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Reading Lib Dems Welcome Budget

key_Tax_cuts_Budget_2014Reading Liberal Democrats welcome many items in yesterday’s budget. Included in this are the positive points in the budget:

  • £700 tax cut promised, £800 tax cut delivered
  • The Budget has confirmed victory for the Liberal Democrats in our campaign to deliver an £800 tax cut for people on low and middle incomes.
  • Cutting income tax by £700 – by raising the tax-free allowance to £10,000 – was the top priority on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. That comes into effect next month and the Budget has confirmed that the Liberal Democrats have now been able to go even further. The tax-free threshold will rise to £10,500 next year, giving a tax cut of £800 for 25m working people since 2010.
  • Liberal Democrat policy is to continue to increase the threshold in the next Parliament to £12,500

The Budget also includes:

  • A boost for apprentices – £85m to extend the Apprenticeship Grants for Employers scheme, creating 100,000 new apprentices, and £20m to support apprenticeships up to postgraduate level
  • A fuel duty freeze
  • Giving people control over the money they have saved in their pension pots – removing the need for people to be tied into buying annuities
  • Help for savers – reducing tax on savings for people on low incomes and increasing the levels and flexibility on ISAs
  • Help for small businesses – doubling the amount of money that companies can set off against tax for investing in new equipment to £500,000
  • Tax-free childcare worth up to £2,000 per child
  • More measures to clamp down on tax avoidance

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander said:

“This recovery would not be happening without the Liberal Democrats in Government. The Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger economy and a fairer society. The Liberal Democrats have fought for rises in the amount of money that people can earn before paying income tax right from the start of the coalition. We have already delivered an increase to £10,000 by April this year. That gives millions of tax payers a £700 tax cut.
We’ve been campaigning for months to go even further and we’ve been successful. The personal tax-free allowance will rise to £10,500 in April 2015 which will give millions of taxpayers another £100 tax cut taking the total tax cut in 2015 to £800.”

Commenting further, Reading Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Ricky Duveen said:

“We promised to give a tax cut to people on low and middle incomes, and we have done just that. £700 was promised, £800 was delivered. And now people earning less than £10,500 per year won’t pay tax at all from next year”

He also welcomed changes to savings and pensions, “the changes to pensions championed by the Lib Dems will give people much more freedom when investing money in retirement. We believe people know best how to manage their own money.”

Lib Dems welcome City Deal for Reading

forburyReading Lib Dems today hailed the announcement that Reading, along with the other Berkshire authorities and the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) had been successful in having their City Deal accepted by the Coalition Government.

This announcement heralds a massive campaign across Berkshire to get our young people working at a time when many, up and down the country, cannot see a future for themselves in the world of work.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“This is an important deal for the people of the Reading and the rest of Berkshire which will help thousands of young people develop the skills and confidence to grasp the opportunities to build successful careers. I am pleased that we have been able to put £2.4 million funding from the Youth Contract to such innovative use, bringing together businesses with local public services to tackle youth unemployment and help more young people make an instant impact in the world of work.”

Reading’s City Deal will:

• Achieve a 50% reduction in youth unemployment within 3 years
• Secure £1.5 million of private sector investment to support employment and providing young people with the skills they need
• Generate 1,300 new employment opportunities for young people, including helping 800 to sustain work for at least six months
• Creating 1,500 new work experience placements across the region
• Creating 300 additional apprenticeships and 800 new youth contract wage incentives, which are incentive to employers, paid if they provide a young person with employment that is sustained for 6 months
• Creation of a Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub to improve business support

Reading Lib Dem Leader, Cllr Ricky Duveen said, “This is a massive boost for Reading and the whole of Berkshire and will provide a wealth of opportunities for our young people. We can take a lead in fighting off youth unemployment and provide many local youngsters with the right skills for some exciting new job opportunities in Berkshire.”

British Sign Language should gain legal status

Meri O'Connell

Cllr Meri O’Connell

Yet again I have had confirmed that I support the right party, which is always a great thing to be able to write. Today the Lib Dem Conference in Glasgow voted to ensuring that British Sign Language has legal status within the UK.

