Stephen Lloyd MP writes… The jobs agenda – a lot done, more still to do for single parents

Stephen Lloyd MP

Published on Liberal Democrat Voice

By  |

Mon 21st July 2014 – 5:00 pm

Budding Artists Create Holiday Masterpieces

In my constituency of Eastbourne, one in four households with children is headed by a single parent. This mirrors the diversity of modern families across Britain, where families come in all shapes and sizes, and reinforces my commitment to support and promote policies which enable each and every one of these families to balance work with bringing up their kids.

I am proud of the coalition government’s record on job creation and bringing down unemployment – reflected in the latest statistics out last week which showed that unemployment had fallen to its lowest level in nearly six years – but recognise that there is still more for us to do to ensure that everyone is able to benefit from the economic upturn.

This week, single parent charity Gingerbread has published a new report, Paying the Price: The long road to recovery, which highlights single parents’ experiences in work and of finding work. In reading the report, I was struck by how motivated single parents are to work and support their families – indeed 60% of single parents are already in work – a fact which is reinforced by the stories I hear from the single parents I meet at my constituency surgeries.

However, the report also identifies some of the challenges facing single parents, who can often struggle to earn their way out of poverty on only one income. In particular, the report highlights that:

  • 39% of working single parents surveyed are in low-paid jobs, compared with 21% of workers nationally
  • Many single parents can’t find the hours they want to work – the proportion of single parents working part-time but who want full-time work is double what it was five years ago
  • 1 in 4 working single parents surveyed has increased their working hours in order to boost their earnings, and one in six now has more than one job
  • 1 in 4 non-working single parents surveyed left their last paid job due to job insecurity – that is, due to lower wages, fewer hours, redundancy or temporary work ending.

The testimonies in Gingerbread’s report reflect my own experiences working as an MP. In my surgeries I regularly hear about the immense lengths single parents go to in order to pay household bills or kit out their children for school. I am also a long-term supporter of Gingerbread’s “Make it work for single parents” campaign, and this report serves as an important reminder that more needs to be done to ensure the UK labour market works for single parents.

In particular, I support Gingerbread’s calls for:

  • Increased investment in skills training for single parents to help them find jobs that pay a decent wage
  • Further work with employers to develop flexible working opportunities across a greater range and level of jobs, as well as to incentivise job security
  • Making the most of universal credit’s phased implementation to pilot specific actions that maximise work incentives for single parents.

Since I was elected to serve Eastbourne in 2010, I have been passionate about supporting my constituents into employment, and am proud of my record in doing this here in the constituency. Gingerbread’s report provides a useful focus for us nationally on a group – single parents – who may face particular barriers into work. I am pleased to be supporting their Make it work campaign to tackle these barriers and ensure that single parents, wherever they may live in the country, are able to successfully balance work and looking after their children.

Photo by USAG- Humphrey

* Stephen Lloyd is MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education. In March 2013 the Group published a report called ‘RE: the truth unmasked’ on the supply of and support for RE teachers. In June 2013 Stephen tabled an Early Day Motion on RE’s role in tackling extremism.

Opinion: Making the two-year-old programme work

Cara Jenkinson

Published on Liberal Democrat Voice

by  | Mon 21st July 2014 – 10:54 am

Teacher Tom at Canterbury994

I’m a governor at Seven Sisters Primary School and South Grove Children’s Centre in Tottenham, where we’ve been running a programme for two-year-olds from deprived backgrounds for the last three years. We’ve tracked the progress these children make, and it’s clear there are real benefits. This is a good Lib Dem policy, aiming to break down the barriers that hold back children from poorer families.

In September, the eligibility criteria for the programme will be widened, so that around 40% of two-year-olds become eligible. In Haringey, that means that around 1,790 children be entitled to a place. Now Haringey has two problems – first, that it only has around 650 places, and, secondly, that take-up of places is low.

The Department for Education are encouraging primary schools with nurseries to take up the scheme. This makes sense, as it eases the transition to nursery education and it starts building the links with parents that are so important during a child’s time at primary school. Also, the school can achieve economies of scale by sharing staff between the nursery and the two-year-old provision. A school that has a children’s centre is at a natural advantage here – it is easier for them to recruit two-year-olds, as they have built relationships with parents already, they have experience of working with very young children and have the required facilities.

However, this model is being threatened by potential outsourcing of children’s centres, which many local authorities, including Haringey, are considering. If an external provider runs the children’s centre, it is unlikely to establish such a close relationship with its neighbouring school. Without the economies of scale that can be achieved through staff sharing, the costs of providing the two-year-old programme (which is not generously funded by central government) may prove prohibitive.

The education of children from deprived backgrounds must be considered in a holistic way. Through building up relationships and trust with families over the long-term, poor children will achieve far more. So, local authorities should consider carefully the impact of commissioning external providers to run children’s centres.

