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Liberal Democrats are the only party that can be trusted to deliver tax cuts for workers

Speaking at the Conservative Conference, David Cameron announced plans to increase the personal tax allowance to £12,500, something which the Liberal Democrats have long been campaigning on.

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Responding to this announcement and attempts to pass off this and other tax plans as Conservative ideas, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said:

“The Tories shameless attempt to copy Liberal Democrat tax policy will be utterly incredible to the millions of working people who they have made clear will be their main target for cuts in the next Parliament.

“The Conservatives opposed increases to the tax threshold at the last election. The big tax cuts for 25 million working people in this Parliament have only been delivered because of the determination and commitment of Liberal Democrats to fight for them every day.

“Liberal Democrats will fund tax cuts fairly in the next Parliament, asking those with the broadest shoulders to pay more. The Tory plan is based solely on spending cuts, mainly directed at the working age poor.

“And the Conservative plan to raise the higher rate threshold to £50,000 means that the working age poor are being asked to fund a tax cut that is four times greater for higher rate tax payers than for basic rate taxpayers.

“The only party that can be trusted to deliver tax cuts for working people fairly is the Liberal Democrats.’

David Harding-Price steps down as Parliamentary Candidate

Lincoln, Sleaford and North Hykeham Liberal Democrats are sorry to announce that the Parliamentary Candidate for Lincoln, David Harding-Price, has stood down from the role with immediate effect.

David was selected by the members of the local party in a meeting earlier this year, but announced his resignation from the role earlier today.

David Harding Price

He said in a statement, “After much consideration and discussion with my family, I have decided that at this time I am going to stand down as the Liberal Democrats Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Lincoln.

“There are a number of reasons for this, which includes the failure by MPs to support nurses in providing them with a pay rise whilst continuing to give themselves well above the rate of inflation pay rises, the fact that we are going down a road to war again and for impending family reasons.

“After over a quarter of a century active in politics I am sorry to take this action.”

David went on to add, “I will continue to speak up for people as an individual and as the Council Member and Honorary Treasurer of the Royal College of Nursing.”

Chair of the Lincoln, Sleaford and North Hykeham Local Party, Lynn Pepper said, “We were sorry that David Harding-Price has taken the decision not to stand in Lincoln for the Liberal Democrats in the 2015 General Election.

“David was the Lib Dem candidate for Sleaford and North Hykeham at the previous two General Elections and stood for Lincoln back in 1992. His departure from the role is a loss for the party here in Lincoln.

“David worked as a campaigner in both Lincoln and Sleaford & North Hykeham for a number of years. He has always been a passionate supporter of the NHS and securing a better pay deal for nurses. We will continue to back him in his fight on this issue. We wish him and his family the best for the future.”

The process to select a new candidate will begin at the earliest opportunity.

Lib Dems re-affirm their opposition to a Snooper’s Charter

Responding to the speech by Home Secretary Theresa May, Liberal Democrats have again re-iterated their opposition to any kind of Snooper’s Charter.

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A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said:

“We utterly reject the allegation that the blocking of the Communications Data Bill has put lives at risk.

“Police already have the ability to obtain data in urgent cases where lives are in danger.

“The real problem is the availability of IP address data, where we have always accepted there is a need for action, and indeed publicly committed to legislation last year.

“Frankly, it is woeful inaction on the part of the Home Office that solutions have not been identified to deal with this issue.

“If failure to act on the IP matching problem has put lives at risk, the Home Secretary must explain why her department has not acted.

“Theresa May is peddling misinformation in a vain attempt to get the so-called ‘Snooper’s Charter’ back on the table.

“Liberal Democrats will continue to oppose the Tories’ obsessive intrusion into people’s lives.”

Joined up health and care services will protect the NHS for the future

Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb has today responded to Andy Burnham’s plans for a full integration of health and social care services.

This government’s £3.8bn merger of health and social care services is the integration Labour talked about but never delivered in their 13 years in power.

Speaking at Labour’s conference, Andy Burnham also announced plans for new rights for carers including ring-fencing funds for carers to take a respite break.

Liberal Democrats in Government have made £400m funding available to the NHS to support carers to take breaks from caring responsibilities.

And in July it was announced that Liberal Democrats will introduce a new ‘Right to Respite’ package for carers, including an annual ‘Carer’s Respite Bonus’ worth £250.

