100 days to go: Don’t let Britain take the wrong turn

To mark 100 days until polling day, Liberal Democrats are today (Tuesday 27 January) launching an election poster attacking both Labour and the Conservatives for wanting to veer off course and threatening economic recovery by either borrowing too much or cutting too much.

The poster which reads “don’t let Britain take the wrong turn” shows that only the Liberal Democrats can create both a stronger economy and a fairer society, creating opportunity for everyone.

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Deliberately playing on a previous Conservative poster, the image shows how the Conservatives want to move in the direction of reckless cuts while Labour want to take us in the direction of reckless borrowing.

The poster shows that to keep us on track, Britain needs a liberal voice in government to stop Labour and the Conservatives from lurching to the extremes of left and right.

Liberal Democrats will cut less that the Conservatives and borrow less than Labour, giving a heart to the Conservatives and a backbone to Labour.

Only the Liberal Democrats can deliver both a stronger economy and a fairer society, creating opportunity for everyone.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2015: Message from Nick Clegg

A message from Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Last week, I was privileged to sit down and talk with one of the bravest, most remarkable people I’ve ever met – Zigi Shipper. Zigi was just 11 years old when he first escaped deportation from the Lodz ghetto where he’d been living with his paternal grandparents. When the ghetto was liquidated in 1944, Zigi and his grandmother were rounded up and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau. His grandfather had already died of starvation.

By the time he was 16, Zigi had witnessed and experienced unimaginable horrors. But, despite it all, his story is one of true courage and hope. As a Holocaust survivor, Zigi has dedicated his time to ensuring that the millions of Jewish people who were persecuted and killed by the Nazi regime are never forgotten.

Now 85, Zigi travels to schools to tell children and young people across the country his story. I met him with 2 dedicated, young Ambassadors of the Holocaust Educational Trust, who took part in a visit I made to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2012.

Learning about the Holocaust is not just a history lesson. It is one of the most powerful antidotes we have to anti-Semitism and extremism whenever and wherever it may occur. And, we all have a responsibility to ensure that the testimonies of Zigi and other survivors of the Holocaust continue to be told for generations to come.

This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and 20 years since the genocide in Sbreneicia in Bosnia.

So, on this day and in the weeks, months and years that follow, please take a moment to remember the victims of the Holocaust and all subsequent genocides. Together, we can honour their memory in the best way possible – fighting hatred and ensuring their voices live on.

(Photo above by Pimke on Wikimedia Commons. Used under Creative Commons).

Today’s conviction is an important step forward ending Female Genital Mutilation

Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone has said the conviction of an Egyptian doctor who performed an illegal female genital mutilation operation on a 13 year-old is a step forward in ending FGM across the world.

The doctor was today (Monday 26 January) convicted of manslaughter after Suhair al-Bataa died following the operation in 2013.

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In her role as an International Development Minister, Lynne started the campaign to end FGM within a generation.

Commenting Lynne said:

“This is a hugely important step forward in the international campaign to end FGM. I wholeheartedly congratulate those tireless campaigners working in Egypt, Britain and across the rest of the world.

“Today’s landmark ruling shows we are one step closer to ending FGM within a generation.”

Appeal from Humberside Police following fire at property on Rutland Street.

Humberside Police are regarding a fire at a property on Rutland Street in Grimsby on Saturday 24 January 2015 as suspicious.

An amount of refuse which had been collected in the garden of the property appears to have been deliberately set alight sometime around 0245hrs on Saturday 24 January 2015.

Part of the property was damaged by the fire although nobody was injured as a result of the blaze.

Police would like to hear from anyone who may have information in connection with this incident and ask for witnesses to call 101 quoting crime reference number AC/2093387 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Helping you make the switch in N E Lincs

North East Lincolnshire Council, working in Partnership with Cofely, has arranged three drop-in sessions where people can register with the council-backed Big Community Switch scheme

The easiest way to register for no obligation Big Community Switch scheme is to do it online at www.nelincs.gov.uk/TheBigCommunitySwitch before Friday 30 January 2015 and provide your contact details, the name of your supplier and details of your current energy usage and tariff and it does the hard work for you, using joint buying power to help drive down home energy costs.

