Cllr Simon Wheale: Labour making the wrong choices for Manchester.



By releasing the council budget to the Manchester Evening News, and putting their spin on it before anyone could possibly read the facts, Labour's Town Hall bosses have shown where their priorities lie. Playing politics rather than doing the right thing.

By rejecting £1.5million of Government subsidy to freeze the Council tax, and proposing to increasing the Council tax by an inflation busting 3.7%, they have made the choice to pick the pockets of the hard pressed Manchester Council Taxpayers rather than accept cash from Government.

For every  £100 they put up Council tax they are only receiving £64 because they turned this free government money down.   The Liberal Democrats will fight Labour's cuts to front-line services across Manchester.

What is more, if Labour had taken the £1.5m of government money they refused, it would save all the leisure facilities and libraries threatened with closure including Levenshulme Baths & Library, Burnage Library, Chorlton Leisure Centre and Withington baths.

Will will always argue for more cash for Manchester, but it doesn't help our case when we have £150,000,000 in reserves, or when Richard Leese gets a chauffeur driven car at local taxpayers' expense, or when nearly half a million pounds of Council money was blown in one night last September, on a free concert and bar for VIP celebrities and Labour Councillors.

Or when cash is offered, it is turned down.

 

 

New Lip Reading classes in Sale: Get Involved!

lipreading

 

Last October, I blogged about the lack of lip reading classes locally

Well, there is some good news. The Trafford Hard of Hearing Group have begun a new session of in demand Lip-reading classes in Sale.

The Trafford Hard of Hearing Group’s primary function is to provide free lip-reading classes for people who have hearing loss. As the name suggests, they cater primarily for residents in the Trafford area, but do have members from further afield. The Group was formed when lip-reading classes  ceased to be subsidised because lip-reading was no longer deemed a “life skill”. It is now categorised a “recreational” skill.

The Trafford Hard of Hearing Group rely entirely upon grants from various sources to fund their activities. They engage the services of professionally qualified lip-reading tutor, Ron Rolph, and currently run two levels of courses (beginners and intermediate). These are held weekly in Sale, which is easily accessible by public transport. Details of the classes are as follows:

The Trafford Hard of Hearing Group

Beginners Classes – 1:00pm to 3pm

Intermediate Classes – 10:30am to 12:30pm

At Park House, 73 Northenden Road, Sale, M33 2DG

January 24th, 30th

February 14th, 21st

At St. Paul's Church Hall, Springfield Road, Sale, M33 7YA

March 7th, 14th and 21st

April 11th, 18th and 25th

If you have any queries, please contact Tutor, Ron Rolph, via telephone: 0161 904 9986, or via email: [email protected]

Steve Webb: Delivering a simpler, fairer pension system

 

 



 

I am happy with the Coalition's state pension reforms. They will deliver a single, simple and decent pension for the people of Manchester.By April, the state pension will  £650 more than when Labour were in power. This means the basic state pension is now at its highest share of average earnings since 1992.

The worrying fact is that for many, the state pension is often not enough to live on.  The complicated nature of the current system means people today don’t know what they will get when they retire which discourages them from putting anything aside. People who have contributed, either through paid work or caring or in some other way, should be guaranteed a pension clear of the basic means-test, and one that gives them security in retirement.

The reforms mean,

  • The new single tier pension, which will apply to anyone retiring after 2017, is equivalent to £144 a week. The basic state pension is currently £107.45.

  • For the first time men and women will be treated equally.

  • Self-employed workers will be included fully for the first time.

  • You no longer lose out if you decide to bring up children or become a carer.

  • Every bit of pension people have built up so far will be honoured.


Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for decades to deliver, and in Coalition we are delivering these radical plans so today’s workers can retire on a single, simple, decent pension.”

What other are saying about the plans;

Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:

“The current state pension system is fiendishly complex, after seventy years of tinkering by successive governments, and Gordon Brown’s strategy of means-testing has failed those pensioners it was designed to help most.

“We need a simple, single state pension, set above the basic means test, which enables everyone to work towards a decent income in retirement and encourages more peoples to save for their old age.”

 

Joanne Segars, Chief Executive, National Association of Pension Funds said:
“Today’s announcement for a simpler, more generous state pension is a much-needed shake-up that will ultimately help millions of pensioners and savers. For the first time in a generation, people will know that it pays to save, and that whatever they put aside won't be eroded by means-testing when they retire.”

