Our new candidate for Up Hatherley, Dr Jermaine Ravalier, discusses poverty in the UK and how it touches our lives in Cheltenham in his first post on the Cheltenham Lib Dem blog.
It’s time to talk about people living in poverty. Poverty in the UK, and poverty in Cheltenham more specifically.
Before the COVID pandemic, Cheltenham Borough Council (CBC) found that over 4,000 children and young people in the town are growing up in poverty, with over 40% of young people in some parts living in poverty.
However, despite work that CBC has put in place to support those in poverty, it is becoming increasingly clear that Conservative government cuts are leaving more and more families in poverty.
Last year the Trussell Trust foodbank in Cheltenham gave out over 2,700 emergency food parcels to families in need. Earlier this year, the lack of funding for Cheltonians was
highlighted in that Mayor Roger Whyborn had to raise money to support our local foodbanks.
So, not only do many of our friends and neighbours have to rely on food banks because of the Conservatives, those very same food banks do not have enough money to help feed
those who need it.
In the UK more widely it is estimated that 9 out of every 30 children in any class are living in poverty. And before arguments about the ‘work-shy’ begin, 72% of children living in poverty have at least one working parent in their household. There are 600,000 more children living in poverty now than when the Conservatives came into power – and this is before the effects of COVID hit the economy.
Since the Conservatives came into government, they have drastically cut services – in Cheltenham and the rest of the country – which sought to support the poorest among us. Sure start, libraries (773 closed since 2010), universal credit, and drastically reduced support for charities – all have meant increases in poverty and reduced ability to move out of poverty (i.e. poorer social mobility).
The effects of poverty can be seen widely – it’s not just about being able to eat, clothe ourselves, and heat our homes. In Cheltenham, there is a huge difference in school grades achieved between those on Free School Meals and their peers. It took a social media campaign by a 22-year-old footballer just to get this government to agree that the poorest children in Cheltenham and beyond should be allowed to eat over the summer, with a number of Conservative MPs blaming parents for their children’s food poverty (remember: most are working).
Poverty affects health (physical and mental) and how well students and adults do in education, among many things. This government – and this Conservative Cheltenham MP – is responsible for more children and families entering into – and staying in – poverty.
I have a huge passion for Cheltenham and the welfare of its people. In May 2018 I was elected to Cheltenham Borough Council to represent St Peters ward where I live.
The climate emergency is the single biggest challenge that we face. When the horrors of COVID-19 and the pain of the fallout are over, the world will still be faced with an even graver threat.
Plans to tackle the climate emergency and Covid-19 recovery have been strengthened today, Tuesday 1 September with two new roles announced in the borough council’s cabinet.
Council leader Steve Jordan has assigned two new posts, economy and development, and, climate and communities to two new cabinet members: Cllr Victoria Atherstone and Cllr Max Wilkinson.
Despite all the problems caused by the pandemic and all the work needed to help support recovery it seems the government in Westminster is determined to press ahead with restructuring local government in England.
Ed Davey, the MP for Kingston and Surbiton, won the leadership election this morning, receiving 42,756 votes
Responding to official statistics publishing this morning which reveal that NHS England waiting lists are the longest since records began, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:
Since the start of the lockdown the 2 phrases I’ve probably heard most are almost certainly ‘can you hear me now’ and ‘we’re waiting for the guidelines’.
Max Wilkinson, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Cheltenham, has called on local Conservative MP and justice minister Alex Chalk to “pledge to defend the rule of law against any attempts by Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings to undermine it."
It follows the Conservative Government’s announcement of an Independent Review of Administrative Law, with the aim of restricting the ability of individuals to seek judicial review of government actions.
This could prevent people challenging the Government in the courts, as they did when the Ministry of Defence sent soldiers into combat in Iraq without the proper equipment; when excessive Home Office fees denied children their rights as citizens; and when patients died from substandard care at Stafford Hospital.
Cllr Rowena Hay, Cheltenham Borough Council cabinet member for finance and Liberal Democrat councillor for Oakley ward, discusses the financial state of Cheltenham Borough Council, and how we'll work hard to keep services running in the face of government cuts and the Coronavirus in our latest update on life in our local council.
Most people like playing or watching sport of one sort or another. Usually there are a huge number to choose from with something for virtually everybody. Then suddenly a few weeks ago there seemed to be no sport happening anywhere around the world and many people were missing it. Now so many sports have been getting under way again that it has been difficult to keep up.
It’s easy to take Cheltenham’s parks and gardens for granted, but the last few months have shown again just how valuable they are.
If you carry on doing things like you’ve always done them and expect a different outcome, then you’re fooling yourself.
Many more shops have now reopened and it is good to see that the High Street is gradually coming back to life.
The Liberal Democrat Group on Cheltenham Borough Council have voted to suspend the group membership of Dennis Parsons, effective immediately.
During a debate on racial bias in an online Cheltenham Borough Council meeting on the 15th of June, Lib Dem councillor for Pittville - Dennis Parsons, repeatedly used a racist word when recalling an anecdote from his childhood.
The use of that word and related statements were completely unacceptable, and I immediately received a number of complaints from fellow Lib Dem councillors. I spoke to Dennis on Monday evening and discussed the incident in detail. Dennis has subsequently issued an apology.
While I accept that Dennis did not set out to cause offence, that in itself is not enough to excuse the use of such language, and as Liberal Democrats we expect our members and councillors to behave with the utmost sensitivity to racial and cultural issues.
When institutional and unconscious bias is a daily reality for the black community, along with the appalling incidents of overt racism and violence that continue to blight society on both sides of the Atlantic, we all have a duty to choose our words with care and sensitivity at all
Senior figures within the local Party have requested that Dennis consider his position and resign. He has not chosen to follow that path, and as a result complaints procedures have been initiated locally within the Cheltenham Liberal Democrat party and council group, and in parallel, a separate complaint has also been lodged with the national party HQ.
I will be working closely with relevant bodies to ensure that these complaints are dealt with fairly and as a matter of urgency.
Chair, Cheltenham Liberal Democrats