If you don’t have internet access, bring a copy of your latest gas and electricity bill (or bring details of your energy supplier, annual usage and tariff) with you to sign up at one of the following sessions:
• From 12pm to 2pm in the reception of Origin One, Pegasus Way, Europarc on Tuesday 27 January
• From 12pm to 2pm in the reception of the Municipal Offices in Grimsby on Wednesday 28 January
• From 12pm to 2pm in the reception at the Civic Offices in Cleethorpes on Thursday 29 January

You must bring a copy of your bill (or the details of your energy supplier, annual usage and tariff), or you won’t be able to register.

Once you have had the opportunity to register your interest, a reverse auction will be held to invite energy suppliers to compete with their best offers.
The scheme is free for households to join and there is no obligation to take up the winning supplier’s tariff offer. The scheme is open to all households which pay monthly, quarterly or via a pre-payment meter.

Cllr David Watson, portfolio holder for Environment and Housing at North East Lincolnshire Council, said: “We need as many as people as possible to sign up take the battle to the bills by registering at www.nelincs.gov.uk/TheBigCommunitySwitch.
“Millions of consumers now spend time checking websites for the best deals on everything from a new vacuum cleaner to a pair of shoes, but we’re still not shopping around enough for the cheapest energy.
“As a result, we could be spending hundreds of pounds more than we need to on electricity and gas for our homes.
“I would urge all residents to register as fuel poverty is a real issue with a huge chunk of the population who could be paying over the odds for their home energy costs.”

The truth about the Conservatives and tax cuts

The Conservatives are making brazen attempts to take credit for raising the personal tax threshold despite the changes being delivered by Liberal Democrats in government.

New analysis by HM Treasury reveals that by raising the personal tax allowance to £10,600, 8.3m families will be £1,330 better off per year.

Increasing the personal tax allowance was on the front page of the Liberal Democrat 2010 manifesto but for the Conservatives it was not a priority.

During the first leaders’ debate in 2010, David Cameron said that cutting taxes for millions of workers was unaffordable and that huge tax changes could not be delivered.

In government the Conservatives have jumped from one tax priority to the next. One moment it’s a tax break for shares for rights, the next it’s a tax penalty for those who are not married.

The Conservatives have been inconsistent in their approach to tax policy, favouring a few.

The Liberal Democrats on the other hand have been consistent in prioritising a huge tax cut for the many, not the few.

Thanks to the work of Liberal Democrats in government, we have been able to deliver a tax cut worth £825 to 26m workers and have lifted more than 3m people out of paying income tax.

These changes would not be happening without Liberal Democrats in government.

Deputy PM works with high street names in the north to bring buildings back to life

Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, is speeding up plans to bring empty buildings in the north back to life with support from some of the largest land-owners, businesses and local authorities in the region.

Just 2 months after his Northern Futures initiative  highlighted the need to tackle the chronic problem of unused sites sitting empty across the region, Nick Clegg and local charities have formed a working group with Legal & General, The Co-operative Group, Network Rail, Capital and Centric, Carillion and others.

Making empty buildings available to charities, community groups, artists and entrepreneurs will help give a boost to local projects, stimulate growth in local businesses and create jobs.

The group is responding to calls to breathe new life into empty sites by arranging for local entrepreneurs, artists and community groups to use them on a temporary basis to test their ideas.

The working group, part of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Northern Futures initiative, will meet in February to consider project proposals and agree how plans can be put in place. It has already begun match-making local authorities, property companies and land-owners with community groups and business ventures desperate for space in the north.

Working closely with Local Enterprise Partnerships, the working group will pull together plans for establishing a series of flagship projects in cities across the north before April 2015. Potential sites are being discussed in Manchester, Newcastle, Hull and Liverpool, with conversations also underway in Leeds and Sheffield.

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg said:

“In just a few weeks we have seen major businesses come forward to embrace the idea of keeping our town centres alive with flourishing entrepreneurs and community projects.

“This is part of a huge revitalisation of northern cities. Through my Northern Futures initiative, we’re encouraging a stronger economy by giving start-ups a chance to grow, whilst keeping our cities buzzing from the centre to the outskirts.

“Leaving useful land in the north to languish is not only bad for business, it affects an area in so many ways. I’m pleased to be bringing landowners together to make incredible spaces available for artists, start-ups, and other entrepreneurs to restore the buildings’ purpose and appeal.”

The north has nearly twice as many hectares of vacant land and buildings than the south, with 10,130 hectares in the north compared to just 5,580 hectares in the south.

The Co-operative Group is already offering space within its portfolio for charities and community groups. In the run up to Hull’s year as City of Culture in 2017, the council will build on its experience of developing its Fruit Market area to turn unproductive and underused buildings elsewhere in the city centre area into thriving start-up and community spaces.

