As local schools break up for half term, South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats have slammed the decision of the area’s three Conservative MPs to vote against continuing to fund free school meals in holiday time.
Reacting to the news that Luke Hall (Thornbury and Yate), Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) and Chris Skidmore (Kingswood) all voted against an opposition motion to extend the free school meals programme, Cllr Claire Young, Leader of South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrat Councillors said:
“It seems amazing that, in 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic, in one of the richest countries in the world, saying that no child should go hungry simply because they are not in school, should be controversial. But all three of our MPs seem to think that allowing children to go hungry is acceptable.
“I sincerely hope that the Conservative members of South Gloucestershire Council will show more compassion than their colleagues in Westminster.
“We will be asking the council’s leadership to use what influence it has with its own party’s Government to support an extension of free school meals during the holidays. If that fails, we will be asking the council to act locally, to ensure South Gloucestershire school children do not go hungry during future school holidays.”
4,212 children in South Gloucestershire are eligible to receive free meals when attending schools, but are left without support outside school term time. During the Coronavirus lockdown this was replaced with a voucher system in term time which (following a high-profile campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford MBE) was extended into the summer. The Government has now decided not to extend the scheme into further school holidays.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for:
- Free school meals to every pupil whose parents or guardians are in receipt of Universal Credit
- Food vouchers for every one of those pupils in every school holiday and during any period of lockdown
- Free school meals to pupils from low-income families whose parents or guardians have no recourse to public funds and destitute asylum seekers
The Liberal Democrats have warned that all three South Gloucestershire Conservative MPs are risking a “new Windrush-style scandal”, after they voted to refuse to offer EU citizens physical proof of their right to stay in the UK.
On Monday (19th October), Tory MPs overturned a Liberal Democrat amendment to the Immigration Bill, which passed in the House of Lords just weeks ago. The amendment would require the Home Office to give EU Citizens physical proof of Settled and Pre-Settled Status, rather than the digital-only system the Home Office is currently pursuing.
Conservatives in the House of Commons rejected the amendment by 331 votes to 260. Luke Hall, Jack Lopresti, and Chris Skidmore were among those voting to scrap the amendment, while Liberal Democrat MPs and MPs in all other parties voted to retain it.
The latest Home Office figures show that, as of the end of June, 10,880 people in South Gloucestershire have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme for the right to stay in the UK after the Brexit transition period ends. 5,950 have been granted Settled Status so far, while a further 4,170 have been granted temporary Pre-Settled Status.
Following the vote, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:
“The Conservatives’ decision to overturn this Liberal Democrat amendment shows how empty their promises to guarantee citizens’ rights after Brexit really are. Their Hostile Environment is, sadly, alive and well.
“The Windrush Scandal showed the devastating impact of the Hostile Environment on people who cannot easily prove their rights. By denying EU citizens physical proof of Settled Status, the Government risks making them the victims of a new Windrush-style Scandal.”
Claire Young, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on South Gloucestershire Council, said:
“EU citizens in South Gloucestershire are our families and friends, our colleagues and carers. They have been living under a cloud of uncertainty for far too long.
“By refusing to provide EU citizens with physical proof of their rights and forcing them to rely on a digital code and an online Home Office database, our MPs are putting them at risk of discrimination.
“Liberal Democrats are fighting for EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK, with physical proof of their status.”Read more
South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats have welcomed the decision of the Council unanimously to pass a motion opposing the Conservative Government’s proposed decimation of the planning system.
Described as a “developers’ charter”, the newest proposals from the Conservative Government would tear up planning rules and give developers virtual free-reign to build what they like where they like.
South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrat councillors proposed a motion last night and asked fellow councillors from the Conservative and Labour Parties to support it.
Following negotiations, both the Conservative and the Labour groups agreed to support a revised version of the Liberal Democrat motion, which was passed by the council unanimously yesterday.
The motion, proposed by Councillor Jayne Stansfield, Liberal Democrat Lead Member on the Development Management Committee, calls on South Gloucestershire Council to make representations to the Government’s consultation on its, “Planning for the Future” White Paper.
Moving the motion, Cllr Jayne Stansfield described the Government’s proposals as, “a serious threat to a democratic and transparent planning system” and asked that the Council raises concerns with central Government.
