Democrat

The Northern

no. 59 April 2011

The newsletter for Liberal Democrats in the North of England

No tax for 200,000 No tax for 200,000 North workers North workers
Thanks to Lib Dems, low paid workers are taken out of tax
Over 100,000 of the lowest paid workers in the North will no longer have to pay income tax from April thanks to changes introduced by the Coalition Government. Raising the personal tax allowance to £10,000 was the top Liberal Democrat commitment in the General Election last year and the rise of £1,000 in April is a big step towards that goal. 36,000 will be taken out of tax in the North East, 104,000 in the North West and 79,000 in Yorkshire and Humberside. The rise will lift the 36,000 lowest earners in the region out of paying income tax altogether. In addition, over a million more tax payers in the North East will see their bill No tax to pay for 200,000 North workers on low income thanks to the Lib reduced by £200 a year. Dems. (Sir Alan Beith MP, Lord Shipley, Fiona Hall MEP, Cllr David Falkner, Lib Dem parliamentarians Baroness Maddock, Cllr Jeff Reid and Ian Swales MP (photo Michael Anderson) from across the North East came together at the party’s spring conference today to highlight the tax cuts. Sir Alan Beith, MP for Berwick said, “One of the key achievements of the Lib Dems in Government is to reduce the tax bill of low earners. Those who earn the least will now pay no income tax at all. “The Lib Dems are committed to making the tax system fairer and these changes show that commitment in action.” Ian Swales, MP for Redcar added, “In Redcar and Cleveland alone, this tax cut will benefit over 50,000 of the area’s lowest earners. At a time when money is tight for a lot of people, an extra £200 back in their pocket will make a huge difference. “In the next three years the threshold will rise even further, lifting an additional three million of the lowest earners out of paying income tax. “ Fiona Hall, MEP for the North East said, “With average salaries in the North East lower than the national figure, action to help low earners has a big impact here. “On top of the excellent news that we’ve had on new jobs in the region recently, particularly Hitachi and SSI, this means that many people in the North East will soon have more money in their pockets.”
Produced, printed and promoted by Jonathan Wallace, 7 Laburnum Grove, Sunniside, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE16 5LY

Northern Democrat April 2011 Contents
Page 2 Euro Victory/Battle to save cheques Page 3 Northern Councils win awards Page 4 Road safety success/fair trade for farmers Page 5 Swales slams council/Leeds manifesto launch Page 6 Huhne in Newcastle Page 7 Referendum campaign Pages 8 Budget Pages 9 - 12 Sheffield Conference

Editorial: please send material for inclusion to the editor, Jonathan Wallace, phone 0191 4883190 or email jonathanwallace@compuserve.com

Northern News April 2011
Euro victory in fight to cut ‘travelling circus’
Efforts to cut waste in the European Parliament received a boost today with a reduction in the number of times MEPs have to relocate to Strasbourg each year. Current rules mean the European Parliament is split between two sites - one in Strasbourg and one in Brussels. An amendment to the calendar, backed by North East MEP Fiona Hall, will reduce from 12 to 11 times a year the expensive and wasteful 250-mile trek between the two sites. Liberal Democrat Fiona Hall, who has long fought for the European Parliament to have just one place of work in Brussels, said, “The monthly European Parliament ‘travelling circus’ to Strasbourg is a shocking waste of time and money. “MEPs, assistants and 3,500 trunks full of paperwork travel there and back every month at an estimated cost of £200 million a year to European taxpayers. “It is also a source of unnecessary pollution and CO2 emissions which undermines the EU claim to be leading the fight against climate change. “The amendment we have secured to the calendar today may seem minor, but besides saving one trip to Strasbourg, it is a big symbolic victory. The split site is enshrined in treaties signed by Member States so it is outside of MEPs’ power to fundamentally change that. “This vote, however, sends a very clear message to national governments that it is high time to end this ridiculous, unnecessary practice.”

