Nick Clegg announces £214m investment in cycling

Big Green Bike RideLiberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has unveiled the biggest single investment in cycling.

The funding worth £214m is designed to make it easier and safer to get on your bike in the UK.

In July Nick said he wanted to see the number of journeys made by bike more than doubled by 2020. Hosting a cycling summit in Bristol, Nick discussed how this will be made possible by the new funding made available.

The investment will include:

- £114m to secure funding to support Cycling Ambition Cities Programme for the next three years (in Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Oxford) to accelerate their development of local cycling networks, increase protection for cyclists at junctions and traffic hot spots and help prevent accidents.

- £100m investment to improve the conditions for cyclists and walkers travelling alongside and crossing Britain’s most important and busiest roads.

This new money brings the total amount invested by this government into cycling to £588m.

Commenting, Nick said:

“I want to bring cycling down from the Alps and onto British streets. The inspiration and legacy of the 2012 Olympics and the Tour de France starting in Yorkshire this year has started a revolution in cycling for everyone, not just in velodromes, not necessarily in lycra, but for going to school or to work or to the shops.

“I’m committed to helping our dream of becoming a cycling nation, similar to places like Denmark and the Netherlands, become a reality.

“The rewards could be massive. Billions of pounds in savings for the NHS, less pollution and congestion, and a happier and safer population. In Government, we’re putting the money down, now we need the public and local authorities to jump on their bikes and get us to the finish line.”

In addition to the new funding, Nick has also launched two new initiatives to help inspire a new generation of cyclists.

These are:

- A new scheme from Halfords which will recondition and donate bikes and helmets to primary school children in disadvantaged areas.

- A new pilot scheme to enhance the Bikeability cycle training programme to provide extra training to schools and parents, each designed to address a specific barrier to cycling.

Help to Buy helps 71,000 people to buy a house

Help to Buy, the government’s flagship housing scheme, has helped more than 71,000 people across the country buy a new home, official statistics published today (28 November 2014) have revealed.

The latest figures show how Help to Buy, introduced by this government in April last year, is opening up home ownership to thousands and supporting the government’s long term plan to help hardworking people secure a better future for their families.

In total over 66,000 households have been helped by Help to Buy: mortgage guarantee and Equity Loan. Help to Buy continues to overwhelmingly benefit first-time buyers, with the vast majority of sales outside of London and at prices well below the national average.

The scheme was introduced to support hard-working people who can afford a mortgage, but struggle to save the deposits required by lenders in the wake of the financial crisis.
Together with the government’s NewBuy scheme – which offers 95% mortgages for those buying new-build properties, the number of new home owners has reached more than 71,000.

View our infographic on the statistics.

First-time buyers: mortgage guarantee and Equity Loan

Today’s figures reveal that 81% of Help to Buy sales are to first-time buyers, helping 54,000 into their first home – showing how although Help to Buy accounts for only a small percentage of overall house sales (recent estimates suggest less than 3% for each part of the scheme), the scheme is continuing to successfully target the people who need a helping hand to get on the housing ladder.

Success across the country

The figures also show how Help to Buy is benefiting every region of the country. The North West is the highest region for the mortgage guarantee, while the Equity Loan – a scheme for new-build properties – is particularly successful in the East and South East. 94% of completions under the scheme remain outside London.

Leeds council is the highest performing local authority across the country for the two parts of Help to Buy – with almost 1000 new homes secured by its residents. While Birmingham council has seen a significant increase of over 300 new completions.

Getting Britain building

Help to Buy is also helping to increase housing supply and get Britain building by driving demand for new-build homes. Over half of the homes bought through the scheme are new-build properties, and private house building is up 20% since the launch of the Equity Loan scheme. In fact, in the past year, we have seen the sharpest rise in house building orders since 2003, with many leading builders crediting Help to Buy for reinvigorating the house building industry and boosting housing supply.

Responsible lending

Help to Buy is supporting responsible lending, with the average house price for the combined schemes at £186,000, or £156,000 for mortgage guarantee and £211,000 under the equity loan scheme – all of which are well below the UK average house price of £273,000.

The average house price to income multiple under the mortgage guarantee scheme is just over 3.5x salary, and capped at a 4.5x ratio to ensure responsible lending.

Figures for the mortgage guarantee scheme also show completions have been least concentrated in regions where house price growth is highest, for instance in London the scheme makes up just 1% of all mortgage lending compared to an average of 3% across the country.

The Prime Minister said:

Getting the keys to your first home is a moment that no one forgets – it’s about being able to start planning for the future and enjoying the security that you’ve worked hard for.