Capital and Centric, the award-winning property developer, and Carillion, the multinational construction company, are both considering meanwhile uses at sites in Manchester, Liverpool and elsewhere. As part of the project, Network Rail will also consider proposals to use its estate around stations and bridges in the north.

The Co-operative Group has plans to make surplus space available for use by charities and community projects, sharing news of potential sites online with over 40 sites already offered UK-wide. Other companies have shown interest in supporting meanwhile use across the North. Legal & General are exploring a site that it is redeveloping as part of its major regeneration of Salford through the English Cities Fund and Capital and Centric Plc in Liverpool are developing the old Littlewoods pools building into residential and commercial space.

Geoff Player, Director of Commercial & Investment Property at The Co-operative Group, said:

“We are pleased to be involved in this initiative: offering temporary access to short-term occupation of certain surplus properties that would otherwise be vacant fits well with our Group purpose of a better way of doing business within these communities. Our Community Property Project is still in the process of being developed, and we hope to bring more buildings back in to use in the months and years ahead.”

In November, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited collaborative working space Betahaus in Berlin to see how derelict land had been redeveloped for creative industries and to learn how similar projects could be supported in the north. The initiative was inspired by a pitch at the Deputy Prime Minister’s Northern Futures Summit in Leeds in November, where Liverpool-based landscape architect​ Elaine Cresswell called for more ‘meanwhile use’ of vacant properties in her city.

Since the Northern Futures initiative was launched, many of the ideas arising through the consultative process have been taken forward. More than 2,000 people were engaged and 9 ideas were pitched at the Summit. TechNorth has been developed, a project to support and coordinate growth of the tech sector across Northern cities. With £2 million pounds of investment for the project, recruitment is underway for the head of the initiative. £10 million was also committed to boosting tourism in the north.

Millions of families benefit twice from Lib Dem tax cut

New analysis has revealed 8.3m families will benefit twice from the Liberal Democrat tax cut.

Thanks to Liberal Democrats increasing the personal tax allowance to £10,600, these families will on average be £1,330 better off each year.

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New research using HM Treasury’s tax and benefit model shows that our flagship policy of increasing the amount that people can earn before they pay income tax is vital in creating a fairer society.

Income tax cuts for working people were a top priority for Liberal Democrats when we entered the coalition in 2010 and one which we are proud to have delivered for millions of people.

In government Liberal Democrats have fought tooth and nail to deliver a tax cut worth £825 for more than 26m working people – something which the Conservatives said was not affordable.

And by raising the personal tax allowance to £10,600 we have lifted more than 3m people out of paying tax altogether.

As well as helping families make their money go further we’re also lifting the lowest paid out of paying tax.

By April:

  • 340,000 sales and retail assistants will no longer pay tax.
  • 169,000 care workers and home carers will no longer pay tax.
  • 162,000 cleaners will no longer pay tax.
  • 136,000 catering assistants will no longer pay tax.
  • 91,000 teaching assistants will no longer pay tax.

Commenting Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said:

“This shows that our Liberal Democrat flagship policy of dramatically increasing the amount that people can earn before they pay income tax amounts to the greatest revolution in the tax landscape for working people in living memory.

“Repairing our economy after the 2008 crash has been a daunting task.

“Tackling it, and tackling it fairly, was the main reason that we formed the coalition in 2010 and income tax cuts for working people are top of our fairness agenda.

“Recovering from the crash of the Labour years is a long process.  There is a lot more to be done to fully repair the economy and to continue to get the financial pressure of families.

“That’s why we Liberal Democrats are committed to raising the personal allowance still further, to £12,500 over the next Parliament.”

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“These figures underline like never before the sheer scale of the tax cuts delivered by the Liberal Democrats for working households across Britain.

“Many, including the Prime Minister, said it could not be done, but Danny Alexander and I have cut taxes for low and middle earners while pulling our country’s economy back from the brink where it was left by Labour.

“And it’s not over yet. The Liberal Democrats may have cut people’s taxes by £825 but if we are in government again after 2015, we will cut them by a further £380 by raising the point at which you start paying tax to £12,500.”

Grimsby Muslims issue a statement condemning Paris killings

A statement issued by the Grimsby Mosque on Weelsby Road reads condemns the terrorists who killed 17 people in Paris earlier this month. The statement says :

“The Grimsby Muslim community reacted with shock and horror following the attack on a number of employees of the French satirical weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo, recently in Paris.

