Transition Town and local activism – a very Lib Dem way

Last week I was invited to Transition Town Tooting’s Electing the Future event with other parliamentary candidates. A discussion based evening, rather than a hustings, there were some great ideas around improving community, controlling traffic & pollution, access to housing, green spaces, locally sourced food, better streets and independent retail environments.

Philip giving group feedback from one of the discussions

Philip giving group feedback from one of the discussions

Locally the Lib Dems have are campaigning on safer streets and improved housing, and you can support us at the links below:

In terms of local decision making, in Lib Dem run Borough of Sutton they have encouraged people to set up more resident and community groups, tenants’ associations and friends of parks and heritage buildings, helping them bid for funds so they can make their own decisions about the area where they live. An example is a district centre regeneration project worth more than £1m which was handed over to local residents to agree and oversee.

The Transition Town movement focuses on sustainable living, especially in light of climate change, and nationally the Liberal Democrats understand this, which is why the Liberal Democrats have  it a priority for the next Government, if we are part of it, for five green laws to safeguard the environment:

Zero Carbon Bill

Introducing a Zero Carbon Britain Bill in the next parliament to end Britain’s adverse impact on climate change for good by 2050.

Zero Waste Bill

Treble fines and claw back £500 million for the taxpayer by clamping down on organisations which fly-tip to deliberately evade tax and review the tax structure across landfill, incineration and collection.

Green Homes Bill

New Green Homes Bill will insulate up to 10 million homes by 2025 and offer at least £100 a year off Council Tax for ten years when energy improvements are carried out.

Green Transport Bill

Transport has a significant role to play in reducing carbon emissions. In the UK, transport is responsible for around 25% of our carbon emissions and is the fastest growing source of carbon emissions. We will bring forward a comprehensive package of transport policies to continue to build a people-centred, sustainable, safe travel system that helps the economy grow.

Nature Bill

Establish the Natural Capital Committee on a statutory footing to provide advice to Government to ensure that nature is at the heart of government decision-making and that government departments are held to account for achieving progress against commitments to improving the natural environment.

There is no magic solution to solve all the problems discussed, it requires local and national actions. However, communities thrive best when there is local participation, something the Lib Dems truly believe in.

The NHS and TTIP – no backdoor privatisation.

I’ve received many e-mails on Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the impact on the NHS. People are right to be concerned about any major trade agreements, especially one opening up economies to multinationals (who frankly haven’t helped themselves in this battle over the years). However, there is no risk to the NHS of being forced to open up for private American firms to run.

Nick Clegg addressed this issue at Lib Dem spring conference

The letter from Cecilia Malmstroma, the EU Commissioner in charge of the TTIP negotiations, to the Government about TTIP and the NHS is also available here



A proactive appraoch to road safety in Wandsworth Borough

As our roads get busier, many people complain about road safety as residents, pedestrians, cyclists and even motorists face increasing dangers. Current policy only allows officers to look at improving street design after 3 people have been killed or seriously injured in a 3 consecutive year period, or 25% of households in a given area have petitioned for change is fit for purpose

This is ludicrous, and is reactive policy making with no strategy for road safety. As a result we have a patchwork of schemes and roads with different speed limits in Wandsworth causing confusion. “Rat runs” are increasing, and causing traffic incidents across the Borough, like at the junction of Upper Tooting Road, Lessingham Avenue and Ansell Road – the 5th most dangerous spot for cyclists in London!

At Upper Tooting Road and Lessingham Avenue, Tooting, the 5th most dangerous junction for cyclists in London

At Upper Tooting Road and Lessingham Avenue, Tooting, the 5th most dangerous junction for cyclists in London

To change this, Wandsworth Liberal Democrats, and I, have started a petition to ask Wandsworth Council to take the following actions to improve road safety:

  • Ensure that all residential roads have a speed limit of 20mph
  • Work proactively with resident associations / civic societies and local residents to identify further areas where 20 mph limits on their own are not sufficient

Please sign our petition here

Numerous Councils in London have introduced 20mph residential zones, such as Lambeth, Camden and Islington. 20mph zones can be done on most streets without the need for any physical calming, some streets may be appropriate to have a higher limit but any limit above 20mph should be a considered decision based on local circumstances. The opposite of today’s policy.

In Portsmouth, when 20mph was introduced, road traffic incidents declined by a third. Imagine the reduction in demand for A&E! Safer streets also encourages cycling, increasing the health benefits to residents.

A more proactive approach to road safety which is based on changes to legislation, has proven benefits to both residents, health services and is more cost efficient to implement by the Council than introducing speed bumps and actively consulting on every other road.

