Bromsgrove commerce needs politicians to promote it, something I intend to do

I met with the council last week to discuss economic development for Bromsgrove, specifically the High Street and Technology Park. After speaking to numerous business owners as well as constituents it is obvious that not enough is being done.

The recession has been tough for businesses all around the country and Bromsgrove has been affected.

However, the decline in the High Street and the lack of development on Bromsgrove Technology Park has been around before the recession.

Business rates are fixed by central government but the Liberal Democrats would allow local authorities to control business rates and give them another tool to build up local commerce.

However, the MP and local council can do more to promote Bromsgrove and its connections to the rest of the country.

For example there should be conferences/events to attract businesses to Bromsgrove and a proper plan to target specific types of retailers and industries. The local council could also provide better support to local independent entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business whether in retail or industry. A recession is a time to work even harder, not just use it as a ready made excuse.

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Through wind, rain and snow, forward we march

As a small local party, I wanted to say a big thanks to all the volunteers who slogged through the snow blizzard on Thursday to deliver our latest Focus. We don’t have the mega bucks funding of the two main parties, so we deliver everything ourselves by hand. 

A huge thank you to Geoff, Janet, Paula, Irene and Eric for their help in advancing the Lib Dem cause.

Poorest children can be a year behind on language skills when they start school

That was the verdict on research by the Sutton Trust, however, it did say that with good parenting that gap can be closed. In this day and age a child’s future shouldn’t be determined by birth, but it does and I am proud that the Liberal Democrats recognise this and is proposing an extra £2.5bn on education, primarily focusing on the poorest pupils to ensure they are up to speed and also not to hold the brightest pupils back. This can be used by headteachers  how they see fit such as smaller class sizes, one on one tuition or more teaching assistants in classrooms.

Tories broken society more like a broken record…

At least that’s the verdict by the Economist who disagree with the notion that Britain is in a mess and getting worse.

I have spoken to many public sector and charity workers in Bromsgrove who deal with the people the Tories describe as part of the “Broken Society” and they don’t recognise the term. Sure the country isn’t perfect, but it’s not “broken” and if it was what are the Conservatives doing to help the few who need help the most?

Almost all their policies are aimed at the middle class voters. Marriage tax allowance; inheritance tax threshold increase; allowing parents to run schools (only those with time will do this) and focus on only imprisoning criminals.

The Lib Dems, however, are focusing on helping those most in need to create a better society for all:

  • Increase income tax threshold to £10k to help break the poverty trap and improve the incentives for individuals on low incomes
  • Extra £2.5bn in education for schools with pupils on free school meals. This resource can be used as headteachers deem appropriate, whether smaller classes or one on one tuition. Many classes can only proceed as the slowest pupil so this will benefit all pupils.
  • Scrap tuition fees, to break the psychological barrier of debt for many people going to university. There is enough student debt and c. £10k less would make a big difference to many future graduates
  • 67% of prisoners will re-offend when they are released, why? Because some have no alternative of employment, they may be illiterate, don’t know what to do. We would do more for rehabilitation and give these people skills and the ability to become a part of society.

Are some politicians really so selfish?!

I really like to think that people who get into politics are going into it for the right reason – to improve society and represent people. My aunt on hearing I was running said

“I hope you’re doing it for the right reasons, unlike a lot of politicians!”.

I truly am doing it for the right reasons but I realise that politicians need to earn that trust through actions which speak louder than words. Anyone can say nice words but doing something about a problem is more important.

The current Bromsgrove MP, Julie Kirkbride, has been staying out of the media limelight since she announced she was stepping down, partly due to her expenses claims. This is understandable, but she seems to be missing in action as critical situations like the review of the Worcestershire Primary Care Trust (PCT) and how Bromsgrove’s Princess of Wales Community Hospital (PoWCH) is run are causing concern to local constituents. Is it because she’s busy trying to secure a £100k job after the general election? Or has she given up doing her job? She is still the constituent MP!

I know there are concerns about the PoWCH and other health issues in Bromsgrove. I am meeting Worcestershire PCT on 5 March, so any concerns/questions I am more than happy to take along to my meeting.

Your views on the review of health service provision in Worcestershire

I am meeting the Worcestershire PCT on Friday 5th March, so any questions you have on the health service I will put to them, especially the review they have been asked to undertake by the government, which threatens how the Princess of Wales Community Hospital is run.

From Bromsgrove Standard

“SHOCK proposals to merge the running of Bromsgrove’s Princess of Wales Community Hospital into a larger organisation have been unveiled by the Government. NHS Worcestershire made an announcement [January 29] when it revealed Whitehall chiefs had ordered them to carry out an immediate review of health service provision in the county.

The stakeholder brief stated the aim of merging the organisation with either Worcestershire Mental Health Trust or Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust, which runs the major hospitals in the county including Worcestershire Royal.”

The homeless – a hidden problem in Bromsgrove

Last week I visited the Basement Project, an award winning Bromsgrove charity based in Bromsgrove Baptist Church, which offers support and advice to 16-25 year olds who are homeless or facing homelessness. It may surprise people in Bromsgrove to think that there is a homeless problem in the area but there are many people affected of all backgrounds for various reasons.

The causes may be breakdown in child/parent relationship, no family support, wrong choices made in life or simply unemployment. The staff at the centre have seen so many cases that they are no longer shocked by anything, although they do find things upsetting.

The centre has 3 projects:

  1. Drop in centre open every week day. Where visitors can have some food, clean themselves up and seek confidential advice whatever the problem.
  2. Outreach service where staff will go and give help on a one-to-one basis with individuals, as they want it
  3. Private tenancy scheme which helps young people to rent a private property with some assistance.

With the Basement staff (l-r Marina, Lance and Elaine)

There are no simple solutions and government help on housing for the under 25 could be improved (they have lower financial support than those older than 25). Improving the educational opportunities for all young people will help more have the skills required to help them through life. Some of the projects work can be as simple as basic life skills, managing money to help with getting a job or further education.

Providing the safety net for those in need is vital, but so is the support to enable them to get out of their situation. Many of these young people are incredibly bright and have aspirations, and we need to ensure the opportunities are there for them.

All party’s could do more, but I am proud that education is at the heart of the Lib Dem’s key policies, especially the scrapping of tuition fees, which is a severe barrier to those with little income in even considering higher education. I will be seeking to understand how housing support for under 25s can be improved.

If you would like to know more about the Basement Project please visit their website or e-mail Elaine Mortimer: elaine@bromsgrovebasementproject.co.uk

With Alison, one of the volunteers at the centre