“We express our profound horror and shock for this unimaginable senseless act of criminal violence unleashed by misguided individuals who claim to be doing that in the name of Islam.

“We unreservedly condemn these brutal, evil acts which have no basis in Islam, a religion that preaches peace, tolerance, mutual respect and harmonious coexistence across all world communities.

“We call upon our communities in South Humberside and the UK at large, to stand together in the condemnation of these criminal acts and to stop these misguided individuals from disuniting us.

“The Islamic guidance is patience and healthy discourse, even in the face of ridicule and deliberate acts of provocation.”

Dr Bukar Wobi, spokesman for the mosque, added:

“We understand that the atrocious events in Paris will make people feel anxious and as a community, let me assure you that we feel aggrieved the people have committed these acts in the name of our prophet and religion.

“The teachings of Islam are straightforward and the values set out in the Quran are there to enable believers to be better members of their families, communities and nations.

“You cannot just cloud the clarity of the religion for your own gain; you cannot just call yourself Abdul and be a Muslim if you are then going to go out and devilishly take another person’s life.”

Simon Cross, chair of North East Lincolnshire inter-faith forum, said:

“The way I look at it (Paris attacks) is that criminal acts were carried out by criminals and I think the vast majority of people within the community can recognise that, rather than blaming Muslims for what took place.

“Anyone who knows anything about Islam will be aware of the message of peace within the religion but, unfortunately, some people have a different approach to suit their own agenda.

“I want to reassure my Muslim friends that we do not think they are criminals and, in fact, at our church we have made some cards to send to the mosque to remind them they’re loved.”

He added:

“I don’t hear people saying ‘Christianity is a violent religion, just look at the plantation owners, the slave traders, the genocide of native Americans, the Klu Klux Klan, the anti-abortion bombers, the Irish and northern Irish gangs of the 70s & 80s, the Lord’s Resistance Army, the NSCN and NLFT in India…’ And that is quite right, those people are no more representative of the peace and love of Christianity, than Al Quaeda or IS are of Islam.

“We need to recognise that an awful lot of this is really about politics, greed, control and even gangsterism. The horrendous happenings in Paris are likely to be as much about a propaganda battle between Al Quaeda and IS – two rival political factions – as they are about anything else, just as the dreadful killings in Nigeria are really about political power and money.”

Ending child illiteracy by 2025

Liberal Democrat manifesto plans will include a commitment to end child illiteracy by 2025, Nick Clegg has announced today (Sunday 18 January).

The plans mean that every child born in 2014, who will leave primary school in 2025 will be able to read and write at a standard identified to lead to success in secondary school and beyond.

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Unlike the Conservatives and Labour, the Liberal Democrats have a clear plan to protect the education budget from cradle to college.

Our plans include using that budget to invest in ending illiteracy.

To help us meet our commitment to end child illiteracy by 2025, we will boost the early years Pupil Premium to an even higher level than the primary school Pupil Premium.

We will also overhaul early years teaching qualifications by letting nursery staff work towards Qualified Teacher Status and by 2020 requiring a qualified teacher graduate in every school or nursery delivering the early years curriculum.

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“I am proud of the scale of our ambition. We are raising the bar on what children should be able to achieve by the age of eleven and want all children to get over the bar by 2025.

“The Coalition Government has cut illiteracy but it is nothing short of a national scandal that a fifth of children are still leaving primary school unable to read at a level that will allow them to succeed in later life.

“The Liberal Democrats exist to build a stronger economy in a fairer society where there is opportunity for everyone and the key to that is education.

“It’s pretty hard to get on in life without being able to read and write, which is why the Liberal Democrats are committing to eliminating illiteracy by 2025.

“We are the only party who can make this commitment because, astonishingly, we are the only party committed to protecting the education budget from cradle to college in the next five years.

“In the Coalition Government, the Liberal Democrats have protected the schools budget; introduced the Pupil Premium; expanded free childcare and made sure every infant gets a free, healthy meal every day to help them learn.

“Conservative plans to savage the education budget by £13bn puts all of these achievements and much, much more at risk, while Labour’s silence on this issue doesn’t fill me with confidence.

“You can’t build a fairer society for free. If we want to continue raising standards in schools, and making sure every child can succeed whatever their background, you simply have to invest in education. That is exactly what the Liberal Democrats will do.”