Advertiser Column: Fighting For Your NHS

I have always tried my best to fight for a better NHS for local people.

In 2002, when Labour were in Government, I campaigned against the closure of Withington hospital and, in 2005 I supported 60 doctors and clinicians and campaigned against services being moved from the Christie.

During this Parliament, I supported the 3.1% real terms increase in NHS budgets since 2010, and the extra £400m extra mental health funding since 2010.

16019456687_0140bd0311_z.jpgLocally, I lobbied successfully for £12m to improve our nearest hospital in Wythenshawe, and I was part of the campaign to recover the money lost by The Christie in the Icelandic banking collapse. I also led the successful parliamentary campaign to get the prostate cancer drug Abiraterone approved on the NHS.

Following a recent report saying the NHS would need a further £8billion in the next Parliament, there were claim and counter claim last week about the future of the NHS.

The Tories have promised £2bn extra funding which we secured for the NHS in last year’s Autumn Statement.

Meanwhile, Labour have only promised an extra £2.5billion, much less than the NHS says it needs. Labour run the NHS in Wales, and have actually cut NHS funding by 8.6%. More people in Wales are waiting 12 months for an operation in Wales than England, even though England has a population 17 times greater.

I am proud that the Liberal Democrats have promised the full £8billion in the next Parliament, including by an extra £500m to enable mental health to be treated the same as physical health.

So how will we pay for it? The first £2bn is being funded through reallocating money from other departments which have under spent their budget. Another £1bn will be funded through by capping pensions tax relief for the richest pensioners (saving £500m), aligning dividend tax with income tax for those earning more than £150,000 (saving £400m) and scrapping the Conservative shares for rights scheme (saving £100m).

The remaining £5bn will be funded through increasing NHS spending in line with growth in the economy.

So do not allow Labour to “weaponise” the NHS by saying it will be ruined if they do not win the next election. Their track record in Wales is of spending less, and they still have to answer how they are going to fill a black hole of billions.

Advertiser Column: Looking back at 2014


Ed Davey came to Parrs Wood to talk to pupils about making their school more energy efficientI hope that readers had a Merry Christmas and I want to wish you a peaceful 2015. 2014 was a year where progress was made in putting right some of the economy’s problems.

Unemployment is 624 lower in south Manchester since this time last year, and stands at 2.8%, down from 4.4% when Labour left office in May 2010. Some 2 million apprenticeships have been created since 2010.

The inflation rate is at a 12 year low, just 1% due to lower energy, transport and food costs. Pensioners will feel the benefit as they will be getting a 2.5% increase in their state pension next April thanks to our Triple Lock guarantee.  That is £18.30 more than when Labour left office in 2010, making the average pensioner £950 a year better off.

In Government the Liberal Democrats have delivered an income tax cut of £700 for all low and middle income earners, which the Tories had said was unaffordable. We have also delivered a £400 per child saving to Manchester parents by giving free school meals to 5,6 and 7 year olds.

The Liberal Democrat Pupil Premium has also delivered £41million extra to Manchester schools, a measure that Labour opposed.

The Scottish referendum meant that devolution for the Manchester City region was put into focus. The Liberal Democrats delivered more power for local Councils through the City Deal, a “Game-Changer” for Manchester according to Sir Howard Bernstein. The deal gives Manchester more power over Housing, jobs, infrastructure, Training and Transport.

While I support more devolution to Manchester, Manchester people should decide whether we want an elected mayor, rather than letting Tory and Labour politicians make decisions in private meetings.

The North West is having 40 projects funded this year, creating thousands of jobs. Schemes include the funding the Metrolink to Didsbury and Chorlton, (despite Labour cancelling it twice). It includes funding HS2, creating some 60,000 jobs in the North, despite some wobbles from some Tories in the South and Labour MP’s looking for an easy target to cut.

There is also £600m for the Northern Hub and £20 million to improve cycling. This investment would not have happened without the Liberal Democrat influence in Government.