BSL was recognised as a language on 18th March 2003 by the government but has not been given any legal protection. Deaf people who use BSL currently rely on the Equality Act to secure access to information and services in their own language.

Deaf people still do not have full access to information and services in the UK as hearing people do, particularly in the areas of education, health and employment. This needs to change and I am proud that the Lib Dems are taking a lead on it.

The Lib Dems have pledged to push for legislation to recognise BSL as one of the UK’s official languages, commanding equal respect and protection with Welsh and Gaelic. Conference was told that whilst there are 50,000 Gaelic speakers, there are 150,000 British people who use BSL to communicate.

The motion was brought by David Buxton, the country’s first deaf Borough Councillor and CEO of the Deaf Association. Judith Bunting (Prospective Parliamentary candidate for Newbury) gave a powerful speech about the positives and negatives of the current situation for deaf people in Britain today.

There were many more positive and affirming details to this motion and within the debate that surrounded it (you can read it on the conference website), but for BSL users and their families and friends throughout  the UK , this simple commitment will come as welcome news.

Reading resident and working mother, Suzanne Smith, said:

‘Being deaf all my life and facing barriers in everything I do makes life very hard sometimes. Having equal access and treatment for both hearing and deaf worlds would help make the idea of ‘inclusion’ a reality’

‘I communicate by speech and BSL and my dream is for all school’s to offer BSL as a GCSE subject. Deaf people do not need to be seen as different any more than people from other ethnicities are.’

‘Come on, we live in the 21st Century!’

I couldn’t agree more.

Meri O’Connell

Tilehurst Councillor and Lib Dem Lead for Adult, Children’s and Schools on Reading Borough Council

Labour and Coalitions

Labour and LibDem CoalitionIf coalitions are such a bad idea, why does Labour take part in them as well?

You may have heard Labour making a fuss locally about the “coalition” nationally and the implication that it is appalling for parties to work together to run things. They have conveniently forgotten that at the moment in local government Labour are sharing power in the following 10 local authorities across England and Wales:

With Lib Dems:
Cumbria
Norfolk
Colchester
Broxtowe
Calderdale (until May this year)

All Party:
Babergh
Conwy (with Indpendents, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru)
Bedford (Lib Dem mayor)

With Independents:
Middlesborough (Indpendent Mayor)
Stockton on Tees

With the Green Party:
Lancaster

They may also want to be reminded that until this May, Cumbria was run by a coalition of Labour and Conservatives! In today’s democracy sometimes it is necessary for parties to work together to get things done for the people you serve.

In Scotland, of course, with PR, coalitions of all sorts are the norm.

Reading LibDems welcome Queen’s Speech

Lib Dems in Reading welcomed the Queen’s speech, which has a package of measures on pensions, care for the elderly, and green energy, to help create a stronger economy and fairer society.

Anti-Social Behaviour

Especially welcome in Reading are proposals to streamline the way anti-social behaviour is tackled, including giving victims a bigger say in how the Police deal with this issue. This is an issue that blights the lives of many local residents, and anything that leads to a faster, more effective response will make a difference.

Pensions

Pensions will be made simpler and fairer by paying a decent flat rate of £144 for a full contributions history and relieving thousands of our pensioners from the need to apply for means-tested benefits after a lifetime of full employment.

Social Care

The government will introduce a cap on the cost of social care (expected to be around £70,000) so that pensioners are not forced to sell their homes to pay for care. This is a real problem in areas like Tilehurst where there is a large elderly population. It will also  provide protection to people whose care provider goes out of business and give everyone a legal entitlement to a personal care budget, which they can receive as a direct payment to spend as they wish.

Green Energy

The government will reform the energy market to ensure secure, clean and affordable energy. We will inevitably be paying more for energy in the future but some of that money will be spent on providing green, sustainable energy.

And one big thing not in the Queen’s speech

The Lib Dems have very effectively blocked the Tories Communications Data Bill which would have given government the right to see all the email you have sent or received plus all the websites you have visited over the last year. A veritable snoopers charter has been nipped in the bud by Lib Dem activists including our own campaigning Dr Jenny Woods.

