Lib Dem district council adopts Doubling Nature strategy

We are proud of the Lib Dem South Cambs District Council's newly adopted strategy to double nature in South Cambridgeshire, which will bolster rich wildlife habitats, tree cover and accessible green spaces, as well as improving air quality and water management. This very much complements the council’s overall goal of turning South Cambs carbon neutral by 2050.

The doubling of nature will be achieved through several strategies at all levels of South Cambs life, starting with an audit of all trees on district council land. This will record the location, size, species and condition of every tree, enabling the council to plant the right trees in the right places to maximise tree canopy.

The council will support residents who want to plant trees and shrubs on communal land, and continue with the Three Free Trees scheme, which offers parish councils vouchers to buy trees. It will also improve its green spaces by reseeding them with wildflowers where suitable, and support community orchards, allotments and woodlands, as well as the development of new neighbourhood green spaces.

Meanwhile the council has made biodiversity and green spaces one of the four big themes that will influence how homes, jobs and infrastructure are planned in the new Local Plan. Its aim is to achieve 20% biodiversity net gain on all new developments in the district.

Read a copy of the draft Doubling Nature strategy

Cllr Pippa Heylings, the Lib Dem Chair of South Cambs District Council’s Climate and Environment Advisory Committee, said:

“The pandemic has exposed the terrible inequality that exists because of the number of families who do not have close and easy access to wild, open, green spaces. South Cambridgeshire is one of the fastest growing areas in the country and yet is one of the poorest in terms of biodiversity, and has one of the smallest areas of land managed for nature, relative to size. The challenge to balance economic growth with measures to protect and enhance nature has never been more urgent.”

South Cambs District Council’s Lib Dem Leader, Cllr Bridget Smith, said:

“The days when we could just take nature for granted are long gone. The cumulative damage that began with the Industrial Revolution has now reached the point where all of nature is under serious threat, and just minimising and mitigating damage is no longer an option. We now have no choice but to actively find every opportunity we can to protect and enhance what natural assets we have, and to double, as an absolute minimum, the land that is devoted to nature. If we do this right, we will create well managed natural habitats for both nature and humans to enjoy. We will improve air quality and biodiversity, and reduce the damage from climate change. In South Cambridgeshire we are determined, through everything we do, to create a district where nature come first and thrives as a consequence.”

Check out the series of free webinars the council is running during Climate and Environment Fortnight 2021, which starts on 22nd February:

• Greener businesses - Thursday 25 February
• Sustainable farming in Cambridgeshire - Friday 26 February
• Greening your older home, tips and inspiration - Tuesday 2 March
• Shrinking your carbon footprint - Wednesday 3rd March
• Food for our future workshop - Thursday 4 March

Find out more and sign up


Lib Dems call for an end to digital exclusion - sign our petition

Join our call on MPs and mobile phone companies to waive data costs for educational websites, to help the one million disadvantaged pupils who have little or no laptop or internet access at home. 

Sign our petition, which local Lib Dems Pippa Heylings and Lucy Nethsingha will present to MPs Gavin Williamson and Oliver Dowden, Secretaries of State for Education and for Digital, Culture and Media. It calls on them and mobile phone companies to think again and stop the lockdown locking out vulnerable children from learning.

As the country went into another national lockdown and schooling moved online, families locally and across the country have been excluded from learning due to the punitive costs of mobile data.

The cost of internet use is the single biggest factor that prevents all children from accessing learning during lockdown, and one that is exacerbating the disadvantage gap in education.

What about the laptops, you may ask? Well, it's true that the government has provided up to half a million laptops and a further 100,000 are to be distributed. However, that is in the context of the Department of Education’s decision last October half-term to slash the overall target of laptop allocation to disadvantaged pupils by 80%. Ofcom figures show that between 1.14 million and 1.78 million children in the UK (9%) do not have home access to a laptop, desktop or tablet.