Advertiser Column: 4,000 Jobs Making Their Way To Manchester

My job is to help support job creation here is South Manchester, whether that is through large or small businesses.
On Saturday, I am supporting Small Business Saturday by meeting some local businesses people, and hope local people will buy their Christmas presents from local, independent stores whenever possible.
Next week I am visiting Siemens on Princess Parkway to discuss plans to create up to 4,000 local, skilled jobs by expanding their Didsbury site.
The plans were part funded by a Government Regional Growth Fund grant of £3.5million.Screen_Shot_2014-12-05_at_12.11.52.png
The project will include a private hospital, housing and office spaces for the Princess Parkway site. Construction should start next summer.
Local unemployment is now at a six year low and has dropped by a third in this year alone. Youth unemployment is also down.
The number of apprenticeships in our area has more than doubled since 2010, so I’m very excited to see even more opportunity for local people to secure a job with real prospects in south Manchester.
The project will further promote the connections with the University of Manchester and help create a world-class business park, boosting employment and our local economy even more.
In 2012, I attended the launch of the Greater Manchester Energy plan at Siemens with Lib Dem Energy and Climate Change Secretary of State Ed Davey.
Siemens is one of the world leaders in offshore wind development and the investment right here in Manchester demonstrates their ongoing commitment to renewable energy.
The Manchester site has recently invested in new state-of-the-art Renewable Energy Engineering, the first of its kind outside of Germany and its main focus will be transmission systems for the UK, a core element in many offshore wind farm developments.
Siemens have been in Didsbury for more than 25 years and currently employ nearly 1,000 people. They are a significant employer with good quality jobs. I am proud they are committing to a long term future in south Manchester.

Guest Blog: Simon Wheale on Student Parties

Simon Wheale was the Liberal Democrat councillor for Withington for 22 years. He may have lost his seat in May 2014 but has not lost any passion for the area, still campaigning for local residents. He had the following to say about student parties.


For too long Anti-Social Behaviour law has not worked for local residents in areas like Fallowfield, Ladybarn and Withington in South Manchester, if student parties in local houses get out of hand.

Parties where too many people turn up for them to be safe for anybody and industrial strength sound systems which play all night cause problems for families with work and school the next day.

Despite there being a mound of Anti-Social Behaviour legislation from the years of Tony Blair's 'Respect' Agenda, both Police and City Council have too often felt unable to intervene at the time when big parties are taking place and are causing maximum nuisance for neighbours.

Things have now changed and not before time.

A lasting legacy of Norman Baker's time as Liberal Democrat Home Office Crime Prevention Minister, before his recent resignation, is a new smaller, simpler and more straightforward set of anti-social behaviour powers which do what they say on the tin and work effectively to tackle nuisance.

These powers came into effect on 1st of October and were used within 2 minutes of becoming operational by Police in South Manchester. 

The new Anti-Social Behaviour measures allow Police to act if a nuisance party is taking place and to close it down if it is getting out of hand. They can also disperse people where a major disturbance is happening.

But the best thing will be if these powers don't have to be used!

Manchester is a great city with robust, lively, mixed communities like Fallowfield, Ladybarn and Withington which can be sustainable if nuisance behaviour is binned and neighbours come first.

Advertiser Column: 'The Last Thing We Should Cut Is Frontline Services'

his week, The Labour Council have announced more cuts are on the way. No surprise there, apart from the fact that they gave the press even less information than they used to when there was a Lib Dem opposition.
They have followed the same tactics for the previous three years - they have exaggerated the cuts by including  extra growth spending (called unavoidable cost pressure in the press release, although it doesn’t say how much this year), threatened cuts to frontline services, and then, after scaring residents, they “find” the money to save the services that they say were under threat in the first place.
Then they blame the Government, and it has worked - Manchester is now a one party state with nobody to hold them to account.
Labour’s press release mentions an estimated £59m of “funding shortfall” next year, but rules out a rise in Council Tax. A couple of years ago Richard Leese argued for a 4% rise saying it was unavoidable given the cuts. It doesn’t seem unavoidable now. 
And then the press release mentions what could possibly be cut. It mentions about  £80m of cuts, £20m over the “shortfall”. They throw in front line services - ending free swimming for under 16’s and over 60’s (saving just  £70,000). Axing 40 school crossing patrols save little (a figure isn’t even mentioned) but is threatened to maximise outrage.
But the one thing the Press release doesn’t mention is that next year is General Election year.
If these cuts are so unfair to Manchester then why are Labour not promising to reverse them if they win the General Election in May? Can Manchester Labour not persuade Ed Miliband of the strength of their case?
Labour in Manchester know they are going to have to make cuts whoever wins the General Election, just as they knew and had identified millions of pounds of cuts before the 2010 election they thought Labour would win.
My view is clear. There is absolutely no need to harm frontline services, and I will be campaigning to stop Labour making the wrong choices for Manchester. Labour’s Town Hall bosses should use up some of Manchester’s huge reserves and cut out the unnecessary spending like Ipads and new swanky mobiles for Labour Councillors or a £3.5 million glass corridor between the Town Hall and Central Library that nobody wanted.

