The all year round battle against potholes across Willenhall North
Morre Rd before....

Moore Rd before….

Moore Rd after....

Moore Rd after….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A before and after pic of the entrance to off Moore Road, New Invention into the service road to the Lichfield Road flats. Your Willenhall North Lib Dem Focus Team Cllrs Val Woodruff and Ian Shires reported in the problem and within days got it sorted.

Each weekend the New Invention and Short Heath Lib Dem Focus Teams are out and about checking on things like potholes, fly-tipping along with issues residents have have alerted us to. Val and Ian work hard all year round making sure our area gets its fair share of resources.

Val and Ian have flagged up to Walsall’s Highways Team the deterioration of the Essington Road and Cannock Road. This major north/south route through our area has suffered badly from the very wet winter we have just emerged from.

If you spot any potholes in the New Invention Short Heath area let Val and Ian know via the “Contact” button above.

 

 

 

 

LibLink: Tim Farron – In 2010, we promised to deliver the Pupil Premium. In 2015, I want us to promise to deliver the Student Premium
Published on Liberal Democrat Voice By  | Wed 16th April 2014 – 3:01 pm

Tim Farron speaking - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsLib Dem party president Tim Farron has given his personal backing to the Lib Dems promising a Student Premium – modelled on the well-received Pupil Premium – at the next election. First proposed by his colleague Stephen Williams, Tim writes the Student Premium “could potentially change the game in terms of student uptake, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds”. Here’s an excerpt of his article for the April issue of the magazine, Politics First:

The Pupil Premium is being delivered only because the Liberal Democrats are in government – and it continues to be one of the biggest successes of this coalition government. The Pupil Premium was our party’s second highest priority policy (after our pledge to increase the income tax threshold), with £2.5 billion of new money specifically ear-marked to help support the most disadvantage children in school. … Now what has that got to do with Higher Education, I hear you ask?

Well, I would like to extend the scheme to Higher Education. Currently, we help and support young people through the pupil premium, catch up classes and even specialist tuition – but then at 18, if they go onto University, we leave them to the institution and hope as part of the access agreement, they will be eligible for support. HEFCE (higher funding education council for England) provides up to £150 million to help disadvantaged young people, but often students do not know the size of the grant they will receive until they arrive at university.

I want to change that – I want to extend the pupil premium to Higher Education. I believe that that will help
create a student pathway and give certainty to pupils and parents/carers that their son or daughter can afford
Higher Education. I think that could potentially change the game in terms of student uptake, especially from
disadvantaged backgrounds.

A student premium would be designed to guarantee financial help for all children on free school meals entering
higher education. I have seen reports that it could be worth around £2,500 per pupil, per year. That could make a massive difference to young people. I would also like funding and support packages to be offered – this way young
people and their families would have certainty and would not have to fill in form after form and then be offered
nothing at the end of it.

Before I became an MP, I worked in HE. I saw its value at first hand and how it can change the lives, not only of
young people, but women and men of all ages and backgrounds. I saw how the experience allows people to grow
and develop. A student premium will help more people to take advantage of that experience. Other MPs have seen
that opportunity, too – my colleague Stephen Williams MP first floated the idea in a pamphlet by Liberal Reform
called “Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead”. …

Education is critical to our hopes of a fairer society. I hope, just as the pupil premium was front and centre of
our 2010 manifesto, that the student premium will be prominently displayed come 2015.

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary published in print or online.

Steve Webb on working with IDS: “When it comes to pensions I think he trusts my judgment.”
Published on Liberal Democrat Voice By  | Wed 16th April 2014 – 1:50 pm

steve webbPensions minister Steve Webb is one Lib Dem minister who has emerged from Coalition with his reputation enhanced, praised even by such diverse admirers as The Sun, The Guardian and Quentin Letts. Today’s Daily Mail features a warm profile of him talking about his passion: pensions. Here are a couple of excerpts that give a flavour…

On working with Iain Duncan Smith

Today, he and Work & Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith have become Westminster’s odd couple. IDS is renowned for his Right-wing stance on benefits and welfare, and Mr Webb is a liberal Lib Dem — but they’ve become close allies. ‘It’s actually Iain’s 60th birthday today,’ remembers Mr Webb. ‘I didn’t send him a card, which is remiss of me. It’s not a political statement, I forgot to send my goddaughter one recently, too.