But in the aftermath of the great recession the prospect of buying a first home was nothing more than a pipe dream for many thousands of hardworking people in Britain. Even those with a decent salary who could afford monthly mortgage payments were not able to get on the housing ladder because they could not find a deposit. Only those with access to big savings or the ‘bank of mum and dad’ could get the security together to buy a cherished home of their own.

That is now changing. Today, Help to Buy has helped thousands of hard-working people buy a new home and enjoy the security and peace of mind that comes with that. And crucially, it’s playing a major part in increasing the number of new homes being built around the country – creating jobs and investing in communities.

This is all part of our long-term economic plan to secure a better future for Britain – and, together with cutting income tax, lowering council tax bills and freezing fuel duty, the government is backing those who work hard and get on find the financial security they deserve.

Chancellor George Osborne said:

This government’s long-term economic plan is all about supporting hard-working taxpayers achieve their goals – and for many, their biggest goal is owning their own home.

That’s why this government created Help to Buy, which has helped over 71,000 people across the country buy their new home, the vast majority of whom are first-time buyers. It’s also helping to get Britain building again: housing starts soared by 23% last year, reaching their highest level since the economic crisis. Help to Buy is good for homebuyers, it’s good for the construction industry, and it’s great for the economy.

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said:

Helping people onto the housing ladder or into a new home is a key part of our drive for a fairer society. Help to Buy also contributes our stronger economy, supporting house-building as Britain continues to benefit from a wide economic recovery.

I am particularly pleased to see that nearly three and a half thousand people across Scotland have taken advantage of the UK-wide mortgage guarantee scheme, demonstrating the value of sharing the rewards of living in a United Kingdom.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

The 2008 housing crash left credit-worthy, hardworking people unable to fulfil their dream of home ownership – builders couldn’t build and lenders wouldn’t lend.

Help to Buy is changing all that, offering a valuable alternative to the Bank of Mum and Dad and helping over 71,000 households to get on the property ladder with a fraction of the deposit they would normally require.

On top of that, the scheme is a key part of our long-term economic plan, with private housebuilding up 20 per cent over the last year, and at its highest since 2007.

House builders have also welcomed the role Help to Buy has played in boosting supply. Home Builders Federation Executive Chairman Stewart Baseley said:

The increased certainty offered by Help to Buy has led directly to a significant increase in investment by house builders in land, the supply chain and labour. By unlocking demand and making home ownership affordable for many thousands of young people and families the scheme has provided the impetus for house builders to step up production. Building high quality homes also boosts supply chains and cements tens of thousands of jobs and apprenticeships for young people in communities up and down the country.

Young people considering a career in house building today can be confident that ours is an industry with bold ambition and in need of talented, hardworking and enthusiastic people to build the communities of tomorrow.

Britain’s construction projects are helping create jobs and growth. Find out how we are #BuildingBritain.

Find out more about the Help to Buy scheme and how you could benefit.

Annette Brooke backs campaign for sight loss advisers

Annette with Fazilet Hadi at the RNIB event in Parliament.

Annette Brooke, Liberal Democrat MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole is backing a campaign by sight loss charity RNIB to ensure that everyone diagnosed with sight loss gets emotional support to come to terms with their condition.

Annette attended the launch of The Royal National Institute of Blind People’s (RNIB) new report ‘Being There When it Matters’, which is calling for every eye department in the UK to have access to a qualified sight loss adviser so that people are properly supported as they adapt to life with reduced or no vision. The current picture is bleak; only 30% of eye departments in the UK have access to a qualified sight loss adviser.

Sight loss advisers offer dedicated practical and emotional support. They can offer advice on everything from remaining in employment, to being more independent around the home and reducing the risk of falls whilst out and about. Recent research has revealed that sight loss advisers create significant financial savings for health and social care budgets with every £1 invested in the service delivering a return of £10.57.

The move comes as a new survey, commissioned by RNIB, reveals that 44% of UK adults said they feared losing their sight more than any other long-term health condition.

Adults in the UK are more afraid of losing their sight than they are of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease or having to use a wheelchair.

More than half of the 2,000 adults surveyed (53%) also said that they believed losing their sight would have a bigger impact on their life than other long-term health conditions, with nine in 10 saying they would lose their independence and eight in 10 concerned they would lose their job.

Annette said:

“I think that it is vital that blind and partially sighted people receive quality and timely support to help them to adapt to their sight loss.