72,200 in Reading will get Income Tax cut in April

income-taxCommenting on the raising of the Personal Allowance further than already planned, Cllr Daisy Benson, Liberal Democrat Leader on Reading Borough Council said:

“Liberal Democrats are working for a stronger economy and a fairer society, so that everyone can get on in life. That’s why we are cutting taxes for working people.

“Today’s announcement means that by April, 72,200 ordinary working people in Reading will get a further Income Tax cut, bringing the total tax cut to £600 a year since Liberal Democrats joined the Coalition Government.

“In Reading, this welcome news also means that 5,710 low-earners have been lifted out of paying Income Tax all together since the Coalition Government came to power.

“Liberal Democrats want fairer taxes, which is why we made raising the tax-free allowance our number one priority at the General Election – so important that we put it on the front page of our manifesto.

“When times are tough, with rising bills and wages not keeping pace with inflation, we want to give people real, practical help.

“Cutting Income Tax will not deal with all of those problems, but it will help. And I hope it will make a big difference to every family in this country.”

Reading Liberal Democrats welcome MPs vote in favour of Equal Marriage rights

Rainbow Hearts Reading Lib Dems applaud the news that MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of Equal Marriage Rights on the third reading. We know that the outcome will make many people in Reading very happy. This is a positive step forward towards true equality for all in the UK.

Georgina Hughes, Chair of Greater Reading Liberal Democrats said:

“I’m delighted by this news and want to thank all MPs who had the courage to vote for equal marriage rights. I’m particularly proud that the vast majority Liberal Democrat MPs voted in favour. This is a great day for equal rights in Britain”

The stats

Of all the MPs that voted:

  • 7% LibDems voted against
  • 9% Labour voted against
  • 51% Conservatives voted against

There has been much talk of the seven Liberal Democrat abstentions. Of this seven, four were on government business, one had just given birth, another was looking after a seriously ill family member, and there was one true abstention. Also much has been made of Sarah Teather, who voted against. Sarah has supported and campaigned for improving gay rights throughout her political career, however she holds strong Catholic beliefs and so this may have been a step too far for her. The Liberal Democrats are a party of equality and freedom, and we respect people’s points of view. This was a free vote and thus we respect her decision.

Locally in Reading, our Tory MPs voted very differently. Ex Reading Councillor Glenn Goodall said:

“Reading West MP Alok Sharma showed real courage in voting for Equal Marriage rights, but the same cannot be said for Reading East MP Rob Wilson who voted for and against (signifying he abstained). He’d already refused to show his hand at various public meetings and then hid behind an abstention – this is shameful in my opinion”

A look at theyworkforyou.com shows that throughout Rob Wilson’s political career he has mostly voted against improving gay rights.

Overall we can be very proud that we live in a liberal and forward thinking country. Yes there is still a long way to go, but we are travelling in the right direction.

More money for cycling in Reading

CyclingReading is eligible for more money to improve cycling infrastructure, the Liberal Democrat Transport Minister, Norman Baker has announced.

The money is part of an additional £62m the Coalition Government is investing to improve cycling infrastructure and safety for cyclists. The funding will be spread throughout the country, with £30m going to eligible bidders as part of the City Deals and £12m will be invested to improve cycle infrastructure in national parks. A further £15m has been earmarked for cycle/rail integration and infrastructure.

Commenting, Cllr Ricky Duveen said:

“Cycling in Reading can be hit and miss – sometimes literally. While we’ve seen some improvements in the past, more work is much needed and this additional money comes at the right time.

“In Reading we have an active cycling community and talking to the Cycle Forum last night they are not short of ideas for improving cycling which we could develop with additional funding.”

“Liberal Democrats know that cycling is an important part to get people moving: it’s healthy and there’s nothing more pleasing that whizzing past cars stuck in traffic on a bike.

“By getting more people out of their cars and on their bikes, we can ease congestion too and strengthen our local economy.

