Faversham Liberal Democrats have slammed local Conservative MP Helen Whately’s choice to break their promise to the electorate and vote for a 1.25% rise in National Insurance.
The changes, which go against the Conservatives’ manifesto promise not to raise taxes, will mean hard-pressed local families and small businesses will be left paying hundreds of pounds more in tax each year.
Helen Whately was one of the 317 Conservative MPs to support the plans. Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the government plans, arguing that they fail to fix the ongoing social care crisis and will fall disproportionately on the young, the low-paid, and small businesses.
As many as 17% of hard-pressed families across Faversham & Mid Kent face being left worse off when the government end the uplift to Universal Credit next month.
New data from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation exposes the true nature of how badly some areas will be hit by the £20 Universal Credit cut, which is opposed by Faversham Lib Dems.
In the report, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that the Universal Credit cut alone could force 500,000 people, almost half of them, children, into poverty. Their breakdown shows that some 6,540 families in Faversham & Mid Kent will be harmed by the government's uplift cut, with 31% of families with children in Faversham being affected adversely.
Responding to the data, Mike Henderson, Liberal Democrat Candidate in the Priory Ward by-election said:
"Faversham has had to pull itself through this pandemic while dealing with this incompetent heartless Conservative government, this cut will do untold damage to so many of our local families.
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP has removed conditions aimed at tackling the climate crisis in a decision on a planning appeal in Swale in Kent, against the recommendations from the Planning Inspectorate.
Lib Dem Group Leader at Swale Borough Council, Cllr Ben J Martin said “Once again the Conservative Secretary of State has sided with developers that pay into his party’s coffers rather than doing the right thing to fight climate change."
Jenrick called in the decision following an appeal from Quinn Estates following Swale Borough Council's decision to refuse planning permission for 675 new dwellings at Wises Lane in Borden near Sittingbourne, Kent.
Property developer Mark Quinn made major donations to the Conservatives directly before and after Jenrick chose to take responsibility for deciding on Quinn’s bid to build 675 houses in Sittingbourne, Kent.
Work is set to to begin on the installation of new lighting on the St Ann's footbridge following campaign by local Lib Dems.
The works requested by Liberal Democrat Councillor Eddie Thomas will begin on Monday April 19th. The new lighting is being installed by Fuse Rail with the works being funded by Swale Borough Council's special projects fund following a bid made by Cllr Thomas and his Watling ward colleague Cllr Ben J Martin.
Cllr Eddie Thomas said "I have been campaigning and lobbying for two years and the footbridge has not been lit for many more years, so I'm so pleased that the work will start on Monday 19th April."
Cllr Thomas continued "For too long residents and school children have had to negotiate an unlit footpath. I myself have stumbled on loosing my footing on the steps."
The footbridge will remain open outside of school hours but will be closed for safety reasons between 9am - 3pm for the duration of the works, leaving an alternative route via the subway from School Road to Athelstan Road.
Swale Borough Council has unanimously agreed to sign the Made by Dyslexia pledge in a vote at their March full council following a motion proposed by Lib Dem Cllr Ben J Martin and seconded by Lib Dem Cllr Hannah Perkin.
Faversham Town Council, passed a similar motion at their February meeting, again proposed by Cllr Ben J Martin and passed with unanimous support.
As well as signing the Made by Dyslexia pledge the motion requires the council to write to every school in the borough encouraging them to sign the pledge and take advantage of free staff training and resources offered by the Made By Dyslexia Campaign and British Dyslexia Association.
Today at Kent County Council’s 2021 budget meeting, Kent Liberal Democrats, who are the largest opposition group, challenged the fairness of the council tax system and called for council tax to be abolished.
Our amendment called for the council to write to the government to ask for council tax to be reviewed and an alternative system used.
It was proposed by Faversham councillor Antony Hook.
Council Tax is an unfair system that takes no account of ability to pay and based on bands that are considered arbitrary.
Swale Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Ben J Martin has sent an open letter to Faversham and Mid Kent MP, Helen Whately & Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson raising concerns regarding new immigration rules and their effect on Rough Sleepers.
New rules, introduced on December 1st 2020, make rough sleeping grounds for removal for non-UK nationals. 141 charities, lawyers and local authorities have already written to the Home Office.
In the Open Letter to the local MPs, Cllr Ben J Martin says “In order to support rough sleepers to get off the streets and to start new lives, charities and local authorities first have to build trust and rapport with the rough sleepers. This can take months of work and relationship building. It requires rough sleeper outreach workers to break down the barriers many rough sleepers have built to protect themselves, alleviating fears and offering hope. These new rules are a retrograde step, which will further strengthen the feeling of fear and suspicion of authority within the rough sleeping community.”
Cllr Martin asks that the MPs contact the Home Secretary, Priti Patel and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick asking them to “reconsider the policy”
Cllr Ben J Martin said, “I have worked closely with the rough sleeper team at Swale Borough Council, I have seen first hand how difficult it can be to get rough sleepers to trust people. This new policy will make it more difficult to build that trust and support people. Many Rough Sleepers don’t have any form of ID and thus it can be difficult for them to prove their nationality. I believe this policy will have severe consequences and will play into the hands of traffickers, while also making it more difficult for Local authorities to support rough sleepers to get off the streets and into accommodation.”
We want a working bridge over Faversham Creek that not only connects the two sides of the town by land, but also opens to allow boats to travel up the Creek to the basin.
This vision represents a big social and economic opportunity for the town including the creation of new jobs and businesses.
Like many local people, we are frustrated that this bridge is still awaited after 5 years of broken promises by Conservative-run Kent County Council and the government.
The Liberal Democrats are asking people across our community who care for relatives to get in touch and share their story – to mark national Carers Rights Day.
Liberal Democrat party leader Ed Davey has said he wants the party wants to be a "strong voice" for the millions across the country – including 9,850 people in Faversham & Mid Kent and 11, 274 people in Sittingbourne and Sheppey who care for those who need it.
Ed himself knows the burden put on carers for family members - having been a carer for his mum when growing up and now caring for his disabled son.
Carers can get in touch and share their experiences at www.libdems.org.uk/carerssurvey
Lib Dem County Councillor for Faversham Antony Hook said:
"Millions of people across the country act as unpaid carers for loved ones. This year has highlighted more than ever the issues many of them face."
"If you are a carer - or someone who receives regular care support from a relative of a friend - we want to hear from you. Please get in touch with us and share your story."
Antony Hook, Liberal Democrat councillor for Faversham, has asked ITV News to explain a statement that the Covid infection rate "in and around Faversham" is the second highest in the country.