Therefore, according to Ofcom, around a million children are trying to access online learning from a parent’s mobile phone. Even worse, an Ofcom survey in December found that one in five households reported problems with the affordability of their telecoms services – equivalent to 4.7 million households. What’s more, 5% of households had lowered how much they spend on clothes and even food to pay for data for their children to learn. No family should ever have to make a choice between food and education.

As an example of the costs that are forcing these terrible decisions: Oak National Academy (which is one of the leading voices in this campaign) found that to download a lesson from its website uses 250MB of data. Based on a leading mobile phone provider’s standard UK charges for pay-as-you-go data:

  • Four lessons a day would use 1,000MB of data to download and cost £97 a day 
  • A two-week isolation period would use up 10,000MB of data and cost £970

As a result of campaigning led by the Oak National Academy, the government has provided a data uplift for schools and also launched a scheme to make available a limited amount of free 4G access for disadvantaged families. But this scheme has to be implemented through schools and there's a lot of admin to identify those eligible. This goes against the key principle that education should be free to all, and families shouldn't have to ask for hand-outs to access it.

There is a simple solution: waive mobile data costs for the viewing and downloading of all education websites.

This comes as the BBC extended its education programming last month, with much more content being broadcast on TV in a bid to reach pupils on the wrong side of the digital divide. It’s now time for the big telecoms firms to step up and do their bit.

Sign the petition

UPDATE: Since we launched this petition, BT has announced zero-rate data for educational websites!

 

 


Pippa Heylings supports Cambridge Chamber of Commerce's call for immediate government clarity on Brexit

Parliamentary Spokesperson for South East Cambridgeshire, Pippa Heylings, supports Cambridge Chamber of Commerce's calls for immediate government clarity, to enable businesses to prepare for the end of the Transition Period. Pippa warns that we are careening towards a 'Brovid' cliff-edge for businesses, jobs and livelihoods. 

Pippa writes: 

Today, the cross-party Brexit Select Committee has published its latest report, containing a scathing assessment of the appalling lack of readiness. "At this late stage the government must be ready to implement contingency plans where necessary to mitigate the effects of any disruption. Failure to do so would mean the worst possible start to the new year for many people and businesses who are already experiencing the toughest of times," the report says.

Deal or No Deal, there is just too little time for businesses to get ready. And this is happening at the same time as the sudden shift to tighter Covid restrictions, which have thrown hospitality and retail businesses into even more dire straits, causing their Christmas sales to be further frustrated. Spiralling Covid infection rates mean that a full national lockdown in early January is now more than likely, meaning an even greater hit on all businesses across the country.

The government of business? No. Boris Johnson said "F**k business", and his government is doing a pretty good job at that.
The refrain from business remains: "Clarity. Just give us clarity and we will make the best of things." When the government says "Get ready, set, go", businesses are shouting into the wind: "Ready for what? Set for what? To go where??"

I was in a Zoom meeting a few days ago with the Chair of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, who told us that the Chamber’s Brexit Guidance Dashboard – long used by both business and government to evaluate the quality of official UK government guidance – still has 24 of the 35 key questions flashing ‘Amber’ or ‘Red’ with just two weeks to go:

- Firms still do not know what rules of origin will apply after the Transition Period, preventing them and their customers from planning, and potentially creating unprecedented new administration costs.

- There remains very limited guidance on procedures for the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

- Ten-digit tariff codes have still not been published and there is still doubt about the final WTO MFN tariff rates.

- There is no information on how UK tariff rate quotas will be administered or how businesses can access them beyond the Transition Period. Businesses are more than a little frustrated that there seems to be government messaging that blames them for not getting ready. When, in fact, they have been asking all year, throughout the Transition Period, for clear guidance and earlier negotiated agreements. With so little time left, "businesses need answers, and they need them now. Posters and television adverts are no substitute for the clear, detailed and actionable information businesses require to prepare for the end of Transition."