Fiona Hall MEP

Sir Alan Beith has been leading a campaign to prevent the phasing out of cheques and petition signatures have been arriving daily in the Liberal Democrat MP’s Alnwick office. Commenting ahead of the delivery of the ‘save the cheque’ petition to No 10, Sir Alan said, “Last year alone there were over one billion cheque transactions which shows just how widely used this form of payment still is. For tradesmen and small businesses, cheques are an essential method of payment as other methods can be expensive to administer. “For many older or vulnerable people, particularly pensioners or those who are housebound, cheques are a necessary alternative to keeping cash in the house and leaving themselves at a greater risk of theft and burglary. “The Save Our Cheques petition has received support from thousands of people from all across the country, of different ages and walks of life. I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues are calling on the Government to acknowledge that banks have a social responsibility to serve and protect their customers, and that retaining cheques would mean little or nothing to banks but a great deal to millions of their customers who still rely on them.” If you want to sign Sir Alan’s petition, please visit http://www.campaigns.libdems.org.uk/northeastsaveourcheque

Cheques are still essential and must be protected – Beith

Northern News April 2011

Northern Councils win awards

The two biggest councils in the North of England under Lib Dem control have won awards from the Lib Dem Group at the Local Government Association. The awards were announced and presented at the LGA reception at the Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference in Sheffield in March. Above - Local Government Minister Andrew Stunnel MP presents Paul Scriven, Leader of Sheffield City Council, and his team with the award for Council Group of the Year. Below - Andrew Stunnel MP and Party President Tim Farron MP present David Falkner, Leader of Newcastle, and his team with the award for Green Group fo the Year.

Northern News April 2011

Road safety success for North East campaigners
Lethal blind spots in lorries could soon be a thing of the past after the success today of a long-running North East safety campaign. Local campaigners travelled to the European Parliament for the second time in a month to secure the support of 369 MEPs needed to pass the Written Declaration on road safety. After a four month, Europe-wide effort, the final signature was secured with just hours to spare before Thursday’s deadline. The campaign was led by North East MEP Fiona Hall, who tabled the Written Declaration which calls for use of sensors and cameras to eliminate the blind spots in lorries that cause thousands of collisions each year. Fiona said, “This is fantastic news. Persuading so many MEPs to back a campaign is no easy feat and it would not have been possible without the dedication of so many committed volunteers. “We have the opportunity to save thousands of lives and prevent many serious injuries each year. “The European Commission are now obliged to come forward with proposals in response to the Parliament. I am meeting with the Commission officials next week and will be pressing for changes to be forthcoming as soon as possible.” Kate Cairns, sister of Eilidh Cairns whose death while cycling to work inspired the campaign, said, “I hope that Eilidh’s legacy will be to save the lives of vulnerable road users right across Europe through the creation of safer roads.

“Fantastic news - Fiona Hall MEP on hearing that the campaign to improve road safety for cyclists is in the right lane for success.

“It has been fantastic to see so many people rally to the cause over the past four months and for their hard work to be rewarded today. I want to thank every individual who has responded to our plea for assistance. Their action has brought about this result. “The reckless stupidity of having huge lorries ‘share’ road space with pedestrians and cyclists without the simple and inexpensive warning systems available must now end.”

Beith backs Fair Trade for British Farmers
Berwick’s MP Sir Alan Beith has called on the government to tackle unfair trade rules within the UK food market. The Liberal Democrat has added his name to an Early Day Motion in Parliament proposing the establishment of a domestic fair trade classification to enable UK farmers to be protected from exploitation by large corporations, such as supermarkets, to prevent them paying below cost prices for goods. He has called for a supermarket ombudsman to be set up to launch and manage this classification. Sir Alan said, “Farmers play an immensely important role in Northumberland and across the UK and we need to ensure that they get a fair price for the goods they produce. “The global Fairtrade Foundation works to promote ethical purchasing and trade justice for farmers and producers in developing countries, and we need to do the same for our own farmers.

Sir Alan Beith battling for farmers.

“I will continue to lobby the government until steps are taken to prevent the exploitation of our farmers.”

Northern News April 2011
Swales slams council over budget failure
Liberal Democrat MP, Ian Swales, has slammed Redcar and Cleveland Council for refusing to release a detailed budget for for coming year. Ian said, ‘’I am meeting people who work for Council frontline service providers, and they don’t know if they will have a job after the 31st March. “It is irresponsible of the council to leave the details of the budget unknown to people. Not only are there people whose livelihoods rest on knowing where their funding will be allocated, the businesses, voluntary and charity organisations cannot plan ahead to make sure that the people of Redcar and Cleveland have the services that they need. “Although times are hard, Redcar and Cleveland Council do have funding to allocate to services. They are choosing to play with people’s lives by delaying their decisions. ‘People who provided services to the council have a right to know their plans. It is convenient for the Labour Council to shirk away from their responsibility for a little longer with their gaze firmly focussed on the local elections in May. The tax-paying public have a right to know how their money will be spent.” Liberal Democrat Council Group Leader, Chris Abbot said ‘this is typical of the Labour Council to delay making decisions of this kind. This is a cop out budget, they do not want people to know what decisions have been made and what is to be cut. Until we know the full details of the budget the Liberal Democrats cannot support it.‘’

