Norman Baker welcomes Lib Dem successes in the Spring Budget

When I talk to people in my constituency, they often ask me what I am doing as their MP to help in their daily lives. I am proud that this week’s Budget is yet again cutting taxes for ordinary people and slashing childcare costs for parents.

At the last election the Liberal Democrats’ top priority was to give low and middle earners a £700 tax cut. And we’ve delivered. From this April, for the first time ever, nobody will pay income tax on the first £10,000 they earn. This is helping 36,880 people in my Lewes constituency.

As the economy continues to recover, I think it’s important that we make sure everyone can share in the economic benefits. That’s why from April 2015, we’ll increase the personal allowance yet again, putting another £100 back in people’s pockets. This means the total Lib Dem tax cut will then be worth £800 a year.

While the Conservatives were campaigning to cut tax for the richest 15%, I am proud that we have ensured the Coalition delivers our top pledge to help ordinary working people by increasing the personal allowance. And we have done this four times faster than Labour managed during their 13 years in government.

Income tax is not the only way the Liberal Democrats are helping cut living costs. We want to do everything we can do help reduce the cost of childcare for parents. That is why Nick Clegg announced new tax-free childcare to save working parents up to £2,000 per child.

From next year, working parents will be able to get 20p from the government for every 80p they spend on childcare. This will help 2660 families in my constituency, and around 2 million families across the UK. I am delighted that we have been able to introduce this support on top of the 15 hours a week of free early years education that we have already introduced for 3 and 4 year olds.

All of these changes have been possible because the Liberal Democrats put aside any narrow Party interest back in 2010 to form a stable Coalition government. By producing a long term economic plan, the Lib Dems have been able to deliver tax cuts which are building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

Letter to the Argus from Norman Baker MP and Catherine Bearder MEP regarding the recent comments by Cllr Donna Edmunds

Dear Editor,

This week UKIP MEP hopeful and Lewes councillor, Donna Edmunds, came out to say business owners should have the right to turn away customers if they choose – based on arbitrary factors such as gender or sexuality.

Views like these have absolutely no place in the 21st century and I am disgusted to hear someone standing to represent Britain in Europe speak in such anachronistic and abhorrent terms.

The UK prides itself on its tolerance and, although Ms Edmunds defends her argument as ‘libertarian’, we have to ask ourselves whether we want someone with such an underlying sexist and homophobic agenda anywhere near the decision making process.

Electing someone as outdated as this could prove a massive step back for our society.

Hearing about the racist slurs at UKIP’s spring conference last weekend, it is clear this party still has a long way to go to ensure it adequately represents the views of the majority of Britons. They campaign on a one-issue platform but they also clearly harbour a whole range of other very dangerous views.

We now have less than three months to stop this nasty party from gaining ground at the Euro elections. Liberal Democrats, as the party of IN, will be leading the fight against Ukip by standing up for an open and tolerant society, values the EU clearly enshrines.

Yours,

Norman Baker MP and Catherine Bearder MEP

Lib Dem control of the council beckons after election of Sarah Osborne as group leader. Will Ruth O’Keeffe vote to support her or to retain the Tory majority?

Independent councillor Ruth O’Keeffe will have the deciding vote on the future of Lewes District Council following a meeting last night (Monday) in which local Lib Dems voted to make Sarah Osborne, councillor for Plumpton, Streat, East Chiltington & St John Without, the new leader of the Lib Dem group on the council.

Norman, Nick Clegg & Cllr Sarah Osborne

Norman, Nick Clegg & Cllr Sarah Osborne

With Cllr James Page standing down next week from his position as Leader of the council, a vote will be called for a replacement. This follows the recent sacking of Cllr Rob Blackman as Deputy Leader of the Council and his removal from his cabinet position. All opposition councillors have raised concerns about the lack of transparency in decision making and only a united vote of opposition councillors could put an end to a Tory administration, providing a step in the right direction to a more open council. Insiders calculate the vote could be a 20-20 split with Ruth having the deciding vote on whether to keep the Tories in power.

Local Lib Dems have proven that they understand Lewes better than the Conservatives, including opposing the current Tory administration’s proposal to sell off the iconic Lewes House. The Lib Dems are looking to inject more favourable policies for the area like the proposal from Cllr Osborne to invest in the construction of new homes to alleviate the problems currently faced by locals seeking affordable housing. So far the Tories have not kept to the affordable house building targets that they have set themselves leaving over 2,000 people languishing on council house waiting lists.

Cllr Osborne says:

“I have pledged to keep Lewes House open to the public and in council hands. With a united opposition, fairer policies can be passed by the council helping the worst off residents across Lewes District.”

Norman Baker MP says:

“Ruth O’Keeffe must know that her vote will decide whether Lewes has a Tory or Lib Dem District Council. Ruth and other district councillors have to announce whether they will support the Lib Dems who are fighting to increase the availability of social housing and improve the flood defences in the area. As an independent councillor Ruth O’Keeffe cannot sit on the fence for this one. People in Lewes have a right to know how she will vote next Wednesday.

“Having a new leader for the Lib Dem group offers an opportunity to renew the fight against the worst of the Tory policies. With cross party agreement the most unpopular decisions can be blocked, that is why I am calling on the remaining councillors to make their positions clear.” 

Independent investigator looks into Seaford

Seaford MP Norman Baker presented evidence on Friday to the independent investigator who has been assigned to look into the concerns that he has raised about Seaford Town Council.

The investigator, Sheelagh Douglas, is a former Chief Executive of Wealden District Council and currently works at B3sixty, an investigation firm that specialises in education and local government. Sheelagh, recommended by the Sussex Association of Local Councils (SALC), was presented with the evidence and will review the file in detail. 

A large number of people have come forward following Norman’s calls for evidence. Recent weeks have seen the file of evidence, supporting Norman’s original ten issues, increasing in size as more people have shared their experiences of the council.

Norman says:

“I am pleased to see that SALC have recommended an experienced and independent investigator to take matters forward. I have handed over the significant file that I have been compiling over the last few weeks, containing evidence from local residents, organisations, ex-councillors and staff members. The complete file provides a disturbing picture of what has been going on.

“I hope that, now an investigator has been assigned, the problems with the town council can be resolved in a timely manner. I understand from Ms Douglas that this matter will take up to a month before she is in a position to make recommendations.”