Closed doors slammed by South Glos

Last night, South Gloucestershire councillors condemned the Home Secretary’s decision to accept only 350 unaccompanied refugee children from the Syrian crisis. Cllr Claire Young (Liberal Democrat, Westerleigh) proposed a motion reaffirming the Council’s long-standing commitment to supporting refugees, and criticising the US decision to ban entry to all nationals from 7 Muslim majority countries. Although the Conservatives used their majority to weaken the motion, and talk about all countries – including dictatorships the UK should never admire – the motion was agreed to. Words condemning the Government first proposed by Liberal Democrat Maggie Tyrrell were then added, on a named vote. Claire Young said: “The importance of this motion is show that we stand with our residents, whatever their nationality, ethnicity, or religion. It is to show that we are a welcoming, inclusive council, prepared to stand up for the values of an open, tolerant society. The values that people have long associated with both the UK and the US, but which in the past year have seemed to be under siege. South Gloucestershire residents with dual nationality could be directly affected by this, and it’s important that we stand up for them.” An early vote on a Liberal Democrat proposal to condemn the Government’s weak action on child refugees was defeated by Conservative votes, but the issue came up again later in the debate. Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Ruth Davis added: “Because of the government action on this, there are over 2,650 children in France, in appalling circumstances. We could have brought them over to proper foster families, where they would have been safe. That is what we’re talking about, 2,650 children who now have no hope again. I want to be able to sleep at night!” The ‘Dubs amendment’ is Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, which instructed the Government to set a number of unaccompanied child refugees to be brought to safety in Britain. Last week, the Government set that at only 350 – 200 of whom were already in Britain. Councillors first took a hand vote on whether or not to condemn the Home Secretary’s decision, and then took a “named vote”, with every Councillor being asked in turn. With every Liberal Democrat and Labour Councillor supporting, four Tories joined them – and the vote passed, 32-31. Afterwards, Claire Young said: “I am delighted that we have decided to condemn this Home Secretary’s decision. The whole point of the Dubs amendment was to make a difference – not to be a gesture. Families in South Gloucestershire are ready to welcome child refugees, and we are leaving them in squalor, in camps. Britain can do better than that.
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Libraries and one stop shops

The Liberal Democrats on South Gloucestershire proposed responsible, funded alterations to the South Gloucestershire budget, which were shot down by Tory and Labour votes.

 

Liberal Democrat Cllr Claire Young (Westerleigh) said: “No one should be in any doubt about the serious financial situation facing this and every other council in the country. The Conservative Government continues to squeeze local government, and Conservative councillors are left fiddling around the edges – or texting their Westminster colleagues in desperation.

 

“The Conservative obsession with the garden waste charge and their unaffordable promise is blinding them to other needs. They could have used the flexibility they had to make lives easier for residents. We proposed a modest one-off fund to cover the start-up costs of ten community libraries. Another decision was to close the OSS in Thornbury. We opposed this at the time and we stand by that. Transport continues to be a high priority for our local residents. Yate, Chipping Sodbury and the surrounding villages have seen the erosion of the bus services providing a vital link not just to Southmead but also to Parkway Station, UWE, further education colleges and the Mall. We have been pressing not just for the restoration of the last 82 bus of the day that was cut in January, but also a later service, to suit people who work at the Mall or attend college in the evening. Only by running a reliable service at times that people actually want to catch the bus is there any hope of creating a commercially viable service.

 

“We would ask the ECS committee – which needlessly froze the green bin charge, giving up £240k annually – to accept a budget reduction of just £91k. This £91k would then be spent on Reinstating the Thornbury One Stop Shop, Reinstating the late 82 bus service, and on rural community library start-up costs. We would expect the committee to fund this by altering the green bin charge.”

 

Cllr Clare Fardell (Thornbury North) said: “Not a single word about green bins has been said to me this year. There was a fuss at the time, but now there is no problem. Not one single complaint from my residents, and they talk to me a lot. But ever so many have made comments about the One Stop Shop. That really hits people. For example, older people who aren’t hard up might have no idea how to use a computer to find answers. They are full of praise for the Thornbury One Stop Shop staff who help them with their problem, and to use council services. To say the green bin charge is sacred when we are losing everything else is utterly ridiculous.”

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School meal secrecy

School meal charges in South Gloucestershire were discussed today – in secret, with doors closed. Any new fees will apply for the school year 2017-2018.

Liberal Democrat Resources spokesman Cllr Mike Drew said: “We ought to be able to discuss the principles in public, our residents ought to be aware of this debate. I’m opposed to going into exempt session unless we need to.”

Cllr Claire Young (Westerleigh) added: “It’s going to be obvious what each school is going to be charging pupils. Parents are going to talk! Yet everything we discussed, and how any vote went is officially secret. This is absurd.

“It’s a basic principle of democracy that decisions should be taken in public, wherever possible. Officers warned us away from specific commercial information – but we could have had the discussion on principles, at least. This report title covered fees for school meals, school music lessons, and community meals. These directly affect our children, and our vulnerable residents. I can’t believe that every Tory, and every Labour member of the committee decided that the whole thing had to be hidden away, behind a closed door.”

The vote to go exempt was carried 7-2, with both Liberal Democrats voting against.

 

Report was Item 16 at https://council.southglos.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=414&MId=7753

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Stephen Williams selected as Liberal Democrat candidate for West of England Mayor

Claire_Young_congratulates_Stephen_Williams_on_his_selection_as_Liberal_Democrat_Candidate_for_West_of_England_Metro_Mayor.JPGFollowing a vote of the local party membership Stephen Williams was this afternoon selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Metro Mayor for the West of England to be held on Thursday 4th of May this year.

Following a series of hustings in front of the party membership in Yate, Bath and Bristol, the former Local Government Minister and MP for Bristol West Williams secured the Liberal Democrat nomination ahead of Simon Cook in the membership vote. 

Speaking to party members following the final hustings meeting in Bristol Stephen Williams said:

“It’s an honour to be selected, I am determined to win this election and deliver real change for people in the West of England”.

“My main priority will be continuing economic prosperity, but by tackling the main constraints that hold us back – the lack of affordable housing, and the woeful state of our public transport.”

“This election is a clear choice between me and the inexperienced Conservative candidate. Our region needs the strongest possible leadership and with my experience, I can offer just that”.

“I will also stand up for the majority of people who voted to remain in the European Union,  and will work with the business community to persuade the Conservative government to keep us in the single market and avoid a disastrous hard Brexit which will risk jobs and livelihoods particularly in the aerospace and manufacturing industries. 

Congratulating him on his selection Claire Young, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Thornbury and Yate, added:

"The Metro Mayor will need to work with and challenge the government for more power and resources if this devolution deal is going to make a difference to the day-to-day lives of people across the West of England. Stephen has a wealth of experience and a positive track record of working in local government and at the highest levels in national politics."

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Former MP Steve Webb awarded Knighthood in New Year's Honours List

Steve WebbMany congratulations to Steve Webb on being awarded a Knighthood for Political and Public Service in the New Year Honours.

As our MP for 18 years, he was a passionate local campaigner, dedicated to helping people in our constituency. He was also a highly regarded Minister for Pensions for five years. Thanks to Steve, the state pension is protected by the "triple lock", people have more freedom about how they use their pension pots and millions of low paid workers are saving for a pension for the first time. It's great to see his hard work both locally and nationally being recognised.

Steve has been keen to say that his honour is the end result of a fabulous team effort over so many years. If you would like to help continue this, please get involved. You can get in touch at http://www.southgloslibdems.org.uk/volunteer

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