Commenting further, Norman Baker said:

“Cycling is a great way to get around. Not only is it good for the environment and the economy, but evidence shows that with people who cycle living longer than those who do not it is also great for your health.

“The country’s success at the Olympics and in the Tour de France has brought cycling right into the public’s imagination and there is a huge appetite for better cycling provisions.

“Today’s announcement capitalises on that and adds to the significant investment that we have already made to allow more people to get on their bikes.”

Reading LibDems welcome Green Deal

Green Deal Quality Mark

Lib Dems in Reading today welcomed the introduction of the Green Deal and specifically the Government grant of £280,000 to Reading to make sure that information on this scheme is made widely available, especially to owners and landlords of older housing stock in our town.

The idea behind the Green Deal is to provide long term loans to carry out works on houses to improve energy efficiency that are paid back using the savings from the resulting reduction in fuel bills.

Cllr Ricky Duveen (Lib Dem Environment spokesperson) commented, ‘making loans available under the Green Deal will make significant reductions in household fuel bills and help reduce future fuel consumption.’
‘It is important that people are made aware of this new possibility to reduce future energy bills and that this money is targeted at older properties where owners could make significant fuel reductions.’
‘We welcome this initiative. This is Lib Dem policy being put into action by Lib Dem ministers in Government.’

More information on the Green Deal is available at https://www.gov.uk/green-deal-energy-saving-measures/how-the-green-deal-works

My first National Conference!

Meri O'Connell

The following is a guest blog from Meri O’Connell, a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Tilehurst ward.

When I decided to attend the Autumn conference in Brighton this year I began to receive a steady trickle of leaflets through the post; information on fringe events, training sessions, exhibitors, motions and amendments. Both the event and even the language was new and alien to me.

Fortunately the Greater Reading Liberal Democrats are a friendly group and more seasoned members helped me work out what was going on. Consequently I was able to spend my time learning about and voting on things that will hopefully help me better serve Tilehurst residents and the interests of Reading as a whole.

I was reassured that the Lib Dems have kept to their principles whilst making some difficult compromises in coalition. Other parties use their conferences as American style rallies, where party big wigs tell their members what policy is and why. At our conference members are allowed to put forward motions that can, if they are voted through, become party policy. We are allowed to put forward challenges to senior people in the party and robustly debate important issues. Local activists, like me, are able to tell the leadership what the important issues are for people in Reading.

We live in a country with a proud tradition of Liberal and Democratic thought. I could not be part of a party that didn’t encourage debate and constructive criticism within its ranks. Any movement that is made up of members unquestioningly following the edicts of the few, suggests to me a party that doesn’t trust the intellect or hearts of it’s membership.

Before the conference I had read a lot in the newspapers about plotting and scheming within the ranks of the Liberal Democrats and wanted very much to see for myself what the mood was. It’s almost boring to report that the feeling amongst conference attendees was overwhelmingly positive, with discussions and conversations focusing on campaign strategy for the next round of elections. On my return I struggled to recognise the picture of the conference that was portrayed in the national papers.

On a lighter note, I was not expecting to actually rub shoulders with MP’s and the Deputy Prime Minister. I presumed these important people would be too busy to mix with the rank and file of the party and that I would only observe them on the podium. I am somewhat thrilled to say that this was not the case. At times it seemed that whenever I turned round I was bumping into someone I recognised from the media. The Lib Dem VIP’s that I saw, had time for the members and a genuine interest in their comments and views.

Perhaps because, as a party, we have spent so much time on the outside of a two party system, we have not developed a belief in our right to be listened to. I do hope we can guard against this as the feeling of equality between elected members and non elected members was both refreshing and motivating.

I came away with a renewed commitment to my role as a Councillor. Although there are only four of us on Reading Borough Council at the moment, there are over 4000 Lib Dem councillors throughout the country. We are chipping away at social division and inequality; on County, Town and Parish councils throughout the land. And, despite what the majority of the media would have you believe, we have no intention of giving up and returning to the sidelines of politics.

Upcoming Events

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