Advertiser Column: Support The Friends Of Hough End Hall

As residents of Chorlton will know only too well, the glorious Hough End Hall has fallen on hard times and is under threat. Currently owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, the bank has been looking to sell the Hall to the highest bidder.

There is an alternative. Local residents have clubbed together to form the Friends of Hough End Hall, aiming to raise the funds to buy the Hall from RBS and run it as a project to benefit the wider community.

So far, the group has made encouraging progress. The project has managed to persuade Manchester City Council to register Hough End Hall as an asset of community value, delaying any possible sale. The Council has also offered their full backing to their bid to secure Heritage Lottery Funds to purchase the hall, on the strength of the business case set out by the group.

Yet despite these welcome steps in the right direction, the moratorium governing the sale of the building is approaching its end and the decision regarding the allocation of the Heritage Lottery Grant is still a considerable time away. This means that the project, now more than ever, is in real need of our support.

The Friends of Hough End Hall are currently planning the first few heritage activities regarding the Hall. There are plans to publish a book about the Hall written by local historian Andrew Simpson and illustrated by Peter Topping, as well as to establish an informative historical walk around the former Manorial estate, and a mobile exhibition about the Hall to share its history with others further afield.

The group has less than 3 months to crowdsource the resources for these activities. They are already well on their way to meeting the target, but they need your support to achieve their goal.

Please share these links with friends and family and donate if you can, so that we can make this project a reality and save Hough End Hall for our community and future generations.

Advertiser Column: Pensions To Rise At Twice The Rate Of Inflation Thanks To Lib Dems.

The latest jobs and inflation figures were announced last week. Local unemployment is down by 749 in south Manchester since this time last year, and stands at 2.8%, down from 4.4% in May 2010.

The inflation rate fell to 1.2% from 1.5%, due, according to the Office of National Statistics, to lower energy, transport and food costs.

Both these measure help the whole economy, but are especially good for the 1,171,155 pensioners in the North West.

That is because pensioners are to get a 2.5 per cent increase in their state pension next year thanks to the Liberal Democrats’ Triple Lock guarantee.

The Triple Lock guarantee, introduced thanks to the Liberal Democrats in Government, means that pensions will increase with inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent – whichever is highest – every year.  The most that a pensioner can currently get is £113.10, so that should rise by £2.83 to £115.93.

This is £18.30 more, each week, than in 2010 when the Liberal Democrats entered coalition. This means pensioners on the full basic state pension are £950 a year better off than they were under Labour.

In the 1980’s, when the Tories were in power alone, they ended the link between earnings and pensions. When Labour were in power, they insulted pensioners with a 75p increase, and shamefully failed to restore the link.

We are also giving people more control over their own money, giving savers more freedom over how they take a tax-free lump sum from their pension pot.

As Liberal Democrats we believe people should have more choice as to how they spend their own money. I have been campaigning on this issue for at least 15 years.

Under current rules, from the age of 55, people can take 25% of pension savings as a tax-free lump sum. But future savers will be able to dip into their pension pot when they want, or when they need to – with 25% of what they take out each time tax-free.

I am proud that pensioners will be getting extra money in their pocket and being given more choice about how they spend their pensions. Delivered by the Liberal Democrats in government.

My Reaction To Resignation Of Caroline Shaw, Suspended Chief Executive Of The Christie

I have issued the following statement following the resignation of the suspended Chief Executive of the Christie, Caroline Shaw.

“As a huge fan of the work the Christie do, the good news is that this statement draws a line under the uncertainty at the Christie. They can get back to doing what they do best, looking after patients.“

The bad news is that this has been badly handled from the start, and has taken far too long to resolve. A dispute over £2600 has cost the Taxpayers £270,000.

I want to add my thanks to Caroline Shaw for the transformational work she has done over the past 9 years. I completely understand why she wants to move on. I think her resignation is a huge loss to the Christie.

Advertiser Column: Lib Dem Conference: Delivering For Manchester In Government

I am writing this just before setting off for the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow. I enjoy party conferences, and this year I will speaking on subjects as varied as Trams, Football, HS2, Jobs, the Creative Economy and the BBC.