Dr Ros Altmann, Director-General of the Saga Group and pensions expert said:
“Such radical state pension reform is long overdue and it will be a huge step forward to have a single, flat-rate state pension, without mass means-testing in future.  This will make it safer to save, which is essential as auto-enrolement extends across the workforce.”

Mid Term Report: Top 10 Liberal Democrat Wins.



The government has published its mid-term report, and as expected Media coverage is naturally focusing on parts of the agreement that are not on track. However our own party analysis shows about 95% of the Coalition Agreement is on course.

The MTR also shows the huge extent of Liberal Democrat influence in Government. We have taken policies directly from the front page of our Manifesto and we are now delivering on them in Government.

We are building a stronger economy: we have cut income tax by £600 for 24 million working people, created 1 million new jobs, 1 million apprenticeships, and still managed to cut the deficit by a quarter.

And we are building a fairer society by securing the biggest ever cash rise in the state pension and putting £2.5 billion into schools targeted at the least well-off pupils, raising standards for everyone.

Top 10 Liberal Democrat Achievements

1.       Reducing the deficit by a quarter, fixing the mess left by Labour and keeping interest rates down

2.       Creating 1 million jobs and 1 million apprenticeships. 84% more apprenticeships in Manchester.

3.       £600 tax cut for 24 million working people by ensuring nobody pays any income tax on the first £9,440 they earn. 74,000 of the lowest paid Greater Manchester residents have been removed from the tax system all together.

4.       Delivering an extra £2.5 billion into schools targeted at the least well-off pupils, raising standards for everyone. £20m extra for Manchester schools

5.       Created a Green Investment Bank to unlock billions of pounds of private investment in renewable energy and create thousands more green jobs in Manchester through companies like Siemens.

6.       Youth unemployment is lower than when we took office, thanks to our £1 billion Youth Contract, which gets young people off the dole and into work through apprenticeships, work placement or training.

7.       Secured the biggest ever cash rise in the full state pension, worth an extra £650 every year.

8.       Cutting crime by 10%

9.       Better, faster treatment in the NHS, with waiting times down and 25,000 people accessing cancer drugs they weren’t allowed under Labour

10.     Scrapped ID cards and removed innocent people’s DNA from the police database

Support Orchid and Cancer Charity Hero: Gareth O'Brien



Just before Christmas, I received an email from a man named Gareth O’Brien. Gareth was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2008, aged 25, but after a course of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, moved in to remission. So far, he’s stayed there. While this was incredibly difficult in itself, Gareth was studying for an Environmental Sciences degree at the University of Plymouth at the time of his treatment. He went on to complete a post-graduate degree in Business Management after that, a brilliant achievement considering all that he has been through.


Gareth emailed me to alert me to his campaign to raise funds for Orchid, a UK registered cancer charity that focuses on the male-specific cancers: prostate, penile and testicular cancer. After surviving testicular cancer for five years, Gareth has decided to climb five mountains to raise money, increase awareness and inspire other cancer sufferers to keep fighting this terrible disease. He will be climbing in April and June of this year. While not an experienced climber, he is passionate and determined to help such an important cause. I can only imagine how difficult his training is going to be, but he is raring to go and I wish him all the success in the world for the arduous climbs ahead.

As many of you know, this is an area about which I feel strongly. In September, I wrote about my efforts to have the Christie NHS Foundation Trust adopt a rigorous standard of quality in caring for cancer sufferers, which you can read about here. Back in May, I wrote about my successful campaign to have abiraterone made available on the NHS, a real boon for prostate cancer sufferers which you can read about here. Male cancer is a subject on which I often write and often speak about in parliament, so I was delighted to hear from someone trying to make a difference in an area which is often overlooked and underfunded.
Gareth is already on the way to reaching his ambitious fundraising target of £10,000, but he needs all the help he can get if he’s to get there by April. You can help yourself, donating to by clicking on his JustGiving page. You can also follow his campaign’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. The links to all of these are listed at the end of this post.

I think it’s amazing that someone who has fought so hard to beat cancer can now do something so positive for a cause that he believes in. He has asked me to publicise his campaign, and I’ll do the same here; please share these links around and help Gareth to reach and exceed his £10,000 target. It’s a fantastic thing to give to, and I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing him the best of luck.

