Posted September 14, 2014
‘The barbaric murder of David Haines is a crime of the most horrendous kind,’ says Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
“The barbaric murder of David Haines is a crime of the most horrendous kind.
“My thoughts at this time are with the family of David Haines who have experienced something no family should ever have to go through.
“This murderous organisation calls itself Islamic State.
“But it is not a state, it is a brutal terrorist outfit whose actions are an affront to every peace loving Muslim around the world.
“No religion could possibly justify such grotesque acts.
“The British Government will not rest until these killers face justice.”
Posted September 14, 2014
Liberal Democrat MP for Redcar Ian Swales last week led a debate in Westminster Hall to address the poor management of the Discretionary Social Fund (DSF) by Redcar and Cleveland Council. The DSF is designed to give financial aid and support to those most in need and is regulated by the Council.
Control of the DSF was passed to the council in 2013. In the first year, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council only spent £256,000 out of a total budget of £764,700, of which roughly half is thought to have been spent on administration and staffing costs. Of 2,100 requests for help, only 195 applications were successful.
Commenting after the debate, Ian Swales said:
“The Discretionary Social Fund is a vital lifeline to many of those most in need at times of crisis. It is absolutely crucial that this money gets to those who really need it.
“Last year the allowance of £764,000 was in the hands of the Labour Council which allowed a £500,000 underspend – turning down more than 90% of applications from people in desperate need, often sending them to food banks instead. The council is using its own perverse set of criteria to sit in judgement on people who often, through no fault of their own, find themselves in financial hardship.
“When the Department for Work and Pensions controlled the fund in 2012/13, 66% of applications were approved and the spend was £717,000. In comparison, the council has approved 9.3% of applications and of the money they did spend, about half went on internal Council administration and staffing costs.
“Following the shambles of Discretionary Housing Payment, this is yet another example of Labour playing politics with people’s lives.”
For more detailed information and transcript of the debate please see: http://goo.gl/L3jSAn
Posted September 14, 2014
On the 18th of September the people of Scotland will vote in the referendum on independence, the result of which will decide whether Scotland remains a part of the United Kingdom or becomes an independent country. As part of the run up to the referendum, Malcolm has contributed an article to Endeavour Public Affairs which is originally published here and is also found below:
“To make a positive case for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom is to recognise multiple identities and respect that what it means to feel British – or Scottish for that matter – is up to the individual as long as it is inclusive.
It would be all too easy to pick apart the arguments presented by the Yes campaign with endless short-term policy guarantees, limitless and non-costed spending promises. However, there is also a very strong argument in making a positive case for saying a polite but robust No, Thanks to independence.
Sharing resources and strengths while supporting each other through weakness means we can achieve much more than if either party was alone.
As much as there is to set Scotland apart from the rest of the United Kingdom, there is as much that brings us together in terms of culture, (modern) language, shared history, and the free movement of people over the generations. Together we have consistently punched above our weight in terms of international diplomacy, social development, the arts, invention, and enterprise. Scotland and Scots have played a major role in this.
Of course, Scotland could go it alone, but whether it would look like the nation that the Yes campaign describes would be another matter, but asides from the headaches of starting again and building up costly, new, untested national institutions from scratch, why would we want to when we can already enjoy the benefits of being both Scottish and British?
Being united means the convenience of posting a birthday card or calling your auntie costs the same from the Scillies to Shetland. Being separate countries will mean additional customs and trade barriers impacting on businesses as well as families. Frankly, who needs it?
It is my hope that Scots do not allow political policies of the day to rule their decision for the long-term irrevocable future of the country. This is not about party politics but the destiny of our nation. In any case the SNP is not Scotland and Alex Salmond does not speak for all of Scotland.
As a committed federalist I believe in devolution and that it would surely be better instead to use our collective energies to improve our current union in investing in infrastructure, protecting the nation’s health and life prospects, and ensuring we remain secure and safe from those who seek to stand against a pluralistic, democratic, and peaceful society.
Using one voice whether it is through the UK’s role on the UN Security Council, EU Commission, G8, NATO, World Bank’s main board or the IMF packs more punch when trying to promote our shared values of human rights, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and democracy.