In many of these subjects, the Liberal Democrats have delivered and have something different to say from the other parties.

I am visiting Celtic FC to talk to them about our support for “safe standing” at premier league football games and our aim to make homophobic chanting a criminal offence, as it is for racism.

On trams, I will be talking about how this Government delivered funding for Metrolink after Labour cancelled it twice. On HS2, the Lib Dems delivered it for Manchester whilst many Labour and Tories MP’s don’t want it.

The Liberal Democrats delivered an income tax cut of £400 for all low and middle-income earners. A measure the Tories said was unaffordable.

The Liberal Democrats delivered a £400 per child saving to Manchester parents by giving free school meals to 5,6 and 7 year olds.

The Liberal Democrats delivered £20million extra in pupil premium to Manchester schools, a measure Labour opposed.

The Liberal Democrats delivered more power for local Councils through the City Deal, a “Game-Changer” for Manchester according to Chief Executive Sir Howard Bernstein. He and I will be speaking at a fringe meeting at conference on the importance of HS2 to jobs in Manchester and other Northern Cities.

The Labour party wasted their chance and ruined the economy, destroying jobs and slashing incomes. In power by themselves they will borrow too much and risk the recovery, sacrificing opportunity for everyone.

And you can’t count on the Tories to care because left to themselves these past five years, they would have cut public services deeper and faster, making the poorest bear the heaviest burden – exactly what George Osborne says they plan to do if they win the general election.

So the choice in this election is clear: Labour will borrow too much, risking the economy. The Tories will cut too much, sacrificing the least well off. The Liberal Democrats will borrow less than Labour and cut less than the Tories, balance the budget by 2018 while ensuring decent public services, creating opportunity for everyone.

House Magazine Article: Narrowing The Sports Gender Gap.

Given that Britain has no shortage of inspiring female sporting role models such as Jessica Ennis-Hill, Lizzy Yarnold and Nicola Adams you would hope that there would have been significant progress  in narrowing the gender gap in grassroots participation in sport. Unfortunately as our recent Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report highlighted, there remains a consistent gap of female participation compared to men across all age ranges and ethnicities.

Since the Olympics, 590,000 more women are taking part in sport. However, 2 million more men than women play sport every week. A further worrying development is that girls aged 16-25 has shown little growth in participation over the past few years.

Sport helps develop a healthy lifestyle. Getting people to be more active is the best way of combating the obesity crisis which Britain faces. Investing time and money in encouraging increased physical activity more than pays for itself in savings to the NHS budget.

So government should help tackle the barriers women face. These range from the practical like lack of information and cost/distance of local facilities– to the personal, with poor body image and a lack of positive female role models frequently cited as concerns which are discouraging women from getting involved in sport. Some men might still put up with changing facilities that consist of the car park or the side of the pitch, but women quite rightly do not.

Most people know that I have been a season ticket holder at Manchester City for 31 years. I am proud to say that City have been playing a leading role in promoting women’s football by investing in and supporting our women’s team.  It sets a good example, and has raised the profile of women’s football in the community. So far the same cannot be said about our near neighbours at Manchester United, who remarkably do not have a women’s team.

I have written to both David Moyes and now Louis Van Gaal to encourage them to form a women’s team. Top clubs need to show more leadership on this issue, as they have a crucial role to play in encouraging the grassroots growth of the women’s game.

Next month, I am hosting an event in Parliament with Heather Rabbitts, who leads on this for the FA, to discuss how they can help.

The media must also play its part. The insulting, sexist, coverage on the looks of athletes such as Beth Tweddle and Rebecca Adlington only serves to reinforce the body insecurities which are stopping many from getting involved in sport, particularly those in the 16-25 age group where the gender gap remains most significant.

The issue is wider than just competitive sports. What matters is enabling sporting activity women feel most comfortable with. Evidence presented to us found that many girls were being put off taking part in sport at school by a lack of choice and overly competitive environments.

Our report found that exercising with people like themselves—in age, degree of fitness and competence— encouraged women to take part. It also seems that word of mouth is the most important channel for raising awareness, with many encouraged to take part by friends and peers.

As such, encouraging participation in sport is a virtuous circle: the more women who get involved in sport, the healthier they are. That is why we need to tackle the issue now.

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