Posts Tagged ‘Liberal Democrats’

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Vince Cable: True Cost Of Recession Felt In Bristol

December 18, 2009

Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable believes the true cost of the recession is being borne in cities like Bristol.

He said today that London has an “artificial boom mentality”, created by a rise in the stock market and high prices for luxury homes.

But he believes shopkeepers, traders and other small business in provincial cities better understand the true cost of the downturn.

Vince Cable

Vince Cable, Lib Dem candidate Paul Harrod and shopkeeper Kathy Thorne

Among those he met was businesswoman Kathy Thorne, who runs the Time For Fun party shop on Filton Rd, Horfield.

Kathy has just been forced to give up her premises as a result of what she believes are excessive demands for rent by her landlord.

Her circumstances may be unsual, but her experience of going bust is sadly typical of many shops around the city.

Vince told Jones The News: “There is an artificial boom mentality in London, created by the stock exchange and luxury property prices, but it is very artificial.

But out in the country it is very different, people are very sober. There is a problem, though some people think there isn’t.”

He also hit out at the Labour government’s policies towards the banks.

He said: “Having taken the banks over, he has just let the banks go back to business as usual. Gordon Brown is intimidated by the bankers.

“For ten years, Brown has curtsied to the city of London and isn’t able or willing to exert any kind of control, and that is a big weakness.”

But he refused to be drawn on the possibility of serving as chancellor in a hung parliament. Many commentators believe a hung parliament is becoming more likely, as the Tories lead over Labour shrinks.

One frequently-discussed scenario is that Cable would become Chancellor if the Liberals formed a coalition either with Labour or the Conservatives.

But he swept the idea away, saying: “It’s not a personal thing. I am part of a team and that team is doing very well. Bristol is a good example of the way the Liberal Democrats have come from a long way behind to become the dominant political force in the city.

“There is no question of me going off to do anything on my own. what we are concerned about is not jobs for me or anyone else. We are more concerned with getting our policies across.

“It is my ambition to be chancellor in a Lib Dem administration, that is what we are aiming for.”

Audio: Martin Jones interviews Vince Cable


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Rookie Councillors To Make “D-Day” Stadium Decision

November 4, 2009

It has emerged that four of the nine councillors who will decide whether Bristol City can build its new stadium at Ashton Vale have been in office less than six months.

Rookie Liberal Democrats Simon Rayner, Cheryl Ann, Fi Hance and Jacqui Bowles were all elected this June, in the election which propelled the Lib Dems to outright power in Bristol for the first time.

They will all be responsible for making what has been described as the biggest decision Bristol City Council has made in living memory.

Bristol City manager Gary Johnson has described it as “D-Day” for his club, and the club’s Chief Executive Colin Sexstone claims it is a “massive day not just for Bristol City but for the region.”

The decision whether or not to grant the club planning permission for its new stadium will be taken at Bristol’s Council House on College Green in a meeting beginning at 6pm Wednesday evening.

The committee will also rule on two housing developments planned alongside the stadium, which Bristol City says are vital to fund the new ground.

An official council report has already recommended the stadium be approved, but one of the two housing estates be rejected. Despite this, committee members are free to vote however they like.

Lib Dem sources deny the councillors are too inexperienced to deal with a decision of this size.

One senior Lib Dem told #SITE_NAME# they had every confidence in the junior councillors as Simon Rayner is an architect by trade, and Fi Hance has worked as an assistant to Bristol West MP Stephen Williams. All the councillors on the committee have been given training in how to make the decision, as the process is “quasi-legal”.

However, another Lib Dem source expressed concern as to whether the newcomers would be able to cope with the pressure in the council chamber. The atmosphere could be volatile, and the council is believed to have increased security ahead of the meeting.

Hundreds of campaigners on both sides of the argument, including Gary Johnson and several City players, are expected to be there to make their views felt.

Two Labour councillors, Sean Beynon and Colin Smith, will not attend as they have been barred from sitting on the committee. Both are season ticket holders at Bristol City. They have been replaced by former Lord Mayor Royston Griffey and Labour veteran John Bees, who has served as a councillor for 17 years. Tories Mark Weston and Lesley Alexander, plus Lib Dem Mary Sykes make up the nine-strong panel.

Members of the committee are banned from expressing their views before the meeting. However, speaking in July, the council’s deputy leader Simon Cook made his personal view clear.

He said: “You have to balance these things against community benefit. We will have a regional sports stadium. It will have a 1000 capacity conference centre in it. There is a possibility of other things going on the site.

“In terms of benefit for the city, we feel that can justify this small section coming out of green belt.”

However, he added that the members of the committee would make a decision independently, and Lib Dem sources have confirmed the stadium decision will not be ‘whipped’, i.e. councillors will not be required to vote on party lines.

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Striking bin men try to embarrass new Lib Dem council

June 5, 2009

Bristol’s striking bin men staged a protest on College Green on Friday to coincide with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s visit to the city.

They are continuing their series of one-day strikes in the long-running dispute over pay. They have rejected a pay offer of 2.75% and are believed to want around 3.5%.

About 100 refuse collectors, drivers and street cleaners belonging to the Unite union gathered outside the council house on Friday lunchtime.

They waved placards, sang protest songs and attempted to disrupt Clegg’s congratulatory speech to victorious councillors.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg congratulates Bristols Barbara Janke

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg congratulates Bristol's Barbara Janke

Union leader Pam Jennings also claimed the council’s tactic of bringing in temporary workers to cover those taking strike action would not work.

She said: “I understand that nobody had told the people drafted in that they were breaking a strike. So quite a few of them have turned round and gone home.