“Sight loss can have a profound impact upon a person’s life. Without the right support people can become unnecessarily isolated and can struggle to adapt. I support RNIB’s campaign for every eye department to have access to sight loss adviser.”

RNIB’s CEO, Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE said:

“Every single day 100 people in the UK begin to lose their sight, but even so, many of us can only imagine how devastating it must be to find out it’s happening to us. It is a profound injustice that the majority of people in this situation are not given any specialised support to help them through this extremely traumatic time.

“In less than 40 years, the number of people with sight loss is going to be double what it is now. We are determined to make the government realise that properly qualified sight loss advisers are not only absolutely crucial for patients, but that they make economic sense too.”

 

 

Starting School in N E Lincs for the First Time in September 2015

All children who were born between 1 September 2010 and 31 August 2011 will be eligible to start school in September 2015. The process for applying for a school place for September 2015 has already started and information packs on how to apply have been issued to all nurseries and early years providers in North East Lincolnshire. The closing date for applications is 15th January 2015.

Application forms and associated information are also available to download from North East Lincolnshire Council’s website at https://nelincs.gov.uk. On line applications can be made using the link on the home page of the website. Parents/carers who prefer to complete a hard copy paper application form will need to return it to the parent/carer’s preferred school or to the local authority’s School Admissions Team.

Parents/carers need to be aware that attending a nursery attached to a school or on the same site of a school does not give a child an ‘automatic’ place at the school.
Places will be allocated on 16th April 2015 for all applications which are received by the closing date.

The local authority’s School Admission Team is available to offer impartial advice to parent/carers on telephone (01472) 326291 (option 4) or via email at schooladmissions@nelincs.gov.uk.

Application forms and associated information are also available to download from North East Lincolnshire Council’s website at https://nelincs.gov.uk. On line applications can be made using the link on the home page of the website. Parents/carers who prefer to complete a hard copy paper application form will need to return it to the parent/carer’s preferred school or to the local authority’s School Admissions Team.

Parents/carers need to be aware that attending a nursery attached to a school or on the same site of a school does not give a child an ‘automatic’ place at the school.
Places will be allocated on 16th April 2015 for all applications which are received by the closing date.

The local authority’s School Admission Team is available to offer impartial advice to parent/carers on telephone (01472) 326291 (option 4) or via email at schooladmissions@nelincs.gov.uk.

Helping carers to get the support and respite they need

Elderly social careTo mark Carers Rights Day, Liberal Democrats are urging people who care for ill or disabled loved ones to find out about the financial and practical support they are entitled to.

Across the UK there are around 6.5m unpaid carers looking after family, friends and neighbours.

These unsung heroes save the country an estimated £119bn a year, which is why Liberal Democrats want to give something back to those who dedicate their time to care for another person.

Carers fulfil a vital role in society but often go without the support they need because they are unaware of the provisions available to help them.

Under our manifesto plans, Liberal Democrats would support carers with a package of measures designed to make their lives easier.

This includes introducing an annual bonus of up to £250; support for more flexible working and a scheme informing carers of their rights and giving them access to facilities.

David Ward MP backs NSPCC campaign to stop grooming in its tracks

David Ward supporting NSPCC Flaw in the Law Camapign child abuseDavid Ward supporting NSPCC Flaw in the Law Camapign

Bradford MP, David Ward, is lending his support to an NSPCC campaign to make it a crime for an adult to send a sexual message to a child.

David Ward is backing the charity’s Flaw in the Law campaign, which is calling on the Government to introduce a new offence so that it is always illegal for an adult to intentionally send a sexual message to a child. The campaign is seeking an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill, which is soon due to receive its Second Reading in the Commons.

The law in this area hasn’t kept up with the way that abusers are using the internet to facilitate the abuse of children and the NSPCC is concerned that there is inadequate protection for children from online abuse. Existing laws are fragmented and sex offenders are able to, and often do, exploit the loopholes.

Sex abusers can often get away with effectively ‘fishing’ for child victims on social networks, mobile apps, chat rooms, and in online gaming environments. The law only covers situations where it can be proved that the adult intends to meet a child. However, increasingly abusers online have no intention to meet a child and abuse them physically, meaning this legislation doesn’t cover online grooming.

David and the NSPCC believe the new law would make it easier for police to step in earlier in the grooming process, before abuse escalates.

The NSPCC’s campaign comes as ChildLine, a service run by the NSPCC, saw a 168% increase in the number of children counselled about online sexual abuse last year.