Photo by earlyarts/Professional Development for Creative people

Our Climate Change bulldog #slfconf

eddaveyslf2-253x300Published on Liberal Democrat Voice By  | Mon 21st July 2014 – 9:14 am

WARNING: Contains strong hagiographic content, which some readers may find disturbing.

On Saturday, while much of the country was enjoying the sunshine, I spent two hours studying and listening to The Right Honourable Edward Davey MP FRSA.

In the wonderful surroundings of the new headquarters of Amnesty International, Ed addressed the Social Liberal Forum conference on “Energy and climate change – the balance between state and market”. He was then interviewed by four bloggers: Jonathan Calder, Matthew Hulbert, Caron Lindsay and myself.

My feelings during all this were similar to when Steve Webb addressed a local party supper club. I was thinking “Hey, this guy is doing fantastic, long-term stuff. Why the heck haven’t I heard about it before?”.

Ed has the features of a bulldog – a big barrel chest, a thick-set neck and determined, prominent jawline. He certainly has the determination of a bull terrier, shown in the way he pursues his objectives. There, the canine similarities end. Ed has a brilliant mind, and dazzles with a stunning recall of impressive facts, figures and arguments. In the interview, he turned a positively cherubic countenance to his questioners as he listened intently to the questions. I can imagine him going down well with civil servants in his department. He’s an extremely skilful Secretary of State.

Overall, Ed gave an exceptionally compelling narrative on the remarkable job being done by the government to fight climate change. I know this article could be accused of sounding like “Pravda” (and by all means balance it by reading Quentin Letts’ ludicrous piece on him), but I was genuinely very impressed by Ed and the work he is doing at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. However, as usual, I am a sucker for punishment, so I look forward to your comments.

Here is a couple of the key points which came up during the talk and interview, and then a load more will follow in a “part two” article later (which will include Ed’s thoughts on the thorny topic of nuclear power):

Investment in carbon reduction

Ed has written about this here and was brandishing the government’s Energy Investment Report.

The key line which stood out, for me, is that the Department of Energy and Climate Change is putting in more investment than the rest of the government put together. There has been a trebling of renewables powering the electricity grid.

The balance between state and market

The key point Ed made was that there is a need for a finely balanced approach. The binary, one/zero, black/white debate between government intervention and total non-intervention is pointless. There are three main areas, and each demands markedly different approaches: 1) Decarbonisation 2) Energy security and 3) Energy prices. The questions we should be asking are: Which type of intervention is suitable in each situation? Where and when? Is fostering competition the right approach? Or creating new markets? Or actual regulation, for example: emissions performance standards for coal power stations?

The bottom line, Ed said, is that the government must intervene to achieve our energy and climate goals.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist in Newbury and West Berkshire. He is Photo Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Liberal Burblings.

Labour backs free school meals

Over the weekend, Labour agreed to back the Lib Dem proposals for free school meals.

After pressure from the party’s grass roots at the National Policy Forum, Labour agreed to endorse the policy which was announced by Nick Clegg last year.


Free school meals are expected to benefit 1.5 million children between the ages of four and seven, greatly improving their health, behaviour and results.

Thanks to Lib Dems in Government, the policy will take affect in September and will become one of the most important changes in our education system for a generation. 

Click here to find out more about free school meals.

New rules to provide greater choice and more innovative pension products

New rules which would provide greater choice and more innovative pensions products, are expected to be announced this week.

The coalition wants to encourage pension providers to develop new retirement income products that are tailored to the needs of the individual consumer and which offer more choice, freedom and flexibility.

Today (21 July), the government is expected to publish its response to the consultation ‘Freedom and Choice in Pensions’.


As part of its response the coalition is expected to announce changes to the tax rules that govern the pension products firms can sell.

It is expected that the coalition will announce the following intentions:

- To allow people to receive varying levels of income throughout the lifetime of their annuity.
- To allow lump sums to be taken from lifetime annuities where specified and agreed with circumstances – for example if care needs arise – providing certainty that the person’s income is flexible enough to meet sudden costs. 
- To change the rules regarding payments from annuities after death – so that people can buy products which will guarantee some of their income is returned to their family if they die.

Barrister who gave first aid to gun attack victim to stand as police boss

Ayoub Khan has been nominated by the Liberal Democrats to stand as the candidate in the upcoming by-election

Former Coun Ayoub Khan pictured on Priory Queensway in Birmingham city centre

A Birmingham barrister who gave life saving first aid to a man shot just 50 yards from his house is standing to be the city’s police boss.

Ayoub Khan has been nominated by the Liberal Democrats to stand as the candidate in the upcoming by-election for the role of West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.

The by-election will be held in Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull, Walsall, Dudley, Sandwell, and Wolverhampton on August 21.

It follows the death of Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones, who died on July 1 aged 59.

Ayoub Khan, who is also a former Birmingham councillor, has been selected by the party to fight the election.

The 41-year-old from Aston, who administered first aid to a gun-shot victim fifty yards from his house in 2002, was called to the bar in 2005.