Our voice would be significantly weaker if the UK were to break up at a time when the world becomes ever globalised and interconnected. As a whole nationalism, particularly in the current global context represents divisiveness and often leads to insecurity, and fear.
Being part of the UK gives us a stronger voice in the EU, rather than comparing an independent Scotland’s clout to a country like Denmark’s, on the assumption that EU membership is granted. As one of the big three members, no matter what the Westminster Government of the day, the UK has a louder voice and through our network of embassies, high commissions, and trade missions throughout the world, we can promote Scottish brands and trade more effectively.
Closer to home, we enjoy creative collaboration and research through organisations such as the BBC, the British Council, UK Sport investment, National Lottery funds, and the UK Research Councils which have invested in life sciences in, for example, Dundee to make it a leading global centre of excellence.
Moreover we have access to some of the best intelligence and defence services and technologies in the world, helping maintain our security, including energy security. This is matched by investment in renewables and green policies such as the UK’s Green Investment Bank, established in Edinburgh.
Our 300 year union has a secure currency which has survived the upheavals of the economic crises of recent years. We have access to a lender of last resort in the Bank of England as well as access to secure and established pensions funds. All this as well as no internal trade barriers means greater job security and means that people across the UK can ‘buy local’ and know it means access to some of the best produce and goods that Scotland is proud to produce.
The Glasgow Commonwealth Games this summer represented the best of the UK for me. Seeing the crowds and fellow athletes cheering and congratulating team Scotland participants just as much as new and established names from the other home nations recognises our ability to enjoy our respective nationalities while coming together to share our collective similarities and achievements. Long may that continue.”
Posted September 14, 2014
The Government must outlaw the sale of potentially lethal legal highs which are becoming ‘endemic’ on the country’s highs streets, councils say.
Research by the Local Government Association (LGA) of 18 councils across the country most affected by legal highs reveals every authority was aware of them being sold, often over the counter in ‘head shops’.
Deaths from legal highs have more than doubled in the past four years from 26 in 2009 to 60 last year. They killed far more people than ecstasy (43 in 2013), latest figures reveal. The synthetic ‘psychoactive’ drugs, which usually have lurid names like ‘Clockwork Orange’, ‘Bliss’ and ‘Mary Jane’, have been directly linked to poisoning, emergency hospital admissions including in mental health services and, in some cases, deaths. They dodge drugs laws by being sold as ‘not fit for human consumption’, bypassing chemical compositions which are already banned. They are often advertised as plant food or research chemicals.
Now the LGA, which represents almost 400 councils in England and Wales – who last year took over responsibility for public health – is calling for a complete ban on the sale of all legal highs.
The LGA, which stresses this is about targeting sellers, wants the UK to follow legislation introduced in Ireland four years ago. This bans the sale of all ‘psychoactive’ (brain altering) drugs and then exempts some, such as alcohol and tobacco. Currently, the system here works the other way round. The Irish legislation has effectively eliminated all ‘head shops’ that sell legal highs.
Councils spend about 30 per cent (£830million a year) of their entire public health budget on drug and alcohol misuse – more than any other service. They argue this clamp-down would help reduce this staggering sum – so funds could be freed up for other health priorities.
Cllr Ann Lucas, OBE, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “These are not legal highs – they are lethal highs and they are deceptively dangerous. As they are unregulated, no one knows what is really in them or what effect they will have. Young people are playing Russian roulette with their health and sometimes their lives.
“The effects of some of these lethal highs can be truly terrifying – delirium, stupor, hallucinations, coma and even death.
“This is all about tackling the sellers. Legal high shops are becoming endemic to our high streets, which is why we are calling on the Government to introduce robust and vigorous new laws to tackle them. The sooner we put these so-called ‘head shops’ out of business for good the better.
“As soon as one legal high is outlawed another one, with a slightly different chemical composition, will spring up. Trading Standards officers are doing a magnificent job trying to tackle this spiralling issue but, because the legislation is so inadequate, they are effectively fighting a war with one hand behind their back.
“A key priority is educating and informing younger people about the dangers and risks of these drugs and councils play a pivotal role in this.”
Posted September 13, 2014
Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale Tim Farron welcomed the news this week that Lib Dem Minister Stephen Williams has backed a bill to outlaw “revenge evictions” – where renters are threatened with evictions after asking for improvements that guarantee them a safe and secure home to rent.
