Local MP calls for discount bus travel for under 21’s

A Scheme developed by Lewes MP 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 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 LibDems are seeking that more young people can access training and work opportunities.

Norman 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

East Sussex music services policy is out of tune with locals

Local MP Norman Baker has asked East Sussex County Council’s to think again about its proposed cuts to music services.

The council has received funding from Arts Council England aimed at providing free instrumental tuition to all children in East Sussex. Despite this the council remains on track to shrink the service it provides. Current proposals will see over a third of local jobs related to music tuition disappearing. The Musicians’ Union has raised concerns that this could result in up to 60 teachers losing their jobs.

If these cuts continue as planned East Sussex is at risk of making itself ineligible for the current funding that they receive from Arts Council England. This will result in a slippery slope in which the council will cut services to save on spending but jeopardises money that is coming in. This could see a black hole appearing in which music education in the area implodes.

Norman raised concerns as far back as 2010 that any cuts in this area will be damaging to local school children highlighting the benefits that music brings, such as evidence suggesting that students who have studied music can remember more verbal information than those who have not.

Norman, himself in a band and also host of a weekly music programme for Seahaven FM says:

The music service has been a great asset for East Sussex over the years and I would be very concerned to see this positive inheritance lost. I recognise the value music has in forming a well rounded education for pupils and I am again writing to East Sussex County Council highlighting the concerns raised by The Musicians’ Union and asking them to review their proposals.”

New rules for paternity leave welcomed by Norman Baker

Local MP Norman Baker has welcomed Nick Clegg’s announcement that parental leave can now be shared between mothers and fathers at minimal extra cost to business.

The old-fashioned assumption is that women will always be the parent that stays at home – many fathers want that option too. That is why from April 2015 the coalition government is introducing shared parental leave to allow couples to split the existing 52 weeks of maternity leave, making a joint decision that ensures all career options remain open to women after pregnancy.

Employers can gain from a system which allows them to keep talented women in the workforce and have more motivated and productive staff. This new system will also give us a great opportunity to make our workforce even more flexible, help working families and boost economic growth.

The changes, which were proposed in the 2010 Lib Dem manifesto, give women greater freedom in pursuing their goals and will hopefully reduce the feeling that they have to choose between having a successful career and having a baby. They should be supported by their employers, rather than being made to feel less employable or under pressure to take unchallenging jobs.

It is already illegal to sack a woman because she is pregnant or on maternity leave. This new ruling creates a fairer society that gives parents the flexibility to choose how they share care for their child in the first year after birth.

The proposals for shared parental leave and flexible working are included in the Children and Families Bill 2013 which is currently going through Parliament. The details will be set out in regulations.

Norman says:

“I am pleased to see this big step towards parental equality. Allowing both parents to share the 52 weeks of leave stops the current situation in which businesses can lose a valued female employee for an entire year, now, at no extra costs to business, the time can be divided between the mother and father.

“As a father myself I really appreciate the time I had with my daughter in the first year of her life. I feel the early connection invites a stronger relationship between parents and their children and both mothers and fathers should be entitled to this.” 

Thousands of young people brought out of National Insurance Contributions

The drive to help young people get jobs in Lewes will be boosted by plans to abolish employers’ National Insurance Contributions (NICs) for under 21-years-olds.

Norman Baker has welcomed news meaning businesses will no longer have to pay tax on their employees aged under 21-years-old. For example, companies will save £1,000 each year for every young employee earning £16,000.

In Lewes the plan to abolish NICs for young people from April 2015 means companies will not have to pay the contributions for over 2,000 people young people.

Norman says:

“The Liberal Democrats are focused on getting young people into work and this is exactly the kind of initiative needed to give businesses a break and encourage them to start recruiting. Since 2010 we have already helped create more than 1.5m new apprenticeships. Meanwhile, our £1bn Youth Contract is supporting work experience, wage incentives and apprenticeships. 

“Our local economy is growing because of the hard work of people and businesses, they deserve this help. I hope that this initiative will help bolster the number of local young people in work and speed the rate in which unemployment is going down in our area.”