Tuesday, 31 March 2009


Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg has written to Gordon Brown and David Cameron seeking an urgent meeting to reform the system of MPs’ expenses.

In his letter he calls for the three parties to work together to agree an urgent overhaul of MPs’ expenses as recent scandals make it clear the current system cannot continue any longer.

The upcoming inquiry by the Committee on Standards in Public Life will not report this side of a general election. Nick Clegg said the parties owe it to the citizens of this country to ensure a fair deal for taxpayers before then.

Mr Clegg said recent changes were welcome but further reforms are needed to rebuild public confidence. In the name of transparency, every penny of public money claimed by MPs should only be reimbursed on production of a receipt: taxpayers have the right to know how their money is being spent. Also, the present rules on second homes are incomprehensible to millions of people who have to commute each day: no London MP should be able to claim for a second home.

Clegg told the other leaders that they needed to show political leadership, and act as party leaders to clean up the expenses regime once and for all. This is not a matter for party political point scoring.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Plan for affordable homes backed in West Oxfordshire

Liberal Democrats in West Oxfordshire have welcomed plans to boost affordable housing and avoid home repossession. The plans, launched by the Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable MP and Shadow Housing Minister Sarah Teather MP, include:

* providing refurbishment loans for owners of empty homes if the homes are leased to housing associations,
* boosting the amount of private housing for rent including using empty commercial property temporarily as housing,
* bringing in a new type of secure mortgage to help boost lending to house buyers,
* letting councils and housing associations buy up unsold private houses and allowing them access to funds to bring them homes up to social housing standards,
* making sure the courts allow repossession only as a last resort.

Many people in our area are struggling to get their own home or are facing repossession because of the recession. We must do all we can to help residents through these bad times. Many homes built recently lie empty, often because the banks are not lending to people who want to buy them, yet many people need a place to live. We want to unblock the system and our plans will help to do that.

Giving housing associations and councils the opportunity to buy up empty homes that builders cannot sell will mean hundreds of local families will be able to rent a place of their own. Many privately owned homes stand empty so leasing them to housing associations means people can move into homes that would otherwise remain unused.

And making sure that the courts only allow homes to be repossessed as an absolute last resort will save many families in West Oxfordshire from the terrible situation of having their home taken away from them.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

"Tories right for Direction but woefully lacking in substance"

The Leader of the Liberal Democrats in local government, Cllr Richard Kemp has welcomed the direction of the Tory proposals for local government, but has cited four major concerns. "This is a wholesale repudiation of the Thatcher and Major governments which stripped councils of their power and finance and made them into puppets of central government, but the plans lack substance in 4 areas".

1. They do nothing to correct the imbalance between central and local funding. Whilst central government supplies up to 80% of the money spent by local government they will continue to call the tune asserting national priorities over local ones. They have similarly chickened out of tackling the way we raise money locally by keeping in place the grossly unfair Council Tax whilst we would propose a fair local income tax.

2. They have learned nothing about local mayors. Some Mayors, and of course our own in Watford, have been successful. And where people decide that they want a mayor they already have the right to elect one. But of the 12 elected mayoral systems in England two are in deep trouble with Stoke already voting to end their mayoral system. If the same proportion of councils generally were in trouble there would be aid teams outside 38 Town Halls today.

3. They have learned nothing about regionalism. They are, of course, right to rail against the bureaucracies of unelected regional government. But to suggest that employment, housing, transport and planning matters stop at the boundary of each council is ludicrous. Councils must and do work together and should be empowered themselves to develop sub regional and regional frameworks.

4. Proposals for elected commissioners for the Police are deeply scary. Most people believe that the head of the Police should be a serving and experienced police officer. Although the green paper does not define what an elected commissioner would do there would be no point in having such a position if that person were unable to radically change policing policy and operational policing activity.

Cllr Kemp added: "In these proposals the Tory MPs are clearly not listening to their own councillors who would support many of these points especially the one about police commissioners. In particular they have shown that they know little about urban government with many major urban councils like Liverpool. Sheffield and Newcastle being entirely Tory Free Zones."

Thursday, 15 January 2009


Liberal Democrats in Witney have expressed their support for Liberal Democrat MP David Heath's proposal to bring forward a parliamentary bill aimed at ending fuel poverty.