The Private Member’s bill, which Sarah Teather MP is bringing before Parliament, now stands a higher chance of becoming law. It would stop a minority of rogue landlords who threaten to evict tenants simply for asking for essential repairs to be made, rather than make their properties safe and legal. Ministers backed the bill in principle, with the condition that the Bill only targets bad landlords and cannot be used by tenants to frustrate legitimate evictions. The Bill will extend the existing restrictions on a landlord’s power to evict, where they don’t protect a deposit or have a licence they are required to hold, to situations where a health and safety hazard has been identified by environmental health officers.
Lib Dem Minister Stephen Williams said Sarah Teather‘s Bill would help root out a minority of spiteful landlords and ensure that hardworking tenants are not afraid to ask for better standards in their homes.
Commenting, Tim Farron said:
“This is significant news for renters and the majority of landlords who, like most of the population, are angered by the completely unacceptable practises a minority of rogue landlords. We must not tolerate this as a society – you wouldn’t sell someone a car that was unsafe, and you certainly shouldn’t evict someone for trying to make their house safe, whether that’s the electricity, the gas or any environmental hazard.
“So I am delighted that my colleague Stephen Williams has given his backing to Sarah’s Bill. I would encourage all of my constituents who rent to find out what their rights are, so that they don’t have to live in fear of eviction.”
Accepting a petition from Shelter on revenge evictions, Minister for Communities Stephen Williams said:
“Our private rental sector is a vital asset, providing a home to 9 million people across the country. So I’m determined to root out the minority of rogue landlords that give it a bad name.
“That’s why we’re backing Sarah Teather‘s Bill to outlaw revenge evictions once and for all – ensuring tenants do not face the prospect of losing their home simply because they’ve asked for essential repairs to be made.”
Posted September 13, 2014
Rumours that the new Northern Franchise will have to use the much despised Pacer trains in a refurbished state for a few years yet have been met with anger by those who campaigners who have made the case to have them removed.
MP John Pugh is calling on the Chancellor to make good on his promise to see the back of them .
On June 24th the Chancellor said in the Commons
“…we will be seeking to try to get better and more modern carriages, because one of the experiences of people living in the north is a feeling that the carriages are not as good as those in the south of England, and we want to address that in the franchise.”
Sadly the Department of Transport don’t seem to have got the message and are considering prolonging their life.
“This isn’t utterly unexpected by those who have been pressing for change. Despite the fact that these obsolete carriages are not crashworthy, disability-compliant or even remotely comfortable and were never meant to be more than a stopgap, there are an awful lot of them about. Replacing them is a big job.
Angel Trains the leasing company who own them are bent on sweating their asset and are asking silly money for newer trains.
They have reason to feel they have got the Department of Transport by the throat. We need the Chancellor now to step in and make good on his promise.
I will be writing to the Chancellor but more importantly I will be asking every other North West MP effected to do so and quickly and calling them to do likewise. Promising us HS2 in 2030 but cattle-trucks for now is not an offer we can’t refuse”
Share your experiences of these trains: download John’s Pacer Campaign leaflet (pdf)
Posted September 13, 2014
A Scheme developed by Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes Norman Baker to help young people with their transport costs has been adopted by the Lib Dems and will feature in the party’s manifesto for the next General Election.
Under the scheme, developed by Norman Baker when he was a transport minister, under 21’s would receive discount bus passes so they can afford to get to college or work.
The education leaving age has now risen to 18, but entitlement to support for school transport now ends at 16. Bursary payments are not always enough to cover rising bus fares. More people have started an apprenticeship under this parliament than ever before, with nearly 2 million new apprenticeships, training our workforce for 21st century jobs and by providing support for young people to access travel the Lib Dems are seeking that more young people can access training and work opportunities.
Norman Baker says:
“Young people have identified travel and the cost of travel as a barrier in accessing work and employment.
“By investing in our young people and enabling them to access the opportunities being opened to them we are insuring not only individuals but also the future of a skilled workforce and stronger economy.”
Posted September 13, 2014
The Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) and tournament organisers England Rugby 2015 Limited have launched a campaign to educate and inform fans to buy from official sources only to avoid fraud.