Sign the petition today, and together we can deliver safer streets in Wandsworth.

P.S. I have written to Boris Johnson, as Chair of TfL, and Wandsworth Borough Council to ask what actions they are taking to improve road safety on Upper Tooting Road / Lessingham Avenue and Ansell Road.

Safer roads need joined up thinking

Today the most dangerous junctions for cyclists in London were revealed and at number 5 was the junction of Upper Tooting Road  / Lessingham Avenue and Ansell Road. As a cyclist down that road, it does not surprise me in the slightest, especially when cycling towards Tooting. Over 5 years, 34 incidents were reported to police, no doubt, there have been countless more unreported.

Lessingham Ave

This when it was revealed that TfL had underspent their road safety budget by over £50m this financial year. Already in 2015 we have had 4 cycle deaths, and for TfL to be underspending their safety budget is a travesty. Of course, it’s not just TfL’s responsibility on Upper Tooting Road, but also Wandsworth Council, who control the traffic off Upper Tooting Road.

Lessingham Ave and Ansell Road are being used as rat runs, which contributes to the problem, and more needs to be done to tackle this. Aside from denying motorists access, which is unrealistic, there are a number of solutions such as making the junctions have legal STOP signs rather than Give Way, or consider how best to manage the traffic flow with additional traffic lights. I also feel that managing the late night parking on Upper Tooting Road is an issue when cycling in the evening, the poor visibility for motorists (and cyclists) because of the parked cars.

Action now, not after another 34 (reported) incidents or even a death.

Why do people, and by definition me, get involved in politics

This week for the ordinary person they’re probably thinking about half term entertainment or what to give up for lent. For the politicos out there, general election fever is slowly coming to the boil, but what makes thousands of activists give up their free time, and those like me, stand for election?

I’ve had to think about it, because it’s something that crosses my mind whenever I ask a volunteer to help with a campaign, a voter asks why they should vote Liberal Democrat, or friends ask me why I am standing for an election. It’s because of the type of society I would like to see in the UK, and the world, and who I think is best to deliver, or campaign for this.

For me, it’s a world where each individual has the opportunity to make the most of how they live their life, a society strong in civil liberties and evidence based policies.

And when I look at the policies the Liberal Democrats, and by definition the coalition Government, have delivered over the past 5 years it makes me realise that there has been a liberal theme. A theme, which resonants with me, and those who give up their time for the party.

On life opportunities helping pupils from the poorest backgrounds so their future is not dependent on their birth; giving an income tax cut for millions of ordinary working people; shared parental leave so families can decide how best to care for their children; ensuring the state pensions are delivering a dignified retirement.

Scrapping ID cards for civil liberty reasons; blocking the Tories “Snoopers Charter” and delivering on same sex marriage. Evidence based policies such as introducing free school meals, as trials showed they improved educational results for all pupils. It’s why the Liberal Democrats want to tackle drug and criminal reform as the current processes aren’t working.

It’s one thing to say what the Lib Dems have done (good and bad), it’s then another to show what a liberal Britain can look like. I will cover more of that in another post, but I truly believe that a strong liberal voice, whether in Government or opposition is essential for the UK, and I will be campaigning over the coming months (and years!) to make that voice heard.

The US – when two parties are unable to work together for the good of the country

Most people have mixed feelings on the coalition, but what is not in doubt is that the Liberal Democrats entered a coalition with the Conservatives for the good of the country. This ensured a political consensus for strong and necessary action to the economy.

Compare that to the inability of the Democrats and Republicans in the US to compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff which could drive the economy into another recession. Yes a last ditch effort meant that tax decisions were decided, but spending decisions have merely been delayed by a couple of months.

Mervyn King said in 2010 that “…whoever wins this election will be out of power for a whole generation because of how tough the fiscal austerity will have to be.” I’m more optimistic than Mervyn on the election prospects, but it was no secret that there were tough decisions which needed to be made after May 2010. Sometimes what is right is not the most popular decision…


Bradley Wiggins – Kilburn hero

Inspired by the 2012 Sports Personality of the Year, Bradley Wiggins, I took to cycling around his old stomping ground of Kilburn (and Brondesbury) whilst delivering and speaking to local members. Image

More importantly, his background, a child of a single mother, shows that as long as opportunities are provided for, anyone can succeed in life. The Conservatives are determined to back an old fashioned nuclear family view of life. In the process vilifying many single parents with children on welfare, when (like with Bradley’s mother) their partner is no longer there.  

The welfare system must be there to support those in need. The Liberal Democrats are ensuring that it is there for those who need it; whilst at the same time supporting reform so that it is better to be in work than on benefits and easier for recipients to understand.