Ian Swales MP: “irresponsible of the council to leave the details of the budget unknown”

Power to the people - pledge Leeds Lib Dems
Leeds Liberal Democrats have pledged to devolve more power to the people of Leeds in their local election manifesto. Ways of devolving more decision making at grass roots level and involving more local people, community groups and town and parish councils were the key message as Leeds Liberal Democrat leader Stewart Golton launch their May 5 local election campaign and manifesto, Leeds – A City for All. Joined by a number of local election candidates and councillors at Club LS1, Stewart said, “Our vision is set in extraordinary times. The next two or three years will be very difficult for the city and the council must respond to ensure that we come out the other side more resilient and ready to grow. That will take leadership. “When we talk about leadership, we don’t mean elected mayors with more power sucked into the city centre, one of the best indicators of true leadership is the ability to set the scene, give up power to others and trust them to get on with it. Advertisement “Our manifesto aims to rebalance The Gateshead and Blaydon Liberal Democrats decision-making in the city. We will take powers from the Civic Hall and Invite you to a let local people take the lead in deciding how money can be best spent in their communities. It’s time to invest in our communities and at The Coachman, Broadway, Whickham encourage residents to have more On Saturday 2 April 2011 at 7.30pm control of facilities in our neighbourhoods.” Tickets: £5 (including pie and pea supper) Golton said specific investment Available from Susan Craig (tel 0191 4880787) would be made to build partnerships Please let Susan know by Wednesday 9 March 2011 if you plan with the voluntary sector, police and to attend. businesses in local communities.

Quiz Night

Northern News April 2011 Huhne attacks Labour on visit to North

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne MP speaks to the meeting in Newcastle in which he said Labour’s denial of any responsibility for the economic mess needs to be exposed. Newcastle City Leader Councillor David Falkner right, chaired the meeting. Energy and Climate Change Secretary of State, Chris Huhne, was in the North East to press home the message of Liberal Democrat achievements in government on 28th March. Chris visited Redcar and Newcastle to look at energy schemes and he spoke of how the region could be at the forefront of moves to expand green energy production. Chris also used the opportunity of a meeting with members in Newcastle to urge Liberal Democrats to expose Labour’s denial about any responsibility for the economic mess they left for the Coalition to sort out. The Secretary of State’s visit was the first of a number of high ranking visits to the region as part of the local election campaign.

Members’ newsletters - a full service
Members’ newsletters - they often get pushed to the bottom of the list of things to be done and often don’t get produced at all. But they are an important way of keeping your local members on board and encouraging them to get involved. A full newsletter service for local parties is now available: It will be based on an A3 template containing coverage of the Liberal Democrats nationally. There will be space available for local stories provided by you. We typeset, print and mail out the newsletter to addresses you provide. The cost of the basic service is £20 plus 65p per mailing address. View some of my recent newsletters at: www.scribd.com/JonathanWallace

For more information call Jonathan Wallace on 07860 730270 or email jonathanwallace@compuserve.com

Referendum News April 2011

North of England urged to Vote for Change
Lib Dem campaigners in the North of England are backing reform to how people vote in general elections. And they are urging fellow Northerners to back change. A referendum will be held on 5th May in which people will be able to opt to stick with the old system or to change to one in which MPs are only elected if they have at least half the people voting for them. A campaign group that contains a large number of people not connected to any party is calling for a “Yes” vote. The group also contains people from all the main political parties who want to clean up British politics. Lib Dem members gathered at the recent Lib Dem Conference in Sheffield to back the “Yes” campaign. Many people feel the old voting system led to the expenses scandal and too many MPs with a job-for-life. A ‘Yes’ vote on 5th May will change the voting system so that MPs will have to work harder to get elected, jobs-for-life for MPs will be ended and MPs will be more accountable to their constituencies. Check www.YesToFairerVotes.org.uk for new material and regular updates on the “Yes” Campaign.