The Fuel Poverty Bill will bring in two measures:
* A major energy efficiency programme to bring existing homes up to the current energy efficiency levels enjoyed by modern homes.
* Social tariffs to limit vulnerable households’ exposure to high-energy bills.

These proposals will be good for the environment whilst also making a real difference to pensioners and others struggling to pay energy bills. It will make a real difference to around five million households faced with the terrible choice between heating and eating this winter.

The bill would also provide a much-needed boost to the local construction industry struggling in the recession. These proposals deserve the support of politicians from all parties.

The measures in the bill have received the backing of many major charities and campaign groups, including Help the Aged, Friends of the Earth, Consumer Focus and the Association for the Conservation of Energy.


Liberal Democrats in West Oxfordshire have given their backing to plans for investment in green schemes that will make homes warmer, cut energy bills and improve public transport. The plans, called the 'Green Road out of Recession', were announced in December by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg MP.

The plans will cost £12.5bn, which would be paid for by scrapping the government's tiny VAT cut. The vast majority of the money could be spent immediately, making a real impact on the economy and people’s lives right away.

Green Road out of the Recession proposals include:

* A five-year programme to insulate every school and hospital, with 20% completed in the first year
* Funding insulation and energy efficiency for a million homes, with a £1,000 subsidy for a million more
* Building 40,000 extra zero-carbon social houses
* Buying 700 new train carriages
* Reopening old railway lines and stations, opening new ones, electrifying the Great Western and Midland mainlines and beginning the Liverpool light rail network
* Installing energy and money saving smart meters in every home within five years

The plans proposed by Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats will give an immediate boost to the economy in Witney and across the country and by insulating people’s homes, it will help thousands of residents whose heating bills have gone through the roof in the past year.

Whilst the Conservatives are quietly dropping serious interest in tackling climate change and damage to the environment, Liberal Democrats believe that moving forward with green action on homes and transport will create jobs, cut energy bills, put money back into people’s pockets and protect the environment.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


Liberal Democrats were dismayed to see that a proposed bill to address flooding across the country was removed from the Queen’s Speech today, throwing fresh doubt on action needed to ensure that future flooding in the district could be reduced.

The government had pledged to introduce a bill to implement the findings of the Pitt Review into the devastating floods of 2007, which hit communities across the country and which affected hundreds of properties in West Oxfordshire. The review carried out by Lord Pitt and published in June 2008 made clear that the risk of flooding continues to grow and to threaten more communities. He recommended a series of actions, 80% of which he said would not cost anything to implement.

The draft bill which the government had planned to announce today would have included:

- tighter building rules in flood-prone areas
- overall strategic control of flood planning given to the Environment Agency.
- a new responsibility for local authorities to produce local surface water management plans and powers to lead on surface water flooding and drainage locally (eg by serving notices on landowners to maintain drains)
- a new ‘opt-out’ telephone flood warning system for all properties at risk

This is a slap in the face to the people who had their lives ruined by the floods last year. The government promised action and everyone thought the Pitt Review was a clear sign of the government’s genuine intentions.

Urgent action is needed across England. Scotland already has a flood risk bill in progress but the UK government is dragging its feet with real action on flooding in England. We may not see any progress before the next General Election in 2010, which is not good enough for residents in West Oxfordshire.

In particular we need landscape-scale planning for water, drainage and flooding with strong environmental priorities, a presumption against any development on floodplains – which the Vale already abides by – and protection for insurance customers against unreasonable conditions, excesses and exclusions. Above all we need action now.

Darling’s £5bn tax hike will hit low earners and business - Cable

Commenting on the Pre-Budget Report, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable said: “The Government acknowledges that the UK tax system is inherently unfair, but then announces that it will hit those struggling to make ends meet with yet higher tax bills by increasing National Insurance. Everyone earning over £19,000 will be hit.

“The new 45p Income Tax rate is nothing more than a fig leaf to cover a £5bn tax hike which will hit millions of low earners and businesses.

“The Government has missed a golden opportunity to make the tax system permanently fairer which it could have done by cutting income taxes for those on low and middle incomes, paid for by getting rid of tax loopholes for the wealthy.

“Instead of increasing investment in sustainable capital projects which benefit the country tomorrow as well as today, the Government has opted for a temporary cut in VAT which will benefit big spenders the most and not give the economy the boost it needs.

“At a time of economic emergency, Gordon Brown has once again failed those who need help the most.”