‘I respect the fact that as an ex-leader of the Conservative party, he could have just gone off, not had any other grief or hassle and been a director of a dozen firms and had an easy life. But what does he do? He sets up a think-tank and devotes himself to social reform of the benefits system. You’ve got to respect that dedication. It helps that we’ve been working together for four years now. We can look back and say: yes, that was a success. When it comes to pensions I think he trusts my judgment.’

On the Budget’s pensions shake-up

Most recently and dramatically, he was the man behind the Budget’s revolutionary shake-up that will allow everyone the right to take their pension as cash, and avoid being ripped off by taking an income for life — an annuity. … Mr Webb brands the recent Budget reforms on annuities a real Coalition triumph. And it stemmed from his brainwave.
It was after the plans for the flat-rate state pension were finalised that he first started talking loudly about the need to get rid of restrictions on how much cash people could take from their nest eggs.

The logic was that with no more means-tested benefits for pensioners, it meant that if people spent their nest eggs all at once, there would be little extra they could claim from the state.
He began cautiously sounding out the Treasury about removing the caps on drawdown schemes (a type of pension that allows retirees to take their pension in chunks). But when an investigation by the City regulator the Financial Conduct Authority into the way annuities were sold found widespread problems, it made reform even more critical.

‘The things that had been stopping us before were the means testing of benefits for state pensioners, and paternalism. All the rules we had were based on the old pension system. So the new single-tier pension makes all this possible. I’m not the minister responsible for annuities. But because we had all these pots that we are going to create under auto-enrolment, I had very strong views on the subject. So I’ve been banging on and pressing for action. I’d suggested an annuities task force and we had agreed we were going to announce something in the Budget. The Chancellor was very enthusiastic and decided to go further.’

George Osborne’s announcement shook the insurance industry. Since then, the debate has been over whether retirees can be trusted not to blow their pensions on a Lamborghini.
The day after the Budget Mr Webb hit the headlines when he said he did not have a problem if retirees spent their entire pension on this fast car.

‘Because of that comment I managed to get on page two of the Sun without a scandal. For a government minister I take that as some sort of achievement,’ he jokes. ‘It’s worked out fine because although most people can’t buy a sports car, why should I tell people what they can spend their money on? That’s an important issue that’s been highlighted.’ Yet it must be frustrating for a man with an economics degree to have to admit that there is no research to prove they won’t.

‘What you can look at is how people spend the tax-free lump sums they take from their pension. Many people don’t spend all that, and a quarter don’t even take the lump sum,’ he adds.
He is working on plans to ensure that everyone who retires gets guidance. Part of this could include showing pensioners figures showing when they might die. He adds: ‘People have a very poor estimate of how long they might live for. But that is fundamental to understanding how you might spend your pension.’

On how state pension changes benefit women

In opposition, he had been a fierce campaigner for women’s pension rights, fighting to ensure mums were not penalised for taking time off work to raise a family. Now though, around 700,000 women born between April 6, 1951 and April  5, 1953 feel as if their champion has betrayed them. They are being forced to work longer because their retirement age has increased, but they will still miss out on the new flat-rate state pension.

Mr Webb leaps from his armchair, grabs a sheet of paper and a pen and begins scrawling a chart. It shows how women who retired before 2010 had to pay in 39 years of National Insurance contributions to claim a full state pension, but could claim their state pension age at 60. Those retiring between 2010 and 2016 need just 30 years of contributions, but will claim once they are between 60 and 63. Then, post 2016, 35 years of contributions are needed, and retirees will be aged 63 and upwards — but these will claim the new flat-rate state pension.

From 2010, those claiming state pension have also benefited from the triple-lock, which promises it will increase each year by the higher of either wages growth, inflation or 2 per cent. ‘You tell me which of these groups you think is better off?’ says Mr Webb. ‘You’d be hard pressed to tell me which one it is. Do I understand why they feel angry? Absolutely I do, partly because they think that if they retired in April 2016 they would get £144, when actually they wouldn’t on average.’ This is because they would not have contributed enough National Insurance. Mr Webb says he is sympathetic because they didn’t know their state pension age was changing, as this was a change made two decades ago — though not made widely public at the time.

You can read the full profile of Steve Webb here.