 

 

Gareth’s JustGiving page: JustGiving.com/Gareths5-4-5

 

The campaign’s Twitter feed: @5Mountsfor5Years

And its Facebook page: Facebook.com/5Mountainsfor5Years

 

20,000 Manchester jobs to be created by Railway improvements.



Yesterday, Network Rail published its business plan for 2014 to 2019. It is good news for Manchester jobs and growth.

The plan includes over £1 billion of investment for the North West. This investment will create 20,000 jobs and boost investment, returning £4 to the regional economy for every £1 spent.

Local passengers will benefit from shorter journey times and more frequent services. The journey from Manchester to Leeds, for instance, will be cut by 10 minutes.

On of the most telling statistics is that this government has committed to electrifying over 800 miles of track over the next five years. During its 13 years in office the Labour government electrified just 10 miles! Electrifying the North West and North TransPennine lines will spare the environment and cut journey times.

In the long term, this huge modernisation project will reduce running costs and help put an end to runaway increases in train fares.

Thanks to the Liberal Democrats in government Manchester residents will also benefit from High-Speed Rail and, after Labour delays, the extended Metrolink.

British railways are seeing their biggest investment in over 100 years. I am proud that the Lib Dems in government are seeing this through despite having to sort out Labour’s economic mess. I am delighted that Manchester will benefit from better train services and 20,000 new jobs.

 

Why I will be a rebel tonight.

In politics, you have got to do what you think is right. Tonight, I will not be supporting a 1% cap on benefit rises as it will harm 7 million working families .

I understand that finding budget cuts are hard. It is easy to do what Labour are doing and opposing every cut, knowing full well they would have implemented most of these cuts if they were in power.

But, in the past few days, the debate has stopped being about what is right and fair, it has become about a gut feeling.

I find it objectionable that the Tories are ramping up the  “Skivers Vs Strives” rhetoric to justify a benefit cut to 7 million working families.

If you are one of those 7 million, you have made your choice to work. You should be encouraged by the system, whether that be through benefits or tax breaks.  That is why I strongly support rises in the tax threshold.

I accept the system should be simple, transparent and easy to understand. And it certainly isn't now. But a cut to these working families will wipe out most of the gains these families will see through increases to their tax allowances.

And that is why I will be rebelling tonight.

 

Playing it fair with train commuters



This morning, the Transport Select Committee of which I am a member has published a report. You can find it here.

The reports accepts that investment needs to be made on the railways, and that commuters need to be contributing their fare share.

It also makes the following points.

1) After 10 straight years of rises, Rail fairs cannot keep rising indefinitely.

2) Finding savings and efficiencies cannot be done by compromising safety.

Of course, if you spend half your life commuting on overcrowded trains, you are never going to be happy with any price rises. The balance that needs to be struck is to improve capacity and the quality of services. That is best done by having an open, transparent franchise system and not best done by using price to dampen down demand.

My Most Viewed Blog of the year 2012: Some thoughts on Alan Turing...



During the year, I did half a dozen blogs on my campaign for a pardon for Alan Turing- a campaign I hope will be successful in 2013. A total of 6 Turing blogs made my top 25, with this one, put up to coincide with the 100th anniversary, being the most popular.

In this week running up the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing’s birth it is great to see him and his achievements getting a lot of coverage in the local and national press. I do feel, however, that while this coverage is important, true recognition of his achievements would be achieved if the Government would accept my calls to issue Alan Turing a posthumous disregarded conviction or pardon.

Here are some quotes from some people who agree with my point of view.

“We are in full support for the campaign for Alan Turing’s pardon. This would send a clear and real statement of support to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) community today, that we are not mentally ill, criminal nor perverted. Alan Turing should be remembered as a genius; a mathematical, computing and engineering pioneer; and as a gay man whose life was tragically shortened by institutional homophobia. Who knows what monumental breakthroughs he could have made if he had not been persecuted? What the state can’t do is turn back time and bring him back to life, but what we CAN do is to honour his life proudly, and remove the legacy of shame and criminality that has been associated with his name for too long.”

Sally Carr - Operational Director LGBT Youth North West & Amelia Lee - Strategic Director at LGBT Youth North West and Board Member for Schools Out

“He was punished because of his sexuality and had to make the humiliating choice between imprisonment or chemical castration. This ultimately led to him taking his own life. The fact that Alan Turing has not been officially pardoned, or had his conviction disregarded is something this country should be ashamed of. Had Turing been alive today, he would have rightly been celebrated as a hero. The least – the very least – we can do is remove the shameful shadow of institutional homophobia from his amazing legacy.”

