Best performance ever in Bromsgrove by the Lib Dems

Although not the result we were looking for, and in common with the national picture, not what the Lib Dems expected. It was nonetheless the best ever general election performance by us in Bromsgrove.

Over 10,000 votes (up 3,000) and almost 20% share of the vote (up 5%) whilst both the Conservatives and Labour saw both votes and share of votes decline, even if the Conservatives have an increased majority.

The Lib Dems will be building on this in next years local elections and the next general election (whenever that may be!)

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Yougov shows the Lib Dems ahead by 3%

A Yougov poll out today show the Liberal Democrats on 34%, Conservatives on 31% and Labour on 26%.  Yougov also found:

“Just under half the country (49%) would vote for the Liberal Democrats if they were seen to have a reasonable chance of winning. Only 25% would vote for the Conservative party in these circumstances; a comparatively meagre 19% would vote for Labour.”

We’re not far off that situation to be honest! We’ll be there if we can get to 36-38% in the polls.

Despite days of scrutiny the political opponents are unable to find severe weaknesses in our policies. Just today in the Times several Generals  have said that Trident should be examined.

They “express ‘deep concern’  that the future of Trident has been excluded from the Strategic Defence Review that will follow the election. They caution that suppressing discussion of the issue or dismissing alternatives would be ‘a major strategic blunder’ “.

The key here is “alternatives” as the Liberal Democrats are not saying have no nuclear deterrent, we’re saying are there cheaper forms of nuclear deterrents?

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.

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

PACT meetings – an example of localism at work

On Thursday night I attended the Cofton Hackett PACT (Partners and Communities Together) meeting, purely as an observer.

PACT meetings give local residents the chance to tell the local policing team, local authority and other partner agencies about the issues that are causing concern within their neighbourhood and attendees vote to prioritise which issues they want to be dealt with. Then the community work together to tackle the problems. Over 40 people attended the meeting and it was chaired very well, with points raised and discussed by any attendee.

The issues raised on the day were very local, and some may say low level, topics included: 

  • Gritting stations
  • Pothole repairs
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Crime incidents
  • Bus services
  • Flooding on roads, and
  • Litter

I was very impressed with how all the various parties worked together. It never got political and it was very much “what can we do to solve the issue.” Two examples were the Parish council had volunteers picking up litter, and there were also separate volunteers who’d grit the steep roads around Cofton Hackett.

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Eden was also attending his first Cofton Hackett PACT meeting and he remarked how great it was to see so many people involved and the difference it can make to the community and his police force. In his words

“This is democracy in action.”

For me as a Liberal Democrat who believes in localism and want more decisions decided by local people, it was fantastic to see it in action and evidently working. The local residents in the community are the key to its success, as other PACT meetings in nearby Birmingham have been sparsely attended, so a huge pat on the back to the residents of Cofton Hackett.

Policing isn’t just about catching criminals but prevention too

I recently met with Inspector Dave Shaw and Sgt. Tim Harper at Bromsgrove Police station and we covered many topics ranging from crime rate to local cannabis farms but a couple of things stood out:

  • The work the police does with the local housing trust (BDHT), community groups, such as The Trunk and with the community via PACT (Partners and Communities Together) meetings. A lot of police work should obviously be on catching criminals but it was a good example of prevention and really getting to the causes of the problems. All solutions the Liberal Democrats back. 
  • The grey area of mentally unstable individuals and where the responsibility for them lie, it’s not always clear whether someone has a mental health issue or a personality disorder. The distinction is necessary, as with one definition the offender will be treated differently and by the NHS, otherwise its a police matter solely. The Liberal Democrats are proposing better mental health treatment on the NHS and those convicted of criminal offences.

On my last point, after my meeting I mentioned the mental health grey area to a youth offender worker who agreed it was very complicated but also that the worse thing you can do to those who have mental health issues is to lock them up with no treatment.

Meeting Inspector Dave Shaw

n.b. I should clarify that if an individual is classified as mentally ill then they are treated under the NHS, if it’s a personality disorder, then the NHS are not obliged to deal with them.