Daily Mail attacks Nick Clegg for Cyril Smith RIP tribute. Why?

The following article was written by Stephen Tall and published today on the Liberal Democrat Voice Website.mail cyril smith lib dems

‘Squirming of the Lib Dems’ is the Daily Mail’s front page splash today. It’s the second successive day the paper has tried, a bit desperately, to pin blame on Nick Clegg for the extensive abuse allegedly committed by former Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith in the 1960s and ’70s.

The basis for the paper’s accusations is that Nick Clegg issued a tribute on his 80th birthday and when Cyril Smith died. As Nick has pointed out, “I would never have dreamed of saying the things that I said about Cyril Smith on his 80th birthday and when he died if I was aware of the truly horrific nature of the actions which he is alleged to have undertaken over a long period of time.”

Disagree with Nick Clegg’s politics all you like, but the idea he’d have covered up allegations of paedophile abuse is nothing but offensive. I’ve no idea if he’d heard any rumours about Cyril Smith. They were reported in Private Eye in 1979 (when Nick was 12), but not picked up elsewhere.

It’s easy to view these things through a post-Savile mirror and assume he must have both heard them and believed them to be true – but BBC Newsnight’s airing of false allegations against Lord (Alistair) McAlpine show the dangers of believing every story that circulates of prominent people who are alleged to have a liking for boys.

Of course, the party and all its politicians still alive who knew Cyril Smith should cooperate fully with any and all enquiries. It may well be that some knew more than just rumours and have questions to answer about what they did with that knowledge. If so, that should all be properly investigated and made public. The Mail’s focus on Nick Clegg is an unjust distraction.

And as for issuing tributes of public figures when they die — well, Nick Clegg is by no means alone. Here’s the Daily Mail’s eulogistic coverage of Jimmy Savile’s death on 31 October 2010…mail jimmy savile death

Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

Native wildlife to be protected from invasive species under EU proposal

Liberal Democrat MEP for South East England Catherine Bearder, has today welcomed news that the European Parliament has backed proposals to tackle the spread of non-native animals and plants throughout the EU.

River

Catherine Bearder has worked to raise this issue up the agenda and was instrumental in the new report.

It is estimated that over the past 20 years more than 12,000 invasive species have been recorded in Europe, costing nearly £10 billion annually in damage to local ecosystems. In the UK, where there are an estimated 2,000 invasive species, the bill is thought to total at least £1.7bn a year.

These species can pose a major threat to local biodiversity. The new proposals could aid the work of organisations such as the Kent Wildlife Trust at the North Kent marshes with the American mink, which have been devastating water vole populations there. Water voles have taken a hit nationally in recent years.

Some plant species such as Japanese knotweed have also caused significant damage to buildings while other pests have damaged agricultural yields or threatened human health by spreading disease.

Under the proposals, national governments would have to work together to detect invasive species on a list of particular concern and implement measures to minimise the harm they cause.

Initially this list was to have a fixed cap of 50 non-native species, but MEPs have called for a more flexible approach that can be rapidly adapted.

The new law will require EU countries to analyse how invasive species enter the country, step up official checks at EU borders and develop long-term action plans on how to manage the troublesome species.

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder commented:

“Invasive species pose a major threat to local native plants and wildlife, but they can also pose a threat to our agriculture, buildings and to human health.”

“They do not respect national borders and can be easily spread through trade and travel as well as from the pet trade, so it’s vital we work alongside neighbouring countries to combat them.

“We need action at the local level to minimise the damage being caused, but even more important is preventative action at the national and European level to stop these troublesome species being introduced in the first place.”

Richard Shaw, based in Egham, Surrey is regional co-ordinator for CABI, an international scientific research organisation. He is coordinating research into whether ‘natural enemies’ can be used to control Japanese knotweed. Dr Shaw was involved in the consultations for the EU report and has also contributed to the recent Environmental Audit Committee inquiry in to invasive alien species.

Dr Shaw agreed with Catherine, adding:

“Invasive Alien Species do not respect borders and a collective effort is required by all Member States, especially neighbouring ones, to optimise our chances of dealing with such a cross-cutting issue.”