Grahame Robertson - Editor at outnorthwest

“He is a hero to this country, and his status as a hero has the power to make people see his homosexuality in a different light. How we honour the dead is as important as how we honour the living. That is why I think the petition to wipe Turing’s criminal conviction from the record is not only important but also necessary.”

Christopher Bryant – Editor Polari Magazine

Yesterday I tabled an updated version of this parliamentary motion from an earlier session. The new motion is called Early Day Motion 225 Alan Turing and you can check to see which MPs have signed it here. If you are reading this and you are not a constituent of mine I would urge you to write to your MP to ask him to sign it, the more MPs show support and the more people sign the e-petition the more pressure will grow on the Government to act.

You can sign the e-petition here and join over 34,400 other people that have already signed it.

2nd Most Popular blog 2012: Sahel drought is one reason why I support our International Development funding pledge

africa


This first appeared in June 2012.

International Development has always been high on the list of issues my constituents in South Manchester have been campaigning hard on. As their Member of Parliament I am privileged to have the opportunity to be involved with and support my constituents’ campaigning.

Under the coalition the UK is fulfilling its international and moral obligation to meet the 0.7% aid target. Even in these difficult financial times when we are sorting out the financial mess left by the previous government the Liberal Democrats have been fighting for fairness in how the Government allocates resources. In the coalition agreement we secured the commitment to raise the International Development budget to 0.7% of GDP (the United Nations target) by the end of the Parliament.

The Sahel is a region that stretches across West and Central Africa; it is as wide as the US, and as you read this, one million children do not get enough food to live on – their lives are in the balance. Children under five are the most severely hit.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2010/06/03/idUKLDE651255._CH_.2420

The UN appeal for the Sahel is less than half funded, and time is against us. The International Community needs to give, not just pledge, money that will be used to address not only the current humanitarian crisis, but also the causes of chronic food shortages in an extremely vulnerable part of the world.

Last week, I was happy to see the UK pledge an extra £5.4 million for Sahel. This, taken with our other contributions, means we have paid £10 million, which is set to go up to £25.4 million. Other governments have been less forthcoming. We know that we have not yet reached the peak of the Sahel food crisis; it is still in danger of tipping into catastrophe without further concerted global action. The UK Government now needs to take the lead and ignite other UN member countries to contribute their fair share.

Aid agencies like Oxfam have been warning of a massive food crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa for months. Drought, rising food prices, poor harvests and conflict have pushed the situation to the limits. Drought has badly hit Saheli farmers; the chronic lack of investment in agriculture is certainly not helping them. Food stocks have been exhausted and people are being priced out of the food market. More and more people are going hungry.

If we don’t help, people in the Sahel will struggle to survive as they enter the worst months of the lean season; the months before the next harvests in September and October.

You might be thinking: “Another crisis in Africa- another request for help. But we are struggling in Manchester – these are tough times for us too”. I don’t accept that we should ignore our international responsibilities when times are hard.

With repeated crises, communities’ resilience and ability to recover and prepare for future challenges is weakened. And the risks of potential conflicts rise. A peaceful and prosperous world is a world where everyone has enough to eat. How many people have to suffer how many times before we break the cycle of hunger? We cannot prevent drought – but we can learn to prevent rather than react to the food crises.

http://www.oxfam.org/en/sahel

Oxfam and other international agencies started the response to the crisis in the Sahel this year earlier than in the past, and have already helped millions of people. But we have to measure our actions against the reality, and the injustices of hunger in the 21st century still exist; that is the reality we are operating in. There is no room for complacency. We must always strive to do better; mothers should no longer need to search for food in anthills so they can feed their children.

We need the International Community to step up and mobilise resources now; to respond in the short-term to the current humanitarian crisis, and in the long-term to commit to a vision of how to help stop future crises in the Sahel. Oxfam believes that such a vision must include investing in agriculture in ways that benefit small-scale farmers, especially women, helping them to grow more food and earn more money for their families in good years and bad.

Only by doing the right thing here, by raising the International Development budget, can we expect other rich countries to do their fair share.

To get involved with Oxfam locally, contact them through.

http://www.manchester-oxfam.org/

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