combined area of Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire (including Nottingham & Derby cities) and is used to channel development funds from Central Government to the area.

The D2N2 area is now being offered the chance to get even more funding from the Government but the condition is that we have an Executive Mayor for the area and many of the powers, including planning, of the District, Borough, County & City Councils in the two Counties will be passed to the Mayor and a Combined Authority (CA) to oversee them.  It is not yet clear who will make up this CA.  The full range of powers to be passed up and the role of the Councils in the new settlement is still very unclear

The Government calls this Devolution but, to be honest, it does not look like devolving powers down to local communities, simply a way of taking powers from those communities & local accountable councils and centralising them in a single person even more remote and far less accountable by the people across two Counties

I am still working to fill in the gaps in my knowledge on the proposals and am open to having my views changed on this but for now, I feel the idea is bad news for us in the “remote north” of the area as we will get ignored both by the new CA and by the Sheffield City Region (which we also belong to) as both will think the other should be responsible for development here in Bassetlaw.

 

As I wrote at the beginning, this will be my final Letter from Bassetlaw this year, I will post my next one on the first weekend in January 2016.  I hope you all have a great time with family & friends over the next couple of weeks and look forward to a prosperous & rewarding time in 2016

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year

Letter from Bassetlaw – December 5th 2015

11212751_10153548490456773_5134864088091511748_nWell really this should be a “Letter from Limburg” where Yannie & I are enjoying a weekend break.  So far we have been round the Christmas Market in Valkenburg, where we are staying, and in Maastricht.  Tomorrow we hope to go across to Aachen in Germany (one of the advantages of open boarders in the EU) to see the same tat in the Christmas Market there.

So it has been an eventful week in politics.

On Wednesday, the Commons decided to authorise the RAF to extend it’s mission against ISIL in Syria & Iraq to include attacking targets in Syria.  I have made my view clear in posts on Facebook & elsewhere that I think this is a wrong choice and will not defeat ISIL so I won’t repeat all the arguments here.  As you can read in my Letter from Bassetlaw – November 26th2015, I also wrote to John Mann & he agreed with my position and voted against the authorisation in the House of Commons. Sadly, even though I and other Lib Dems wrote to all our MPs, 6 of the 8 vote to authorise the extended mission.

The main damage from the decision seems to have been on Labour Party unity (which I am sure was Cameron’s intention) rather than on ISIL.

Fracking in Bassetlaw

As you will know, in the last few weeks the sceptre of Fracking in our area is raising it’s ugly head.  Both in Misson, where iGas have applied for permission to drill a test bore & in Blyth, where a similar application is expected shortly, most of residents are agreed to oppose these developments and are objecting to the patronising way iGas talk to them.

Let’s hope common sense prevails and iGas realise they and Fracking are not wanted in Bassetlaw. Meanwhile we need to keep up the pressure on both iGas & Nottinghamshire County Council to make sure the applications do not go ahead.  You can find out what you can do to help on the Bassetlaw Against Fracking Bassetlaw Against Fracking.

D2N2 & what it means for Bassetlaw

To be absolutely honest with you, I don’t know.  For those that are not aware D2N2 is a Local Enterprise Partnership for Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire which promises to bring investment & jobs to the two Counties.  Along with this the Government are devolving powers to the area.  While I am all in favour of devolving power from an all too powerful Central Government, I want to make sure there is proper democratic control over those that will wield power in our name and not one or two people having all the control but not directly answerable to elected representatives.  I hope to find out more in the coming days and will share that in forthcoming Letters from Bassetlaw.

Bassetlaw for Europe

Sometime in the next 2 years, we will be having the long awaited referendum on whether we should stay in the European Union (which was created out of the EEC by the Treaty signed here in Maastricht in 1992) or leaving it.

I am very clear that the UK needs to be in the EU and not just as the semi-detached member that successive governments have consigned us to being but being a leader and shaping the future of the Union to make more responsive to the people of Europe.  The benefits for us all are many, & not just that we can drive from places like Worksop across to Maastricht, Aachen and even across to Warsaw with just some quick passport check at most to cross the many international boarders, and we would be poorer as a country economically & culturally if we were to leave.

Apart from the effects on the UK economy of leaving, there are three important areas where cooperation across the EU is vital to keeping us safe, these are the Environment, Security & crime. All three are now international issues and we in the UK need to work closely with partners in the EU (and beyond) if we are you make sure we deal successfully with them.

I will return to the Referendum and working to lead, not leave in Europe over the weeks and months ahead. If you want to be involved in the campaign to stay in the EU, let me know, your contribution will be most welcome.