James Farr, from Sparsholt College, Winchester, is studying invasive plants on the Hamble Estuary. He concluded:

“Invasive alien plants are one of the factors contributing to the modification and loss of native habitats. With the increase in commerce and travel it is likely the problem of alien plants will escalate, therefore steps to prevent the spread will be beneficial in preserving valued habitats and reduce the financial burden on future generations to restore habitats.”

Tories under fire for opposing EU vote to cut plastic bag use by 80% in 5 years

Tory Euro MPs are under fire from Lib Dems after they opposed a European Parliament vote for a binding target to cut plastic bag use across Europe by 80% in 5 years, after 539 MEPs voted in favour, 51 against and 72 abstained.

Phil Bennion Plastic bags Stop -IMG 42357

The EU move follows a strong campaign by environmentalists such as the Marine Conservation Society, based in Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, appalled at the devastation caused by discarded plastic to wildlife, especially in rivers and at sea.

Figures from the European Commission show that over 100 billion carrier bags are used every year within EU countries, working out at an average of 200 per person. 8 billion end up as litter, many in the English Channel and the North Sea.

EU countries will be given the flexibility to choose how they reach a binding target of 50% reduction in plastic bag use within three years and 80% reduction within five years of the legislation coming into force.

Liberal Democrats in the coalition government have announced a 5p charge per plastic bag to be introduced UK-wide in 2015.

In Wales, where a 5p charge was introduced in 2011, supermarkets have reported reductions of up to 96% in the issue of single use plastic carrier bags, suggesting the UK should rapidly meet the EU target.

Campaigners and Lib Dem MEPs have criticised Conservative MEPs who voted against the 80% reduction target at the Parliament in Strasbourg on April 15th, and put down a ‘wrecking amendment’ that would have created a loophole by exempting all restaurants and cafeterias from the EU targets.

Liberal Democrat MEP for West Midlands Phil Bennion voted for the proposals and has actively supported the campaign by the Marine Conservation Society, whose hq in Ross-on-Wye he visited recently.

He commented:

“Discarded plastic bags are one of the most dangerous forms of waste in the environment. This has been exposed by the Marine Conservation Society, who have amassed reams of evidence that these bags do not just float about harmlessly but kill literally millions of marine creatures every year.

“Whales, dolphins and many predator species that eat jellyfish get confused and eat the plastic instead, with fatal results. Three quarters of seabirds and one third of fish in the Channel have been found to be contaminated by plastic waste. There are also huge slicks of plastic bags in the oceans, which are getting bigger every year.

“It is a massive problem around Europe which we have to deal with. The plastic also causes other forms of pollution as it degrades.

“Every country has the right to decide what action to take, but doing nothing should not be an option. We have to stop the huge volumes of plastic waste on our beaches and in rivers and seas.

“I am therefore very sad to see Conservatives dancing to UKIP’s tune by turning against their own government’s decisions and trying to wreck this EU proposal, just because it is an EU proposal.

Liberal Democrats in government have already proposed measures to reduce plastic bag use in Britain, we are now leading the way in ensuring that similar measures are taken across the European continent. Meanwhile I am afraid Tory MEPs are leading the way to allow polluters to go on polluting.”

Vince Cable considers evidence for tougher regulation of arms exports

A call for evidence about establishing a new register of arms brokers is published today (17 April 2014) by Vince Cable.

Consultation on pre-licensing register of arms brokers: call for evidence

The document seeks views on whether there is a need for tougher regulation of arms exports.

The UK aims to operate 1 of the most rigorous and transparent arms export control systems in the world. British companies must obtain a government licence before exporting any military goods.

A register of arms brokers would be an additional, pre-licensing requirement. Under the proposals set out today (17 April 2014), all brokers would have to be registered before they could apply for an export licence.

The Business Secretary made a commitment in December 2013 to consider a register of arms brokers in response to a long-standing request from the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC).

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“In the uncertain world we live in, government has a responsibility to ensure military exports are robustly controlled. The UK already has 1 of the toughest export control systems in the world. But it is right to consider whether it can be strengthened yet further as part of our aim to make Britain 1 of the most open and trusted places to do business.

“So today (17 April 2014) we are launching a call for evidence to take a fresh look at the case for and against a register of arms brokers. Introducing a public register could help increase both transparency and accountability, so I am keen to hear views on all sides of the argument.”

Arms brokers arrange or facilitate the movement of military goods between countries. A public register would include the names of all those licensed to carry out brokering activities. It could also allow for an assessment of suitability and possible requirements to attend training courses.