Commenting David Ward MP said:

“Given the alarming rise in online child abuse, it is very concerning that the current law is unable to adequately protect children. Frankly it’s bizarre that such an act is not a criminal offence already.

“That’s why I’m urging the Government to listen to the NSPCC’s concerns and to create a new offence through the Serious Crime Bill so that it is always illegal for an adult to send a sexual message to a child”.

NSPCC Head of child safety online, Claire Lilley, said:

“We are very grateful to David Ward for supporting the Flaw in the Law campaign. We want legislation to keep up with technology and offender behaviour in order to properly protect children. We shouldn’t have to wait for an offender to meet a child before the law steps in. Without clarity in the law, vital opportunities to stop abusers grooming young people online are being missed and in many cases the police and powerless to act.”

“The Serious Crime Bill now being debated in Parliament provides a timely opportunity to introduce a new offence to better protect children online and we hope MPs and the public will back the campaign calling on the Government to do this.”

You can find out more about the NSPCC campaign and sign the petition at www.nspcc.org.uk/flaw and join the debate on social media by following #FlawedLaw.

Anyone looking for advice about keeping children safe online, or concerned about the safety and welfare of a child, can contact the NSPCC’s 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk

Children worried about online safety or any other problem can call the free, 24-hour helpline on 0800 1111 or get help online at www.childline.org.uk

Humberside Police ask public to be vigilant following recent indecent exposure reports.

Police are advising residents in the Grimsby and Cleethorpes area to be vigilant following recent reports of indecent exposures in the area.

The incidents have been reported between 20 and 24 November and have involved women walking alone.

Detective Inspector Kev Foster who is overseeing the investigation said:

“We are currently actively investigating these reports which are said to have happened in the Hereford Avenue, Brereton Avenue and Alexandra Dock areas of Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

“At this stage we are keeping an open mind as to whether these incidents are linked. They are reported as having taken place at different locations and at different times of day, but with the similarity that the victim has been a lone woman and the suspect a white man aged between 20 and 40.

“As part of our enquiries we are appealing for a potential witness to the Alexandra Dock incident which happened at around 2230hrs on the 24 November. It Is thought that a man walking a dog nearby may have seen the incident take place and may be able to provide information which could help us progress the investigation.

“We would ask members of the public to be vigilant to both their personal safety and any suspicious activity. Anything which gives cause for concern should be reported to us as soon as possible.”

Anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting crime reference number 2082760.

Warning to road users from Humberside Fire and Rescue as winter weather hits

Dark mornings, dark nights and freezing weather conditions can make driving conditions hazardous. During the winter months the number of road traffic collisions attended by Humberside Fire and Rescue Service increases and road users are urged to take extra care and take the weather conditions in to account before making a journey.

Louise Marritt, Road Safety team leader at Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Winter weather can make the roads hazardous and as temperatures start to fall the risk of having a collision due to ice and snow increases. Some small preparations before setting out could save you from problems on the road.

“It may sound obvious but make sure you de-ice your windows fully before starting off and check your car has antifreeze and lots of screen wash. Give yourself a bit of extra time for your journey and, in ice and snow, drive more slowly than usual keeping your distance from the vehicle in front, if they brake sharply you will have more time to react,” Louise added.

Here are a few tips to help you be prepared for bad weather:

*Check your local weather forecast before you travel and plan your journey accordingly *Check all exterior lights are working correctly *Check there is sufficient tread on your tyres – worn tyres won’t hold the road well in wet conditions *Make sure your windscreen wipers are in good working order and your screen wash is full *Manoeuvre gently, avoiding harsh braking or acceleration *Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin, if you start to skid, ease off the accelerator but do not brake suddenly. *Avoid overtaking (unless absolutely necessary)

For more safety advice follow us on twitter @humbersidefire or like us on facebook

Supporting struggling schools to raise education standards

More than 2,000 struggling schools could be turned around if they had effective support, Liberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws has said.

Speaking to CentreForum, David said the Conservatives’ determination to monitor all schools from Whitehall threatens standards in education.

key_Have_Your_Say_copy.jpg

He said the Conservatives refused to introduce proper oversight for academies and free schools, relying only on the Department for Education.

David said this led to large numbers of schools getting no proper support to improve and problems going unnoticed.

He added that if all academy chains and local authorities were performing to their best, there would be 2,000 fewer schools requiring improvement, or in special measures.

David said:

“Here lies an inherent contradiction in the drive for autonomy – it has led to even more meddling from the centre.

“But this provides a limited capacity for scrutiny which inevitably drives attention towards only the very weakest schools.