- Meanwhile, Stephen Phipson, Chief Executive of the manufacturers' lobby group Make UK, warned that many of the 2.7 million jobs supported by manufacturing businesses were heavily dependent on trade with the EU. "A No Deal would be catastrophic for Britain’s manufacturers, a sector which came to the nation’s aid when the Covid crisis struck," he said. "It is vital that the Prime Minister and the President of the EU Commission work together and find a pragmatic solution to deliver a zero-tariff and zero-quota deal to avoid additional friction at the border."

I am not calling all of this a failure of statecraft, because I see little evidence that statecraft has been applied in the Brexit negotiations. Businesses are being thrown under the bus, along with food standards, workers' rights and environmental and animal welfare.

December local news roundup - support scheme for the elderly expanded, protecting our beautiful chalk streams, concerns over plans for a massive new town & more

Mobile Warden Schemes expanded across South Cambs

The district council’s popular Mobile Warden Scheme has just been expanded to cover 20 further villages in South Cambridgeshire. The Lib Dem council dedicated £200,000 to launching seven new schemes, to add to the 15 existing schemes that currently cover 30 villages.

Mobile Wardens visit elderly people in their homes and provide practical help with daily tasks, as well as friendly social contact. In the past year, more than 300 residents received regular visits from Wardens, and help with things such as shopping, filling in forms and collecting prescriptions.

Protecting our beautiful chalk streams

Lib Dems in South Cambs are pushing to protect some of the world’s most important chalk streams found in the district.

More housing in the area will put more pressure on the aquifer from which water supplies are extracted, which will in turn reduce the water in our local chalk streams.

“The Environment Agency is responsible for water supplies, and we need to ensure that it gets the money from the government it needs in order to safeguard the streams and habitats like them,” said Lib Dem campaigner Ian Sollom.

Lib Dem candidate calls on Mayor Palmer to dump his imaginary tunnels

Aidan Van de Weyer, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has called on Mayor James Palmer to cease expenditure on the so-called Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro until a realistic plan with broad support is adopted.

"Mayor Palmer is continuing to shovel public money down the tunnels that only exist in his imagination. He spent more than £2 million on developing a business case for his initial idea for the CAM, which involved sending bendy buses down large tunnels under Cambridge. All of this work has now been binned without a word of apology to the taxpayers who are funding this farce. And he is now effectively starting from scratch again." Read more

South Cambs District Council commits to supporting 12 refugee families

Lib Dem-run South Cambs District Council will offer housing to four refugee families a year for the next three years, in a plan agreed by the council’s cabinet recently. Over the past 18 months, the council has helped four refugee families from war-torn areas settle in the district, and this month’s decision aims to build on this effort to assist those most in need.

The families helped will include those who have been forced from their homes in Syria, Iran or Sudan, who require urgent medical treatment, and who are survivors of violence and torture. Read more

Campaigning against a massive new town in the countryside

You may have heard the recent news that a property developer, Thakeham, is proposing a new town in the countryside southwest of Cambridge, which would consist of 25,000 new houses and would cover an area similar to that of Cambridge itself. 

This has been a bombshell for residents of villages between Cambridge and Royston, whose communities would be completely absorbed by such a development. And the impact would be felt much more widely. It’s clear from the published plans that the scheme is not sustainable at all, from environmental, transport, or employment perspectives.

South Cambs Liberal Democrats are campaigning alongside residents of the affected villages to halt the plan. Read more


Lib Dem Ian Sollom condemns proposal for huge new town in the South Cambridgeshire countryside

Ian Sollom, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for South Cambridgeshire, said:

"I and all the residents of South Cambridgeshire are shocked to discover that a major property developer has spent the last two years putting together a plan for an enormous new town in our countryside. That the developer seems to have attempted to get the support of central government rather than going through the council’s Local Plan process is an insult to local communities and local democratic scrutiny.

"The proposed town will do terrible environmental damage to the countryside. Covering an area nearly the size of Cambridge and with poor transport links, the town will fail to meet the government’s own climate change targets. It will be impossible to mitigate the ecological damage to the Cam valley and its precious chalk streams. The developer’s claims about sustainability are hollow.

