Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, visited Cheltenham today as part of his national listening tour.
The first stop on his whistle-stop tour of Cheltenham was a visit to Springbank community food bank, helping the incredible team of volunteers alongside Cllr Suzanne Williams distributing food parcels to those in need in the local area. Ed spoke to one of the local residents supported by the scheme about how she is handling life in our strange new COVID world, and how she is coping as a carer for her mother at a time where social care faces more challenges than ever before.
Next, a trip to local independent restaurant Bar and Wok with Max Wilkinson to meet representatives from TURF Cheltenham - a group set up by local hospitality business owners to promote independent businesses in Cheltenham and work together to tackle shared challenges.
Independent hospitality businesses have been hit hard by the new lockdown restrictions. We all need to do everything we can to keep people safe, and hospitality venues have gone the extra mile in making their venues COVID-secure. However, one issue facing these businesses sticks out like a sore thumb. the 10 pm curfew.
Scenes of pub-goers getting kicked out onto the streets and on to public transport in large groups at 10 pm have shown that the curfew is bad for public health and bad for business. With Ministers failing to publish any evidence that the 10 pm curfew works, people are right to raise questions when it appears to be undermining other public health measures and is putting their jobs on the line.
Our Lib Dem spokesperson for Cheltenham has written to Alex Chalk, calling for him to vote against the curfew and work with government ministers to find a better solution to reducing the risks of transmission in hospitality settings. The Government must provide tailored support for the industries impacted by the COVID restrictions to save jobs and businesses in Cheltenham.
It wouldn't be a Lib Dem visit without some door knocking - so local activist and council candidate Alisha Lewis took Ed to meet some residents in St Paul's ward. From health and social care to education and unemployment, Ed spoke with residents about the work Liberal Democrats in Parliament are doing to tackle the issues they're facing in their daily lives.
Alisha and Ed also discussed the work Lib Dem run Cheltenham Borough Council is doing to support residents, from COVID impact support to pavement politics like potholes and street cleaning. It is clear that the Conservative government is letting down so many residents in the area, with residents who have reached out to local MP Alex Chalk for support finding an unsympathetic ear.
Ed's listening tour is all about listening to you and understanding the different challenges communities across the country are facing as we lead the fight for a fairer country.
We want you to be part of that fight.
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For anyone involved in politics the chance to step down at a time of your own choosing is a luxury as often other people, usually the voters, get to decide it for you. I have that luxury so why am I stepping down as leader of the council?
On Tuesday 29 September 2020, Councillor Steve Jordan leader of Cheltenham Borough Council has announced that after 30 years of dedicated service as a ward councillor and the last 12 years as leader, he will be stepping down as a councillor at the next election in May 2021.
I don’t think anyone would disagree that the COVID pandemic is a crisis for the world, the country and for us locally. Sadly the number of cases is rising again and the government has announced a renewed clampdown on what we can do. While cases in Cheltenham are higher than a few weeks ago they are still comparatively low thanks to the hard work and cooperation of so many people. Realistically we will only solve this when we get an effective vaccine.
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.