Who’s Who in the Liberal Democrats
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Budget News
The Budget on 23rd March saw a huge step forward for Liberal Democrat priorities, especially on making the tax system fairer. As a result of having Lib Dems in government, all basic rate taxpayers are receiving a tax cut. In his Conference speech, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that Liberal Democrats stood up for “alarm clock Britain” - ordinary men and women who do not have wealth, privilege or versted interests behind them but who want to work and get on in life. The Budget was a direct help to them, cutting taxes, easing the cost of living and encouraging growth. This is a Budget to help alarm clock Britain, giving a helping hand to those who are working hard to make ends meet.

Making fairer taxes a priority
In April, 23 million basic rate payers will get a £200 tax cut. This Budget goes further – 25 million will benefit by another £126 next year (in cash terms). By 2012-13 we will have lifted over 1.1 million people on low incomes out of paying tax altogether.

Easing pressure on the cost of living
Labour’s plans for a 5p hike in the price of fuel per litre have been stopped. Instead fuel prices will be cut by 1p. Petrol prices have gone up by around 18p a litre since the autumn Spending Review and we know that this is hurting people. We are going to increase taxes on the oil companies who are benefiting from soaring world oil prices, to help those who are struggling as a result.

Encouraging growth and rebalancing our economy
The Budget takes action on youth unemployment, by funding an additional 50,000 new apprenticeships and an additional 80,000 work experience places. It will encourage business investment in deprived areas with 21 Enterprise Zones, and it will support small businesses by exempting them from the burden of new regulation for 3 years.

It fulfils our commitment to being the greenest government ever
The Green Investment Bank will begin operation in 2012-13, a year earlier than expected, with £3bn of capitalisation, delivering an additional £18bn of investment in green infrastructure by 2014-15. The Budget also commits to introducing a carbon price floor and increasing the proportion of tax accounted for by environmental taxes. With Liberal Democrat involvement at every stage, this Budget sets out how the Coalition Government will build the foundations for sustainable growth – delivering on our spending plans without the need for extra cuts or tax increases. Labour won’t apologise for the mess they left our economy in. Their failure to face up to the deficit would leave them coming back every year asking for more cuts and tax increases.

Conference News
Liberal Democrats gathered for Spring Conference in Sheffield on 11th-13th March. With 10 months of Government behind us, the Party could make an assessment of how Coalition was working for Britain. Whilst critical voices were raised on health, the media were denied any red meat - the general feeling amongst members was that though times are hard, they require tough decisions and a strong programme for Government. And members feel the Party is definitely up to the difficult task of cleaning up Labour’s economic mess and reforming Britain for the better.

We are on the side of Alarm Clock Britain - Nick Clegg
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s closing speech to Conference highlighted the Liberal Democrats’ role as the champion of ordinary working people. He told members, “We’re on the side of the people I call Alarm Clock Britain. The side of everyone who wants to get up and get on. “People who, unlike the wealthy, have no choice but to work hard to make ends meet. People who are proud to support themselves but are only ever one pay cheque from their overdraft. People who believe in self-reliance but who don’t want to live in a dog-eat-dog world; who want everyone who can to work hard but they want children, the elderly and the vulnerable to be looked after too. “People who believe it is as wrong to opt out of tax as it is to opt out of working. People who want the best for their children and need good local schools. Who rely on our NHS. Who want great public services but can’t stand seeing government waste. People who don’t want politicians lecturing them on how to live. And who are fed up with politicians taking their votes for granted. “These are the people liberals have always fought for – fought to get them votes, wages, jobs and welfare. In government, especially in difficult times, it is more important than ever to know whose side you are on. “When money is tight you have to make choices. And the only way to get them right is to know who you are making those choices for. “We are on the side of Alarm Clock Britain. The other parties say they are but always let them down. “They have been failed for generations. Failed by the tired tribalism of left and right. Failed because both of those political traditions forget about people and place their faith in institutions. For the left, an obsession with the state. For the right, a worship of the market. “But as liberals, we place our faith in people. People with power and opportunity in their hands. “Our opponents try to divide us with their outdated labels of left and right. But we are not on the left and we are not on the right. We have our own label: Liberal. “We are liberals and we own the freehold to the centre ground of British politics. Governing from the middle, for the middle. In government – on your side.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg addresses Conference

Top 5 Lib Dem successes in Government
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Cleaning up Labour’s debt so our children don’t pay for it. A £200 income tax cut for people on middle and low incomes. A £4.50 pension rise to ensure dignity in retirement. An extra £2.5bn to help our children in school. A £10bn extra bank tax - making them pay their fair share.