There are approximately 450 trade control licence holders registered on the government’s licensing database.

If the government decides to bring forward formal plans to strengthen the regulation of arms exports, there will be further consultations on the detail of those proposals.

The call for evidence will close at the end of May 2014 and the government will publish its response later in the year (2014).

Under the current UK export control systems, each licence application is fully assessed against stringent internationally-recognised criteria taking into account all relevant information available at the time.

A licence would not be granted if it would breach any of the criteria. However it must be recognised export controls do not, and should not, place unnecessary burdens on legitimate international trade.

Unemployment falls below 7%

New figures show the rate of unemployment has fallen below 7% for the first time since the recession. The number of people out of work dropped by 77,000 in the last three months, while total employment has seen the biggest annual jump in a generation.

There are now more people in work than ever before, with nearly 0.7 million more people in employment since this time last year, showing that the Lib Dem plan to create a million jobs is working.

Unemployment falls below 7%

There’s also good news on salaries, with wages rising an average of 1.7% since last year, while inflation has dropped to 1.6%. Coupled with the Lib Dem £700 tax cut, which was delivered last month, this means that working people get to keep more of their take home pay, helping to ease the squeeze on family budgets.

Commenting on these figures, Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury said:

“These figures are some of the strongest evidence yet that we are embedding the recovery. We have record numbers in work and unemployment falling at the fastest rate in over a decade. With earnings now rising in line with prices and employment rising, these figures reinforce the fact that the only way to higher living standards is to take the difficult decisions needed to deliver our long term economic plan.

There is still a great deal more to do, but today’s announcement is solid progress on building the stronger economy in a fairer society that Liberal Democrats entered coalition to deliver.”

Victory for Lib Dems as MEPs approve life-saving changes to lorry designs

The European Parliament has approved new rules to make big lorries safer for other road users and more fuel-efficient.

Under changes pushed by Liberal Democrat MEPs, the design of lorry cabs are set to be changed to reduce the number of blind spots under the front widescreen and the side of the vehicle. The new designs would also include safer cab fronts to reduce damage caused by impacts with cyclists and pedestrians. It is thought the proposal could help prevent dozens of fatal accidents each year.

key_Lorry-infographic.jpg

Liberal Democrat MEPs have met with a number of safety campaigners in Brussels and the UK over the past few years to discuss rules to improve lorry safety. Campaigners have included Olympic gold-medal winning cyclist Chris Boardman, See Me Save Me Campaign’s Kate Cairns, and Nazan Fennell from the ‘Live in Hope’ campaign.

Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion commented:

“Today’s vote is a victory for all the campaigners in the UK who have worked so hard to bring about these life-saving changes to lorry design.

This shows that when individuals engage with MEPs and the EU they can affect the outcome and bring about positive change.

With today’s strong backing from the European Parliament I am confident that we can push these reforms through in negotiations with national governments later this year.”

Former speech writer to Tony Blair says “I agree with Nick”

The former Speech Writer to Tony Blair said that he believes Nick Clegg is making a difference: “By stopping the Tory Right, the Deputy Prime Minister should be applauded by all liberal voters.”

Philip Collins worked as Tony Blair’s Chief Speech Writer, responsible for Blair’s very last speech as Leader of the Labour Party. In his article published today, he said that without the Lib Dems in Government, green taxes would be slashed, welfare cuts would be more severe, and there would be progress towards abolishing human rights legislation.

key_Nick-Clegg-Stronger-Economy-Fairer-Society.jpg

Commenting on the Europe debates, Collins said:

“During the debate on the European Union with Nigel Farage, it struck me that Nick Clegg had a clearer and more coherent thread to his politics than any of the other leaders, indeed any other senior politician.”

He also commented on George Osborne’s Budget speech, saying that it was notable that Osborne made a lot of the Liberal Democrat policy, such as raising the threshold at which people pay income tax to £12,500. He said that it is the liberal desire that people should keep more of the money that they earn.

In his article, Collins mentioned that he admires Nick Clegg’s emphasis on making social mobility a success. He spoke highly of the Liberal Democrats emphasis on childcare, stating that thanks to the Lib Dems, more money has been channelled to poorer children via the premium offered to schools in disadvantaged areas.

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