“Regional Schools Commissioners are a response to this limited capacity and limited ability to micromanage from the centre. But they still cover absurdly large areas.

“As a consequence of not putting enough focus on a middle tier of accountability, we are allowing too many underperforming schools, weak local authorities and mediocre academy chains to deliver poor education for too long.

“Top down oversight, led by officials often hundreds of miles away, is allowing schools to slip through the net and contributing directly to lower standards.

“Many chains and local authorities across the country are doing a good job in driving up school performance.

“But others are lagging behind, with significantly higher levels of underperforming schools.

“If all local authorities and chains were performing at the level reached by many of the better middle tier bodies across the country, we would today have over 2,000 fewer ‘requires improvement and inadequate’ schools.”

More seats, more services and new trains for East Coast passengers

Rail journeys between London and Edinburgh will be transformed by more seats, more services and new trains after the government announced its intention to award the new East Coast franchise to Inter City Railways, a consortium of Stagecoach and Virgin, today (27 November 2014).

The new deal will include a host of extra benefits for passengers:

  • 23 new services from London to key destinations, with 75 more station calls a day
  • plans for new direct links to Huddersfield, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Dewsbury and Thornaby
  • proposals for more trains to London from Bradford, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Leeds, Lincoln, Newcastle, Shipley, Stirling, and York
  • 3,100 extra seats for the morning peak time by 2020
  • across the entire train fleet there will be 12,200 additional seats – a 50% increase
  • 65 state of the art Intercity Express trains brought into passenger service from 2018, totalling 500 new carriages
  • journey times from London to Leeds reduced by 14 minutes, and from London to Edinburgh by 13 minutes
  • a £140 million investment package to improve trains and stations.

View the individual station benefits on this interactive map.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

This is a fantastic deal for passengers and for staff on this vital route. It gives passengers more seats, more services and new trains.

We are putting passengers at the heart of the service. I believe Stagecoach and Virgin will not only deliver for customers but also for the British taxpayer.

This government knows the importance of our railways. That is why they are a vital part of our long term economic plan, with over £38 billion being spent on the network over the next five years.

Martin Griffiths, Chief Executive of Stagecoach Group, said:

A passion for customers, employees and the community is at the heart of our plans for the franchise. We want to build on the quality and pride of the people who will be joining our team.

We have some fantastic ideas to deliver a more personal travel experience for customers. Investing in the committed people who will make that happen is a big part of our plans, giving opportunities for them to develop and grow into more senior roles. At the same time, we have developed major programmes to help young people, communities and small businesses along what is one of Britain’s major rail routes.

Over the 8-year franchise, Inter City Railways will invest £140 million to bring extra benefits for passengers, including:

  • complete refurbishment of the existing train fleet
  • better wi-fi connections and onboard catering on the new Intercity Express train fleet
  • improved ticket offices and 170 new ticket vending machines
  • over 500 new car parking spaces
  • 411 additional cycle spaces and new secure cycle facilities
  • a customer and community improvement fund
  • a training fund for new apprenticeships, internships and staff development.
East Coast infographic.

The new services announced today have only been made possible thanks to the government’s significant investment in the railways. Over the next 8 years Inter City Railways will pay the government around £3.3 billion to operate the franchise.

The company will shortly begin talks with Network Rail and the Office of Rail Regulation to agree its plans to run new direct services from London to Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Huddersfield.

It will also seek approval to run more trains to Edinburgh, Leeds, Lincoln, Shipley, Stirling, Harrogate and Bradford.

From 2018, Inter City Railways will take delivery of the new Intercity Express trains, to be assembled at Hitachi’s factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. By 2020 all of the 65 modern high-speed electric trains will be in service and will replace 39 existing trains.

In addition to more seats, passengers will benefit from cleaner, more reliable trains and faster journeys. The new franchise will provide regular journey times of 2 hours to Leeds and 4 hours to Edinburgh.

Inter City Railways has also given a commitment to reduce all long-distance standard anytime fares by 10%. This could save passengers travelling from Edinburgh to London around £15 on those journeys.

The operator will also develop its own website, smartphone and tablet apps that will make door-to-door travel easier for customers, including planning journeys and buying tickets.

Inter City Railways is a joint venture comprising Stagecoach Transport Holdings Ltd and Virgin Holdings Ltd. It will take over the franchise from Sunday 1 March 2015.

Following the announcement, and in accordance with usual procurement practice, there will be a standstill period of 10 days before the department will be in a position to enter into, and complete, the formal contractual documentation and make the award to Inter City Railways.