“We also believe some of them are agency workers. It’s illegal to fetch in agency workers in this way and we will be notifying the agency that they are breaking the law by being complicit in this action.”

The council’s current advice to householders is to put their waste and recycling out as normal on their usual day. They have said they will now prioritise collecting green and garden waste.

The council’s waste contractor SITA says it’s pay offer of 2.75% is “very fair” in the current economic climate. It has also agreed to further talks with arbitration.

The Unite union is currently balloting its members on whether to take part in the talks. The result should be known on Monday.

Friday’s protest was a reminder to council leader Barbara Janke that running the city council will not be easy, despite her new majority.

Speaking after her election victory, she said: “I don’t think we have hidden behind not having a majority in the past.

“When we were in power we delivered on swimming pools, on the budget, on reducing council tax, on waste disposal and recycling and that was in barely two years.

“We have a record and we just need the opportunity to deliver that.”

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Lib Dems take Bristol as Labour suffer meltdown

June 5, 2009

The Liberal Democrats have gained a working majority on Bristol City Council for the first time ever, after Thursday’s council elections in the city.

They now have 36 seats, compared to 17 Conservatives, 16 Labour and 1 Green. This gives them the power to run the city council without support from any of the other parties.

Bristol’s Lib dem leader Barbara Janke said: “It is absolutely fantastic. We’re really pleased and we’re privileged to be the first Liberal Democrat administration on Bristol City Council.”

“If you look over the last few years, the Liberal Democrats have been gaining seats across the city. We were the largest group across the city with 32. We’ve now gained the extra 4 for a majority.

“But this is something that has been going on for some time. I do believe that the city wants change. It’s had 20 years of Labour. Things have moved on now and we have the opportunity to deliver the things that the people of the city want.”

Labour’s vote collapsed on the night, as voters took their frustration with Gordon Brown’s government out on Bristol’s Labour candidates.

Labour were defending 10 seats and held only two, with four falling to the Conservatives and four to the Lib Dems.

They even lost the previously rock-solid Southmead ward to the Lib Dems. Deputy Labour leader Peter Hammond lost the seat by 20 votes to Jaqueline Bowles.

He put his defeat down squarely to a protest against Labour, and called on senior Labour politicians to stop the in-fighting and resignations of the last few days.

He said: “I’m amazed at what is going on at a national level. I think national politicians do need to go back to the grass roots of the party and find out what the party thinks.

“It cannot be helpful to a Labour government or the Labour party to have cabinet ministers behaving as they are, apparently without regard to what the rank and file of the party thinks.”

The Conservatives achieved their ambition of becoming the second party on the city council. They won an extra four seats and become the main opposition party.

Tory leader Richard Eddy said: “The people of Bristol and in councils up and down the country are rejecting Gordon Brown. They want clear leadership, they want change and they want a general election now.

“He and his government is increasingly discredited and do not represent the people of this country. We must have change now.”

The predicted flight of voters from the big three parties to minor ones such as the Greens and the BNP did not happen. Neither won any more seats.

A Green Party source told us they were searching for “crumbs of comfort” from the results.

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Bristol Lib Dems “confident” of council majority

May 27, 2009

Bristol’s Lib Dem leader says she is “confident” her party is on course for an outright majority on the city council after the council elections on June 4.

Barbara Janke told Original 106.5 she has high hopes of getting the four additional seats needed to run the council without support from any of the other parties.

The Lib Dems currently have 32 councillors, compared to 24 for Labour, 13 Conservatives and 1 Green. The figures mean no party can run the city on its own.

Barbara Janke said: “I think people are going to give us a chance this time to show what we can do and give us a working majority.”

She also claims the Lib Dems will not be as badly damaged by the MPs’ expenses scandal as the other two main parties.

She said: “On the performance of our local MP, Stephen Williams, people are satisfied that he is not one of the people who has been abusing the system.

“The wrath does not seem as much against the Liberal Democrats as against the other parties, particularly the party in government. A lot of Labour voters who have stuck with the party through thick and thin are not going to do so after this.”

The two main issues the Lib Dems are campaigning on are the economy and the environment. On green issues, she says she is confident voters will back her record of improving waste and recycling services in Bristol.

On the economy, she told Original 106.5:”Want to be confident that we have a strategy not just for supporting people who are unemployed and limiting the damage across the city. What they want is to be confident that we are attracting investment to the city and that there will be jobs in new technologies when we emerge from recession.

“Bristol is very well-placed to do this but it needs leadership and it needs confidence from the outside that however well the city is performing the city council is there leading.”

However, she claimed there was no magic bullet either to improve Bristol’s public transport or to reduce council tax.

On transport, she claims Bristol has few options to improve things as central government policy means the city is unable to borrow money for long-term plans or to raise its own revenue.

“I would be very much a champion for greater financial powers for Bristol to determine its own investment in transport. However, we’re not likely to get that so we will make the best of the funding allocation we have at the moment and make sure the new schemes – like Rapid Transit – are delivered on time.”

And she could make no promises on council tax, because of fears the government is storing up unpopular tax rises until after a general election.

She said: “Our policy is to cut the rate of increase in council tax. We did that by 5% when we were last in power and at the moment that is our policy.

“However, we don’t know what these big cuts are going to look like. The public sector spend is going to be hit very hard in future years.

“I think people are aware of that and that if we are frank and honest with them about the council’s finances we will get the co-operation we need to make the best of whatever the circumstances are.”

Audio: Original 106.5 is talking to the leaders of all the main parties on the city council this week. Today, Martin Jones interviews Lib Dem leader Barbara Janke.


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