Lib Dems: Invest £1.1 million to double Warm Home Discount and prevent 3900 pensioners in South Glos going cold this winter
South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to double the Warm Home Discount for existing recipients and make it available to 670 extra pensioners across the Authority. The measure would prevent pensioners being forced to “choose between eating and heating this winter”, say the Lib Dems.
The call comes amid fears that local residents, particularly 3900 pensioners on low incomes, could be at risk from the energy crisis this winter.
The Warm Home Discount, funded by energy firms, is due to give people £140 off their electricity bill this winter. It is available to those who receive the ‘Guarantee Credit’ element of pension credit as well as some people on low incomes, with around two million receiving it each year across the UK.
The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to take on the cost of the Warm Home Discount and immediately double its value to £280, helping pensioners cope with soaring bills this winter.
Currently £458,000 is spent on the Warm Home Discount in South Gloucestershire. Under Liberal Democrat plans this funding would rise to £1.1 million.
Commenting on the new scheme, Claire Young, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition Group on South Glos Council said:
“The Conservatives are pushing the most vulnerable pensioners and families into a cost of living crisis. We are seeing a double whammy of rising bills and the slashing of vital support.
“Residents in South Gloucestershire should not have to choose between heating and eating this winter. We simply cannot allow those who are already struggling to bear the brunt of this government’s terrible mistakes.
“Liberal Democrats are calling for a £1.1 million investment to help people cope with soaring bills this winter.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP added:
“If Boris Johnson has any interest in offering the most vulnerable in society a fair deal, he will listen to this Liberal Democrat proposal to double and extend the Warm Home Discount to the people who really need help.”
In the Full Council meeting of 22/9/21 Conservative councillors cruelly rejected Lib Dem calls to lobby the Government and local MPs to raise Carer’s Allowance by £1,000 a year, to help support unpaid carers in South Gloucestershire.
There are more than 2700 carers in South Gloucestershire, but many people who provide care for a loved one do not recognise themselves as a ‘carer’. Whilst the financial and emotional challenges faced by unpaid carers have been made far worse by the Coronavirus pandemic, full-time unpaid carers continue to rely on Carer’s Allowance at just £67.25 a week.
The motion submitted by Liberal Democrat Councillors included a call for the Leader of Council to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, urging them to raise Carer’s Allowance by £20 a week immediately and copy in our local MPs asking for their support. The Conservatives voted to strike this out.
Cllr Ben Nutland, Shadow Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Equality of Opportunity commented:
“Caring for people’s health doesn’t stop at the GP’s surgery door, there are about 6.5million volunteers in the UK who look after a family member or friend who is elderly or has a disability, or a mental or physical illness. Here in South Gloucestershire they have been at the forefront of the Coronavirus pandemic response and continue to do a selfless and remarkable job in very difficult circumstances.
“Despite this, the Government has overlooked carers and has failed to offer adequate support, and unpaid carers, in particular, have been left to face mounting financial and emotional pressures. I am disappointed the Conservatives refused to challenge the Government about this. Research shows that unpaid carers in the UK have saved the state £530 million every day of the pandemic. The Government has a duty to give them the support they deserve.”
Cllr Louise Harris, who is also an unpaid Carer, added:
“Many carers are facing extreme financial hardship. The Liberal Democrats will stand up for them and lead the way to a more caring society.”
Parents of 37500 children in South Glos would receive vouchers worth £200 a year to spend on catch-up classes and educational activities, under plans announced by the Liberal Democrats.
The policy would empower parents to help their children catch up after months of school closures and disruption during the pandemic. The vouchers could be spent on a range of activities including tutoring in reading, writing and maths, music lessons, swimming classes or other physical education.
The programme would last three years, with one £200 Catch-Up Voucher provided annually for every school child in the country, in what the Liberal Democrats said would become "the world’s biggest ever parent-listening exercise.”
6300 children on free school meals in South Glos would be eligible for Catch-Up vouchers worth £400 a year under the proposals. This would help close the learning gap for disadvantaged children who were less likely to have the resources they needed to learn at home during the pandemic. Pupils with special educational needs who are also eligible for Free School Meals would be provided with triple vouchers worth £600 a year.