"This proposal is not the solution to our housing crisis and I will be campaigning to stop it going ahead. I urge the developer to withdraw the proposal immediately and end the blight that dozens of villages will suffer until it is defeated.

"The Conservative Party has accepted over £400,000 in donations from Thakeham, the property company behind this proposal. Coming in the wake of the scandal involving donations from Richard Desmond to the Tory party shortly after the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick decided a major planning application in his favour, this news seriously undermines confidence in this government’s approach to planning and development.

"I call on our MP, Anthony Browne, to join me in demanding that the Conservative Party return Thakeham’s donations. Our residents need to know that decisions about the future of our area are not tainted by suspicions of financial links between those who make the decisions and the property companies that stand to make a fortune.

"We still have no clarity from the government on the Development Company for Cambridge announced in the Budget. The government seems to be keeping its own MP in the dark on significant developments in our area. Does Anthony Browne know what is going on? Are Thakeham’s proposals the Development Company vehicle? Residents of South Cambs need to be treated better by the government on this."


Lib Dem-run South Cambs District Council commits to supporting 12 vulnerable refugee families

South Cambridgeshire District Council will offer housing to four refugee families a year for the next three years, in a plan agreed by the council’s cabinet this week. Over the past 18 months, the council has helped four refugee families from war-torn areas (15 individuals) settle in the district, and this week’s decision aims to build on this effort to assist those most in need.

Aidan Van de Weyer, Deputy Leader of the council and the Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said:

“We don’t live in a bubble in South Cambs. What happens beyond our borders affects us, however indirectly. If the world outside South Cambs gets better, we benefit. If the world outside South Cambs gets worse, we lose too.

“The suffering of others does not make us better off; it diminishes us. This is true whether the suffering occurs just over the border in Suffolk or 2000 miles away in a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon. We have the chance to make some tiny contribution to reducing some of that suffering.

“The circumstances of these refugees are unimaginable to us. We don’t have the mental tools to comprehend their experiences. In addition to being refugees, the people that this programme accepts are among the most vulnerable, so their suffering is compounded. And this makes our decision to offer them housing here all the more important.

“I am very proud to have participated in making the decision to continue showing solidarity with the people of Syria, and to help alleviate some of the misery that Assad and the Syrian regime have inflicted.”

The families helped will include those who have been forced from their homes in Syria, Iran or Sudan, who require urgent medical treatment, and who are survivors of violence and torture.

In order for the council’s plan to be carried out over the next three years, it is hoped the government will continue its funding under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, which is part of the UN’s project to aid refugees in Syria and surrounding countries.

Local families who are already on the council’s housing list will not face a longer wait because of this scheme; the council will decide which accommodation it offers to the refugee programme, in order to minimise any effect on demand in the district.

Councillor Hazel Smith, Lead Cabinet Member for Housing for South Cambs, said: “We are really pleased to have been able to help some refugees, who were fleeing terrible conditions, find new homes in South Cambridgeshire. This is now about continuing to do the right thing as human beings. Hopefully, these new arrangements will help change the lives of some of the most deserving people.

"I know that South Cambridgeshire residents will continue to extend a warm welcome to new members of our community in the months and years ahead. With our stock of around 5,500 council homes, we will be able to decide which properties are offered as part of this programme. Therefore, as with the first phase of this scheme, we do not anticipate this arrangement having any impact on council house waiting lists.”


Lib Dem council leader responds to MP: Now is not the time for blame over Tiers

Following a tweet by South Cambs' Conservative MP Anthony Browne, which effectively blamed the cities of Cambridge and Peterborough for putting the county in Tier 2, the Lib Dem leader of South Cambs District Council, Bridget Smith, has said that now is not the time to be divisive.

Bridget said: "This is absolutely not the time to be divisive and to blame other districts for the Tier we find ourselves in. It is the time to follow the experts’ advice. South Cambridgeshire wraps all around Cambridge, with many people living or working in both districts, so it would be ludicrous for us to be in different Tiers.