He was a Birmingham City Councillor between 2003 and 2012.

He holds a degree in chemistry and a masters in engineering from the University of Birmingham, in addition to his law degree from Birmingham City University. He is married and has six children, including twin boys.

Mr Khan said: “We have a problem in the West Midlands. Crime is falling, but people feel less safe than ever. We need faster police response times. We need better crime prevention, and we need reassurance.

“I grew up in Birmingham, and I’ve lived here all my life. I’ve dedicated myself to serving West Midlands people, through the courts, and as an elected representative.”

In an earlier interview he said: “Growing up in Aston, crime was an ever-present threat but ten years ago I witnessed a man being shot by two masked gunmen just 50 yards from my home. I had to use my belt to stop the victim bleeding to death. This shattering experience changed my life.”

Former transport minister and Solihull councillor David Jamieson has been nominated to fight the election for the Labour party.

Yvonne Mosquito, who is the current acting PCC and was the deputy to Mr Jones, will also run as Mr Jamieson’s deputy.

The by-election comes after two voters including UKIP activist Mike Rumble made a formal request for a poll triggering a 35 working-day legal limit within which it must be held.

Police Minister Mike Penning revealed the estimated cost of the by-election was £3.7 million.

Mr Penning slammed UKIP, telling MPs it was “absolutely appalling”

Speaking to MPs he said he also wanted to say “how disappointed I think we all are that individuals decided they would push for the by-election in this particular situation before Mr Jones had even been buried.”

There are fears that the August poll could attract even fewer voters than the original election in November 2012, when turnout was just 12 per cent with 238,384 votes cast.

Hobnock Road CLOSED!!!

Hobnock Road CLOSED!!!

Arriva 68 Service during Hobnock Road Closure.

To Cannock – Wolverhampton Road : Brownshore Lane : Upper Sneyd Road – Bursnips Road

To Wolverhampton – Bursnips Road : Upper Sneyd Road : Brownshore Lane : Wolverhampton Road

Hobnock Road CLOSED!!!</p>
<p>Arriva 68 Service during Hobnock Road Closure.</p>
<p>To Cannock - Wolverhampton Road : Brownshore Lane : Upper Sneyd Road - Bursnips Road </p>
<p>To Wolverhampton - Bursnips Road : Upper Sneyd Road : Brownshore Lane : Wolverhampton Road

Unequal pay is a concern for both women and men – Jo Swinson MP

I received this email off Jo Swinson MP late yesterday and thought I’d share it with you….

 Liberal Democrats

Hi Ian,

Shockingly, in 2012 women were paid nearly 20% less than their male colleagues. It is an unacceptable difference and one the Liberal Democrats are determined to tackle.

Today we’re announcing plans to require large companies to publish the difference in pay between male and female workers. This will create pressure from staff and customers to close any pay gap and deliver real equality in the workplace.

Unequal pay is a concern for both women and men. The principle of equality is one our party holds dear, and in practice women earning less reduces household budgets up and down the country. Over a lifetime the lost earnings can be tens of thousands of pounds.

So, I do hope you will add your name to our campaign to deliver equal pay in the workplace.

The pay gap has several causes. In Government we are working to encourage wider career choices for young women so that they are not concentrated in lower paid roles and sectors of our economy. Our radical shake up of the workplace is aimed at ensuring flexible working is seen as the norm. It means that parents can share leave after a baby is born and will help deal with the element of the pay gap attributed to women having more time out of the labour market.

But part of the answer is about employers taking responsibility for their pay policies, and analysing any gaps that exist. Making large companies with over 250 employees publish the average pay of their male and female staff will create transparency about the gender pay gap. Women should be given the same opportunities and be properly rewarded for their work – it’s as simple as that.

Please support our campaign to make large companies publish what they pay men and women, to help make equal pay a reality.

Best wishes,

Jo Swinson, signature

Jo Swinson MP

Update on High Road pedestrian crossing

PuffinJust a quick update on the pedestrian crossing on High Road, Lane Head. The new “Puffin” crossing was commissioned late yesterday (Thursday) and is now up and running.

Have to say from a motorists point of view it’s far more noticeable. There has been some good feedback already from pedestrians.

Just to remind you, the old Pelican Crossing developed a fault a couple of weekends ago which proved to be terminal. The decision was made to upgrade the control lights to a Puffin crossing…

This week’s Willenhall North Lib Dem Surgeries are at the following venues…

Willenhall North Lib Dem Focus Team members Cllr Ian Shires and Carol Fletcher continue to provide their regular Advice Surgeries. This week we will be at the following locations:

 091101 IanCarol Rose 2

This week members of the team will be at the following locations to listen to your views and help you with issues you might have with the Council, Walsall Housing Group and other Public Agencies.

This Friday the venue is The Lighthouse Children’s Centre, Davis Road, New Invention  7 pm to 8 pm
Saturday the venue will be New Invention Library, The Square, Lichfield Road, New Invention between11.30 am to 12 noon