The ambitious plans were featured this week on BBC One and ITV as part of the Liberal Democrats’ Party Political Broadcast. They would form part of a £15 billion package of education catch-up funding, or £500 per child, as recommended by the Government’s former Education Recovery Commissioner Sir Kevan Collins. This is ten times more than the £50 per child being provided under the government’s current plans.
Commenting on the new scheme, Liberal Democrat Opposition Group Leader on South Glos Council Claire Young said:
“Children have already suffered too much during this pandemic, from not seeing their friends to missing out on school. We need to see a massive investment in helping kids catch up on this lost learning, instead of the pitiful £50 per child the government is currently offering.
“The Liberal Democrats’ Catch-up Voucher scheme would put money directly into the hands of parents in [AREA] to spend on whatever their children need most. It would also provide extra cash for the families of disadvantaged children and those with special needs, to help them close the learning gap.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP added:
“The Liberal Democrats are the party of empowering people, and supporting parents and children is our top priority in the new fair deal we are offering.
“Covid should mark a watershed in how we educate our children and young people. It is clearer than ever that we need a massive education catch-up fund. And this catch-up fund - which our schools desperately need - should also give parents a radical new role in their children's education.”
South Gloucestershire's Liberal Democrats have slammed their three local Conservative MPs' choice to break their promise to the electorate and vote for a 1.25% rise in National Insurance.
The changes, which go against the Conservatives’ manifesto promise not to raise taxes, will mean hard-pressed local families and small businesses will be left paying hundreds of pounds more in tax each year.
Luke Hall, Jack Lopresti and Chris Skidmore were amongst the 317 Conservative MPs to support the plans. Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the government plans, arguing that they fail to fix the ongoing social care crisis and will fall disproportionately on the young, the low paid and small businesses.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for a cross-party agreement on social care, to find a long-term solution to funding high-quality care for everyone who needs it.
Commenting, Claire Young Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition Group on South Glos Council said:
“Hall, Lopresti and Skidmore stood on a clear promise at the last election not to raise taxes, including National Insurance. Now they have voted to break that promise by hitting hard-pressed families and small businesses in South Glos with a tax hike at a time many are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic.
“The people of South Gloucestershire deserve better than this. They need MPs who they can trust and who will fight for a fairer deal for our area.
“The Liberal Democrats opposed these unjust plans in Parliament. We have been clear about how to fix the social care crisis in a fairer way, instead of hiking taxes on those who can least afford it.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP added:
“The Tories have gone from being the party of low tax to the party of broken promises.
“Conservative MPs have shown that they can’t be trusted and are taking people for granted. It’s little wonder that voters around the country and across the Blue Wall are turning to the Liberal Democrats instead.
“We want to see cross-party talks on how to fund social care in a fair and sustainable way, along with urgent action to fix the staffing crisis in care homes and give unpaid carers the recognition they deserve.”
South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats have given a cautious welcome to the news that the local council has submitted a business case for reopening Charfield station to the regional authority.
Commenting on the announcement, Liberal Democrat councillor for Charfield John O’Neill said:
“I welcome the news that the potential reopening of Charfield station has taken a step forward – Liberal Democrats on South Gloucestershire Council and on Gloucestershire County Council have been leading the campaign to reopen Charfield station for decades.
“Having been campaigning on this issue for a long time, I warn the current administration that submitting a business case and securing funding for the reopening of Charfield station are not the same thing. The tone of the administration’s recent publicity makes it sound like the reopening of the station has been given the go-ahead, whereas in reality there will be many more challenges to overcome before we can be sure that the station will be reopening.
“However, submitting a business case to the West of England Authority is a key milestone and I would like to pay tribute to the work of two former Liberal Democrat Councillors: Eddie Gadsby (one of my predecessors representing Charfield) and former Gloucestershire County Councillor for Wotton under Edge, John Cordwell. Without Eddie and John’s work over decades, it is unlikely we’d be where we are today."
Councillor Adrian Rush, Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Environment and Strategic Infrastructure on South Gloucestershire Council added:
“As always the administration talks a good game – but now we have to wait and see if they will deliver on their promises.
“Delivering Charfield station has to be a key transport priority for South Gloucestershire Council and I hope we’ll be hearing definite news that funding has been secured and that the station will be reopened before too long and that South Gloucestershire will finally be delivering on this long-held aspiration.”