Conference News

Tougher Action on Banks and Bonuses
Banks and bonuses came up for debate at Conference as an emergency motion. Whilst members welcomed the recent “Project Merlin” which was brought in to increase lending to businesses and make the bonus system more transparent, they were concerned that it did not go far enough. The motion agreed by Conference stated that ‘lighttouch’ regulation of banks in recent decades has been a failure. Conference agreed that: banks supported by the taxpayer should be broken into smaller companies; All large-scale banks to divest their more risky investment banking arms; more transparency on pay for high earning employees, not just executives; The new Green Investment Bank to be a fully functional bank and not a fund, securing much-needed investment in low-carbon technology and jobs; Measures be introduced to tackle financial exclusion for individuals and small business, with a Basic Banking Guarantee; a public bank, administered through Post Offices; a commitment from high street banks to provide free ATMs within walking distance of all deprived communities; as well as reducing unfair bank, credit card and loan charges. there should be greater support for local credit unions and mutuals.

Updating the NHS: Personal and Local
The debate on the NHS attracted media interest because of the amendment that was proposed which was critical of some aspects of the Government’s plans for the health service. Conference supported the amendment which asked our MPs and the Government to amend the Health Bill to prevent unfair competition from private health providers that could undermine important health and emergency functions carried out by the NHS. The amendment did not rule out commissioning of services by NHS GPs from the private sector but it did effectively call for a more rigorous system of regulation that would prevent cherrypicking by private sector companies. It also called for greater democratisation and transparency of the GP commissioning system. Nevertheless, the motion welcomed many of the aims of the Health Bill, especially: increasing the quality of care; creation of a system that is genuinely centred on patients and carers; the retention of the founding principle that the NHS is available to all, free at the point of use, and based on need, not the ability to pay; increased democratisation and role for local government, including the return to councils of powers over public health; putting clinicians in the driving seat and setting hospitals and providers free to innovate, with stronger incentives to adopt best practice.

Other motions passed
Community Futures - giving strong backing to the voluntary sector. Taking Responsibility - Youth Justice policy paper. Disability Living Allowance - this motion raised concerns about the decision to remove the mobility component of the new Personal Independence Payment. Access to Justice - this motion called on the Government to review the impact of any changes to the Legal Aid system and for alternative ways to access legal assistance to be considered.

Conference News

Improving the Diversity of our MPs
Conference passed an important motion aimed at improving the diversity of Lib Dems MPs. At last year’s general election, the party did not increase the number of women MPs and no MPs from an ethnic minority were elected. Nick Clegg has made it clear that he wants to make sure our parliamentary party is much more representative of modern Britain. Conference agreed with him. Conference therefore agreed to appoint Diversity champions throughout the party. Regions will set targets for improving the diversity of approved candidates. Regions and local parties will actively encourage members and supporters from underrepresented groups to become more active in the party, including standing for election. A Leadership Programme for outstanding Nick Clegg at the Diversity Reception at Lib Dem candidates from under-represented groups will be Conference in Sheffield set up which will provide training, mentoring and coaching and offer them opportunities to shadow a Parliamentarian. Funds will also be raised to provide practical support to PPCs from under-represented groups. Where candidates from the Leadership Programme apply to a priority seat at least two candidates from the Leadership Programme should be shortlisted. Groups of Development Seats will be asked to advertise and recruit PPCs in clusters, using the Region’s targets for shortlisting. The Federal Executive should review progress of the Leadership Programme and the other arrangements in the Candidates Review in 2013, and consider more urgent action if not sufficient candidates from under-represented groups have been selected in our priority seats.

Conference in pictures

Left: Tim Farron MP spots the only person in his constituency who did not vote for him! Above: Tim Farron MP offers Don Foster MP a £10 note not to tell the story about Tim’s activities in the bar the night before! Right: through the round window. former Playschool presenter Floella Benjamin introduces speakers at the rally.

Conference News

Conference in pictures

Above: teddies take part in a pro-Lib Dem sit in at the Lib Dem Image stand. Right: demonstrators gather outside Mothercare, rather fitting for their kindergarden politics. They turned up late on Saturday morning. You would have thought they could at least have made an effort to get out of bed in time! Left: times have changed since we went into government. Stewards and Special Branch now compete to be the closest to Nick Clegg after his speech. Bottom left: party photographer Dave Radcliffe appears to be the only one to point his camera in the right direction. Bottom right: time to get your cheque book out - Nick Clegg arrives at the Yorkshire and Humberside stand in the exhibition area.