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Commenting Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb said: 

“Labour need to learn the lessons of the past and stop trying to run the NHS from a desk in Whitehall.

“Joined up health and care services are the way to protect our precious health service for the future, which is why I am already championing this approach across the country.

“But what the NHS needs is bottom up evolution, which works for patients, not hospital managers paralysed waiting for the next reorganisation dictated by Andy Burnham.”

The mystery of Ed Miliband’s mansion tax

Labour leader Ed Miliband today announced plans to put an extra £2.5bn into the NHS should he get elected next May.

He said the money would be paid for with a mansion tax.

But Ed Miliband’s mansion tax revenue seems very much a mystery.

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This is the third time in just two years that Labour has spent the mansion tax revenue. Last year Ed Miliband said the revenue would fund a 10p tax rate. Yesterday Rachel Reeves told Labour Conference it would be used to draw down the deficit. And today Ed Miliband said that it will go back into the NHS.

With every new announcement we are reminded why Labour can’t be trusted with public money. Their promises are either unfunded, or use money that’s already been spent many times over.

Labour can’t be trusted with your money and despite Ed Miliband’s claims, Labour can’t be trusted on the NHS.

Under Labour the number of NHS managers rose six times faster than number of nurses, executive pay grew by 120 per cent and the bill for managers and administrators rocketed from £3bn to £7bn.

Labour’s record in government shows that time and time again they fritter money away.

British manufacturers say UK must stay in EU and lead reform

British manufacturers want the UK to remain in the EU and lead in its reform, the EEF manufacturers’ organisation stressed today in a new 5-point manifesto.

Making the economic case for EU membership and extending its free market to drive jobs and growth were identified by the EEF as top priorities for the next government.

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Commenting, Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder said:

“The voice of British industry is clear; we must remain in the EU and seize the opportunities it offers to drive jobs and growth.

“But as well as leading reform in Brussels, we must do more to inform people back home about the economic benefits being in the EU brings us.

“I’m glad the EEF has highlighted this as a key priority. From small firms to major exporters, the business community have a major role to play in highlighting the importance of EU membership for the British economy.”

Nick Clegg: This opportunity cannot be hijacked

Within hours of the momentous decision by the Scottish people to remain in the UK, Westminster found itself once again bogged down in conventional party political point scoring.

I have seen for myself the way in which the vested interests in the two old parties can conspire to block reform – scuppering elections to the House of Lords and a clean up of party funding in recent years.

We cannot allow an exciting new chapter of empowerment and constitutional renewal to be held hostage yet again by a Labour and Tory pre-election stand off.

The Conservatives, in their rush to protect themselves from an attack from the right, are only concerned about English votes on English matters. Of course we need a solution to this dilemma but, by appearing to link it to the delivery of further devolution to Scotland, they risk reneging on the commitment made to the Scottish people that, in the event of a No vote, new powers would come what may.

Worse still, if the Conservatives enter into a Dutch auction with UKIP over ever more extreme solutions to the issue of English votes they could jeopardise the Union they purport to defend. Surely we haven’t fought to save our Union in a vote north of the border, only to see it balkanised in Westminster?nick-clegg1

Labour, by contrast, appears to have been taken by surprise by the unavoidable consequences of devolving sweeping new powers to Holyrood. They are choosing to ignore the dilemma of non-English MPs taking decisions on purely English issues – as a party with dozens of Scottish MPs they have the most to lose.

So, unless they’re careful, the Conservatives may end up turning their back on Scotland, while Labour ignores England: a recipe for stalemate when we should we working across political divides to renew our creaking constitution from top to toe.

We need action on three fronts.

First, delivering the devolution that has been promised to Scotland. No ifs, no buts. The package of reforms myself, Ed Miliband and David Cameron all committed to must be delivered on time and cannot be made contingent on other constitutional reforms, even as we pursue agreement on them in parallel.

We must deliver further powers for Wales as recommended by the Silk Commission while strengthening devolution in Northern Ireland too. And, on the divisive issue of English votes for English matters, we must start with the work of Sir William McKay, who has already done a lot of the heavy lifting after the Coalition asked him to look at this. Sir McKay suggested a number of ways of giving English MPs a special right to vet legislation where it only affects England, bringing in Welsh MPs where appropriate, in a way which avoids fragmenting the Commons.

Second, we need a much more radical dispersal of power within England.

