Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Lib Dem Spring Conference: Members setting priorities for mental health, tackling climate change, fairness, equality and freedom of expression

Jayne McCoy Spring Conference 2015

I am just back from the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in Liverpool where I was very proud to have a hand in voting through key policy motions that set out the Liberal Democrat vision for the future.

The first was the call for greater investment in and parity of status for mental health care. Very pleased to see Paul Burstow our Sutton & Cheam MP bringing this motion to Conference, fully supported by Norman Lamb, our Minister for Care and Support.

Then we agreed to keep our foot on the accelerator in our response to climate change by calling for five ‘Green Laws’ to protect our natural environment, move Britain towards a Zero Waste and zero carbon economy and reduce our energy use.

Then we reaffirmed our commitment to freedom of speech and expression whilst promoting tolerance and understanding.

I was particularly pleased to make a small contribution to the manifesto debate: Stronger Economy, Fairer Society, Opportunity for Everyone, by seconding an amendment on behalf of Sutton Lib Dems which had been put forward by Mark Pack. The amendment sought to enhance the policy by emphasising that we need to rebalance the way we address the financial deficit by working harder to ensure that big businesses and the richest in society pay their fair share so that we can reduce the burden on the poorest and on local government which have borne the brunt of the austerity measures in the last four years.

The text of my summation is below:

I am speaking in support of amendment two.

I support it because as a local councillor I have seen first-hand the impacts of the welfare reforms. I have seen increased homelessness, the rise of reliance on food banks and people struggling to manage debt.

I have seen and spoken to people affected. It is clear that it could be any one of us tipped into that situation whether it be through illness, loss of employment, or low wages failing to keep up with rising rents.

I therefore completely reject the Conservative narrative of these people as scroungers; as feckless families taking advantage of the state.

In Sutton we have seen that 50% of the people on our list as eligible for a council house are in work.

The majority of all benefit claimants are working. These must be the hard working poor the Tories like to refer to. But what about those who are out of work? That would be the undeserving poor if we stick to their narrative.

As budget cuts have been passed down to local authorities we have seen many people put out of a job as a result. Workless because of government policy. And the economic downturn meant that there were few jobs to be found. But if you are not working does that make you a scrounger?

The Conservatives might argue that they just mean those who have never worked. But if our children leave school without the necessary skills to take up employment then whose fault is that? If the training they are being provided with does nothing to lead them into employment then who is to blame? And if the job offer is a zero-hours contract or low pay we can’t blame them and penalise them as a result.

A recent study found that 51% of all government cuts were in the form of cuts to local government and benefits.

The majority are being generalised as scroungers based on a few bad examples, and that has been used as an excuse for reducing benefits and services for the poorest and most vulnerable.

This is not the Liberal Democrat way. We believe that everyone should be given an opportunity and not be penalised for circumstances over which they have little control.

This amendment recognises that the poor have suffered the greatest burden of the last four years’ austerity measures, and it is time to redress the balance, and the narrative.

When people are struggling you give them a helping hand, not a kick in the teeth.

I note the points made by Michael Deyes about, who are the wealthy? However this amendment is about getting the balance right, not attacking the better off.

I therefore ask you to please support this excellent motion enhanced by our amendment.

I was pleased that the amendment was agreed.

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March 16, 2015 - Posted by | Liberal Democrats | , , , , ,

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