Cllr Jayne Stansfield, proposer of the motion said:
“I would question many of the assumptions made in this white paper – there is the idea that councils are reluctant to grant planning permission, but here in South Glos we grant 93% of planning applications. According to the LGA there are over 1million houses with planning permission which have not been built.”
“I am very concerned that the Government appears to be proposing tearing up so many safeguards contained within the current planning system.
“These proposals remove most of the power of local councils to decide what gets built in their area, they remove the power of the public to have a say on what happens near them, they will massively reduce the amount of affordable housing and vital infrastructure that gets built and they pay little attention to the climate emergency. It is difficult to see anything in these proposals which deserves to be supported.
“We need to make sure that we’re keeping the public involved in the planning process for as long as possible, but these proposals reduce the ability of members of the public to have their say, to something that happens at a very early stage, possibly decades before anything get built.”
Cllr Adrian Rush, Liberal Democrat Lead Member for Planning, Transport and Strategic Environment said:
“We are facing a housing crisis, but the planning system is not the problem. Across the country over a million houses have planning permission but haven’t been built. The Government now wants to loosen the rules so much that developers will be able to build practically whatever they want. We need to tell the Government that these proposals will be a disaster for South Gloucestershire.”
Cllr Claire Young, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition on South Gloucestershire Council added:
“Up and down the country, councils of all political persuasions have been passing similar motions, opposing these deeply worrying proposals. They would massively reduce the power of councils and the local communities they serve, to decide the future of their local areas.
“I am pleased that the Labour and Conservative groups agreed to work with us to support a motion which reflects the very real concerns that councillors of all parties have about what the Conservative Government is threatening to do to the planning system.”Read more
The Liberal Democrats in South Gloucestershire have urged the Government to extend the eviction ban as official figures reveal that 55 South Gloucestershire families in private rented accommodation were deemed at risk of homelessness.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran and Chair of the All-Party Group on Coronavirus warned that Ministers must act now to “stop a devastating surge in homelessness sweeping across the country as we face a potential second wave.”
According to official statistics, 160 households in South Gloucestershire are assessed as being threatened with homelessness, with another 70 assessed as homeless from January to March 2020.
60 households who were homeless or threatened with homelessness cited the end of a private rented tenancy as the reason for losing their last settled home.
The figures also revealed that 6 households in South Gloucestershire were rough sleeping in January to March 2020.
Councillor Ben Nutland, Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet Member for Adults and Public Health on South Gloucestershire Council said:
“The current pandemic is causing many people to struggle or lose their jobs. Families in South Gloucestershire need protection from homelessness, but the Conservatives seem happy to leave people to fend for themselves.
“People deserve better. These figures are yet further proof the Government must urgently rethink its heartless decision to resume evictions from 23rd August.”
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:
“Thousands of families in the private rented sector were already being threatened with homelessness earlier this year, now they face losing their homes in the middle of a pandemic.
“Ministers must act now to stop a devastating surge in homelessness sweeping across the country as we face a potential second wave.
“The sharp rise in rough sleeping also shows why criminalising rough sleeping through the Vagrancy Act must end. Instead, Ministers should protect emergency funding for local councils to permanently accommodate rough sleepers."Read more
Government’s A-levels failure has let down a generation of students – South Gloucestershire Council must act
Councillor Claire Young, Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition on South Gloucestershire Council has called on the Council to give support to care-leavers hit by the exam results crisis.
In mishandling the awarding of A-level results, the Government has let down a generation of students. Whilst yesterday’s decision that this year’s students will receive the grades their teachers predicted is the right decision, it remains yet another example of too little, too late from this Government.
The failure of the Government to put in place a fair system of awarding A-level grades before the results were announced has led to chaos as universities and colleges have been forced to decided which students to let in on one set of grades, only to find that the grades have now changed and some students who have been rejected have now been awarded the grades they needed.
Councillor Claire Young said:
“Students have been put through enormous amounts of stress and unnecessary upset, needlessly going through this uncertainty.
“Amidst all this, there is one group of students who are likely to be harder hit than any other – those leaving council care. These young adults, whether they are planning to go on to further or higher education, an apprenticeship, training or employment, are likely to be without family support and without the means to simply take a year off from their plans and try again next year.
“South Gloucestershire Council has a legal, but more importantly a moral duty to these care-leavers to make sure it does everything it can to give these young people the support they need at this deeply uncertain time.
“That is why I have written to Council officers this week, highlighting this issue and asking what the Council is doing to support our care leavers.”