"We know that all of our local hospitals are at or near to capacity. While our rates may be lower than the average, we recently saw very rapid increases and this could very easily happen again. We want to support efforts to avoid this happening, so that we reduce rates and transmission as much as possible before the five- day Christmas break.

"The Tier 2 rules are going to hit the village pubs in our district particularly hard. The support currently provided by the government is far from adequate, and I fear that many will just not survive.

"Along with our brilliant community groups and parish councils, we continue to focus on supporting any residents and businesses in need, whether through financial support or in practical ways, and also encourage any business concerned by today’s announcement to get in touch with our new Business Support and Development Team."


Lib Dem candidate Aidan Van de Weyer calls on Mayor to dump his imaginary metro

Aidan Van de Weyer, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has called on Mayor James Palmer to cease expenditure on the so-called Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro until a realistic plan with broad support is adopted.

Aidan said:

"Mayor Palmer is continuing to shovel public money down the tunnels that only exist in his imagination. It is now time to put an end to Palmer’s fake metro and come up with a workable and ambitious plan that meets our needs.

"Palmer spent more than £2 million on developing a business case for his initial idea for CAM, which involved sending bendy buses down large tunnels under Cambridge. All of this work has now been binned without a word of apology to the taxpayers who are funding this farce.

"He is now effectively starting from scratch again. But rather than actually talking to people who live here, Palmer has brought in the management consultants - and the costs have unsurprisingly skyrocketed. He is putting £8 million into a new delivery company just to get it started. And he is now wanting to appoint a chief exec and a board for the company, at a cost of half a million pounds a year!

"What is worse is that no one has any idea about where he is going to get the billions that the CAM will eventually cost. Despite my requests, we have still not been told when any of this will be built, or even when we will be told.

"The transport problems in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are acute. We need to deal with them now. Traffic jams are making the lives of commuters a misery and they are starting to hurt our economy. We must create green transport options that offer a genuine alternative to the car. But grandiose projects like CAM are just distracting us from finding realistic solutions for the immediate problems. We have the money and the support from the public to develop plans for excellent public transport that can actually get built quickly. I call on the Mayor to focus on that."


November local news roundup - free school meals update, foodbank appeal, policing cuts and more

Campaigning leads to free school meals U-turn

Following all the hard work put in by local councillors, community groups, businesses and residents to provide food for our district’s poorest children during half-term (such as this fundraising campaign in Histon & Impington), we were very pleased that the government has done a U-turn on the free school meals issue.

Thanks to immense public pressure spearheaded by footballer Marcus Rashford, the government has now put forward a £170m Covid winter grant scheme to support vulnerable families, and extended the holiday activities and food programme to the Easter, summer and Christmas breaks next year. It’s not yet clear how the funding will be implemented, but it’s a very welcome change of direction.

Over Day Centre to continue providing a lifeline of free meals

A free meals service for vulnerable residents run by volunteers at Over Day Centre can now continue for a further six months due to new funding. Supported by Lib Dem councillors and South Cambs District Council, the Centre was able to access government grant money to keep running the scheme it set up during the first lockdown.

So far it has delivered more than 1500 nutritious weekly meals to around 100 residents in need in Over, Bar Hill, Caldecote, Cottenham, Hardwick, Harston, Longstanton, Swavesey and Willingham. Read more

Foodbanks

There continues to be a lot of pressure on local foodbanks as increasing numbers of people struggle to make ends meet under the current circumstances. In the absence of adequate government support, foodbanks have become vital for many. If you would like to make a donation, the Cambridge City Foodbank is currently short of:

• Bags for life (or similar strong plastic carrier bags)
• Rice pudding
• Instant coffee
• Tins of salmon and tuna
• Olive oil 500ml
• Biscuits
• Long-life juice
• Large ham (canned)
• Meals in cans (e.g. chicken in sauce, chilli)
• Tinned vegetables
• Laundry powder

Find out how to make a donation
Find out how to get help from a food bank

South Cambs’ first electric bin lorry now in service

It was great to see South Cambs’ first all-electric bin lorry enter service this month. It’s the first of a fleet of 55 vehicles planned by the Lib Dem district council as part of its strategy to make South Cambs carbon neutral by 2050. Read more about the Lib Dems’ vision for a greener South Cambs

Concerns over proposed policing cuts

Cambridgeshire Lib Dems were very disappointed to hear the news that the Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Constabulary has proposed cost-saving cuts to neighbourhood policing in the county.