Tickets for the Rugby World Cup 2015 which is hosted between September 18th and October 31st officially go on sale today.
With the full support of the City of London Police, the UK’s leading force on fraud, RWCL and England Rugby 2015 are urging fans only to buy tickets, hospitality, supporter tours and merchandise through official sources.
At the core of a suite of initiatives to protect and educate fans is a dedicated official checker that enables fans to verify whether their Rugby World Cup 2015 ticketing, supporter tours or hospitality source is official, a first for Rugby World Cup. This is accompanied by an official guide to provide advice on what to look for when buying RWC 2015 products and lists official sources.
RWCL has also produced a short educational video, which will be screened by Rugby World Cup 2015 rights holding broadcasters.
Don’t be fooled by cheap or discounted tickets
England Rugby 2015 CEO Debbie Jevans added: “It is our priority to ensure that all fans have a fantastic experience in 2015 and part of achieving that is to make fans aware that only official sources should be used when purchasing tickets to guarantee that the tickets are genuine.”
City of London Police Commander and Police National Co-ordinator for Economic Crime Steve Head said: “Rugby World Cup is one of the world’s biggest sporting events. However, the unfortunate reality is that fraudsters will also be eyeing up this tournament as an opportunity to make a lot of money through sophisticated and very convincing online ticketing scams.”
“We are urging all Rugby fans not to be fooled by cheap or discounted tickets available online and to buy only from official sources. If you do fall victim to ticketing fraud or even if you think you may have, please report it immediately to Action Fraud, now part of the City of London Police.
Read more on the RWCL website.
If you are a victim of fraud you can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool.
Posted September 13, 2014
Citizens Advice has has welcomed news that the Government will support a Private Member’s Bill to give greater protection to tenants in privately-rented housing. The charity’s Chief Executive said that eliminating retaliatory evictions “is a matter of basic fairness and is long overdue”.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:
“Protection from eviction is good news for four million UK households. In the past year Citizens Advice helped with 38 per cent more eviction problems in cases where people were up to date on their rent. Although rent arrears is a common problem, the biggest cause of homelessness for private renters is the landlord ending their contract, rather than because tenants have fallen behind on their bills. Preventing landlords from turfing people out of their homes simply for asking for essential property repairs is a matter of basic fairness and is long overdue.
“Citizens Advice has long campaigned for greater protections for tenants and it’s welcome news that Government has given its support to this legislation. Significant and deep-rooted problems in our housing market mean there is no silver bullet to make it work. Tenants in all types of housing too often face high prices, low quality and an uphill struggle to keep a roof over their head and greater protection for renters would be a huge step in the right direction.”
Posted September 13, 2014
It is day 2 of The Invictus Games, a celebration of the fighting spirit of the wounded, injured and sick service personnel through sporting achievement. The games tell the story of servicemen and women who, after facing real challenges, are overcoming fear and trauma and redefining their limits. Over four days 13 countries and over 400 competitors will compete in nine adaptive sports.
It is not only the physical disabilities and injuries that service personnel fight to conquer. Many of those competing in The Invictus Games are facing a mental health illness, brought on either by an injury or through the challenges of being in military service.
Paul Wilson is a British army veteran competing in the games. Paul suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a result of his time spent serving in Afghanistan. He struggles with flashbacks and nightmares and has found sport to be an amazing aid to his recovery by building his confidence and offering a new purpose to focus on.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful or distressing event. Although the first cases that were recorded during the First World War were of men suffering from shell shock from the stressful experience of life in the trenches, PTSD can be caused be a number of traumatic events such as serious road accidents, personal assault, or severe neglect. It is estimated to effect around 1 in every 3 people who experience an event such as these, and the effects of PTSD can be felt weeks, months or years after.
Symptoms can include:
- Re-experiencing: This is involuntary re-living of the traumatic event which comes in forms of nightmares, flashbacks or repetitive and distressing images or sensations.
- Avoidance and emotional numbing: Some may deal with emotions by attempting not to feel any emotions at all which can lead to feeling isolated and withdrawn.
- Feeling on ‘edge’: An inability to relax can lead to problems such as insomnia, irritability, angry outbursts and difficulties with concentrating.
- PTSD can also lead to depression.
If would like more information on PTSD, please contact our Open Minds Team.
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