In Coalition I have been determined that – against all of the instincts of central government – we hand back an array of powers to Britain’s communities and cities. But we need to turn this relationship fundamentally on its head. Currently the best local councils can hope for is to be granted new powers when the government of the day deigns to do so. Instead we must guarantee a new, legal right for local authorities to demand powers – decentralisation on demand if you like -  with central government having to meet a much higher threshold before it can refuse.

My aim is a statutory presumption in favour of the decentralisation of powers away from Whitehall. I see no reason why we cannot publish draft clauses for this early next year alongside our other pressing reforms.

Finally, as we move towards a more federal system we will need to codify the division of labour between Westminster and the constituent parts of the UK and set out a clear statement of the values we all share. In short, what amounts to a written constitution.

I welcome Labour’s decision to embrace the longstanding Liberal Democrat call for a constitutional convention – but it needs a precise mandate, beginning next year and concluding in 2017. It should have a Citizen’s Jury at its heart, representing every corner of the UK. One area it will need to address is the future of the House of Lords which, in my view, would better serve people as an elected second chamber, in keeping with federal political systems across the world. Ultimately, however, it will not be up to politicians – this process will be led by the people.

Together these changes will rewire power across the UK. This opportunity cannot be hijacked by old fashioned ya boo politics. It would be a tragic irony if the stale and self-serving politics of Westminster that has fed the appetite for change now frustrates the possibility of radical reform. The Scottish referendum may have come and gone, but it’s legacy of UK-wide constitutional renewal still remains within our grasp.

Unemployment falls again

The latest unemployment figures from the ONS have been released showing a fall by 146,000, lowering the total unemployment count to 2.02 million.

The figures released today show that unemployment has fallen to 6.2%, the lowest rate in six years.

Business Secretary Vince Cable called today’s positive labour market figures “no accident” and said that the Liberal Democrats in Government were delivering the recovery fairly.

Creating jobs is central to the Liberal Democrat plans to build a stronger economy and a fairer society and we have worked to create over 1 million jobs for people across the UK.

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Vince Cable commented:

“The Liberal Democrats have taken steps to ensure our labour market is fair and flexible – delivering opportunities for everyone and preventing exploitation of the most vulnerable.

“The employment growth that we are now witnessing is one of this Government’s key achievements.”

The Office for National Statistics figures also showed that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in August fell by 37,200 to 966,500.

And average weekly earnings, excluding bonuses, in the May to July period, rose by 0.7% from a year earlier.

Vince added:

“Today we’ve had another remarkable set of labour market figures, which show that the recovery in the labour market has been broad based.

“In the past twelve months alone, employment has increased by 774,000, with private sector employment rising by 794,000 on the year.

“This has led to an almost record share of the UK working age population being in work.

“The fall in unemployment is the largest in over 25 years with the number of people claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance below one million for the first time since the recession.”

David Laws launches Talented Leaders programme to transform struggling schools

Liberal Democrat Education Minister David Laws has today launched a new scheme to recruit 100 top school leaders to turn around struggling schools.

The Talented Leaders scheme aims to recruit the best headteachers in the country and place them in schools facing the toughest challenges.

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The programme aims to put these exceptional teachers in schools predominantly based in rural, coastal or deprived areas where it is difficult to attract strong school leaders.

The programme is being run by Future Leaders Trust (TFLT) on behalf of the Department for Education.

Top-performing headteachers and outstanding aspiring headteachers who want to move to schools struggling to narrow the attainment gap for their poorer pupils are invited to apply.

Headteachers will be expected to work not just with the school they move to, but with a network of schools to help drive up standards across the local area.

Launching the Talented Leaders programme, Liberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws said:

“The importance of high-quality leadership in our schools cannot be overstated. We know there is a strong link between school leadership, quality of teaching, and outcomes for pupils. The Talented Leaders Programme will spread the excellence and expertise of some of our brilliant school leaders.

“If you are a head or an aspiring head who already has a proven track record of raising standards and improving the education offered to all children and you think you have what it takes to make a real difference to a school in need of a great leader then we want to hear from you.

“The initiative will ensure even more schools can benefit from the knowledge and expertise of our very best school leaders, so that every child can reach their full potential.”

Liberal Democrats are committed to creating opportunities for all children through education. That’s why in government we have delivered free school meals for every 5-7 year-old in England, given 15 hours free childcare to all 3-4 year-olds and set up a £2.5bn Pupil Premium to help pupils who need it the most.

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