The cuts entail halving the number of Police Community Support Officers, removing the community safety team, closing nine enquiry offices, and introducing an appointments-based system for members of the public to speak to police officers.

We are concerned about the impact of such changes on grassroots policing in our communities and are calling for proper public scrutiny of the proposals. Read more

We welcome evidence supporting a green and inclusive Local Plan

South Cambs District Council and Cambridge City Council have published a range of independent studies they commissioned in preparation for developing the next Local Plan. They cover the environmental impact of different strategies, water resources, likely growth rates and infrastructure requirements.

We welcome the publication of all this evidence that supports a green and inclusive Local Plan, and which will allow our communities to shape the future development of our area over the next 20 years and beyond. Read more

An important victory for liberal democracy and the rule of law

Published in The Cambridge Independent, Aidan Van de Weyer, Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, on the US presidential election: "It’s fantastic news that Joe Biden’s victory has been confirmed, putting an end to the nightmare of the last four years with Donald Trump as a world leader.

"The campaign of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris focussed on the issues that affect people’s lives, while Donald Trump attempted to stir up division and hatred.

"And Biden encouraged his supporters to vote by post given the pandemic, which has escalated so far out of control under Trump - while Trump urged voters to turn up in person at polling stations.

"Such contrasting behaviour between the two candidates confirms that the American people have made the right choice. They have chosen the candidate who believed the science and did right by the electorate in this pandemic election - and who upholds the democratic process above all."


South Cambs Lib Dems welcome evidence supporting green and inclusive Local Plan

South Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have welcomed the publication of evidence that will allow local communities to shape the future development of our area over the next 20 years and beyond.

As part of the process for creating a new joint Local Plan, South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridge City Council have published studies on a range of topics, including the environmental impact of different strategies, water resources, likely growth rates and infrastructure requirements.

Pippa Heylings, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for South East Cambridgeshire, said:

“We are experiencing a climate crisis and a collapse in biodiversity. More residents than ever responded to the first consultation on our new Local Plan, and climate change was ranked highest amongst the themes it should address. We now have firm evidence that shows it is possible to respond to your concerns, with an ambitious plan that supports our aims of making the area carbon neutral and doubling nature - whilst also balancing growth with the water supply and the recovery of our chalk streams.

“The residents of South Cambridgeshire are already very engaged in creating a greener and fairer future. The number of sign-ups to the Solar Together scheme, for community bulk- purchase of solar PVs and batteries, was the highest in the country. The response to the district council’s zero carbon grants has also been fantastic. And many villages are putting together great Neighbourhood Plans and Village Design Guides, which give them a voice in shaping development and making green space available.”

Ian Sollom, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for South Cambridgeshire, said:

“The evidence that the councils have published today is hugely important in discussions about how we shape future development. It is clear that simply putting large numbers of new homes into already overstretched villages is not sustainable.

“Our area really needs more genuinely affordable homes to be built in sustainable locations with good transport links. This new independent research shows how we can achieve that.

“The Liberal Democrats in South Cambs want to protect what makes our villages special, and we will be working closely with communities across the district to make sure that their voices are heard.”


The Planning white paper is a 'developers' charter', our Lib Dem council leader writes

Published in the 4th November 2020 edition of The Cambridge Independent, our Lib Dem district council leader's assessment of the government's new Planning white paper, and what it means for the communities of South Cambridgeshire.

The consultation on the government's Planning White Paper (PWP) closed last week. Shockingly, I am yet to find anyone with anything positive to say about it. And with good reason: It's terrible.

The PWP is thin on detail and ignores opportunities to address the inadequacies of the National Planning Policy Framework, or the horrible consequences of new permitted development rights. Nor does it pay heed to the government putting its own planning inspectorate in order, which was partly responsible for the four-and-a-half years it took to approve the current South Cambs Local Plan. This delay resulted in two years of no Five-Year Housing Land Supply, and 4000 unplanned houses built with no financial contribution to the communities they were sited in.

The government loves to play to its audience, and its ambition to build 'beautiful' does just that. But if a national design standard to deliver 'beauty' results in houses with no reference to local, indigenous architecture, then we have countrywide 'cookie-cutter' developments and you won't know if you are in Harston or Hartington. Moreover, there is little mention of standards, or climate change or homes that support health and wellbeing - all the things that really matter to people.

The new housing minister Chris Pincher's focus is entirely on numbers and speeding up housing delivery. And how does he plan to do this? By encouraging small and medium-size builders into the market - but we get no clue as to how this can be achieved. The last 15 years have seen a 50% decline in SME developers, and though my own experience is that they often build better, quicker and cheaper, they will need help to purchase our very expensive land. And if the government is not going to give them that help, councils need to have the powers and resources to do so.

Additionally, the proposal that no affordable housing will be required for developments of fewer than 50 units will kill off any new affordable homes in many of our villages, depriving people of the choice to live where they want to live - often close to family, support networks or jobs.

Mr Pincher seems quite convinced that parish councils and residents would be so delighted that they were to play a full part in Local Plan formation that they would not mind that this would be the point at which their voices ceased to be heard. Once 'zones' are created development can go ahead, and as long as it is 'beautiful', all will be well and everyone will be happy. My view, having been a district councillor for more than 12 years, is that this could not be further from the truth. The parish council and resident voice adds hugely to the evidence for or against development.

This white paper is a 'developers' charter'. No more, no less. It removes democracy from planning, it silences local voices, it centralises decision-making. It's no wonder no one has a good word to say about it.

Bridget Smith, Liberal Democrat Leader, South Cambridgeshire District Council


NHS workers deserve more - we are calling for a pay rise for NHS staff

Covid-19 has highlighted the incredible work that NHS staff do to care for the public and keep them safe. This week we have read that Boris Johnson has nominated NHS workers for a Pride of Britain Award to recognise their dedication. We should absolutely be immensely proud of our NHS and its staff.

However, this seems like a very hollow gesture - much like the pin badges handed out or ministers clapping outside Downing Street - when Boris Johnson doesn’t support a meaningful pay rise for NHS staff. Our own MPs Anthony Browne and Lucy Frazier voted, along with their Conservative colleagues, against a pay rise for nurses earlier this year.

Since 2010, NHS workers have lost one fifth of their wages in real terms. As a result, many of them are now struggling to make ends meet. In recent years, we have seen them turning to food banks, unable to afford their rent, or forced to take on extra shifts just to get by.

Alongside this, their workload and stress levels have been on the rise – and now they face a winter with the immense pressures of a second wave of the pandemic.

All this is causing too many healthcare workers to leave the jobs they love, creating a vicious cycle of understaffing, which means frontline staff are more overstretched than ever. In nursing, there were more than 44,000 vacancies in the NHS in England, even before Covid-19. A recent Royal College of Nursing survey found 36% of nursing staff consider leaving the profession, many citing low pay as a reason. This government needs to invest to ensure we can recruit and retain staff in the NHS.

Liberal Democrat MPs voted in support of a pay rise. Our manifesto committed to a 1p increase for every £1 of Income Tax to be able to invest in our NHS. We are now calling on the Chancellor to fund a pay rise for NHS staff in the upcoming spending review.

Now is the time to reward NHS staff with more than Pride of Britain Awards and to give them a pay rise that reflects the value of the work they do.

Ian Sollom, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for South Cambs
Pippa Heylings, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for South East Cambs

 


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