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Motions passed to the Jan...
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  NEC Statement - Catalonia referendum
Posted by: ReadingLib - 11-03-2017, 08:05 PM - Forum: NEC Press Releases - No Replies

The Liberal Party notes the Spanish governments actions to place Catalonia under direct rule, dismissing the regional government following the contentious independence ‘referendum’.

The actions of the Spanish government contrast those of the Scottish independence referendum where there was an open debate within a responsive constitutional environment.

The filing of charges against prominent member of the independence movement, including dismissed regional president Carles Puigdemont are arguable a disproportionate response to silence further aspiration for greater regional autonomy.

As noted in a topical motion at the Liberal Party October Assembly, the party supports the right of peoples to choose their own destiny, both individually and collectively.

To this end the Liberal Party supports the 'right of self -determination' of all peoples, insofar as the same is consistent with the rule of law and such rights are exercised peacefully.

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  NEC Statement - Defence cuts and Trident expenditure
Posted by: ReadingLib - 10-30-2017, 06:56 PM - Forum: NEC Press Releases - No Replies

The Liberal Party notes with concern media reports of further defence cuts, most specifically to the Royal Navy as the Ministry of Defence struggles to digest a funding deficit of 20 to 30 billion pounds over the next 10 years.

One recent report suggested that both the Royal Navy’s amphibious transport dock’s, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark are being considered for de-commissioning or sale. These two ships were originally ordered to replace the two vessels of the Fearless class which proved so vital in the Falklands campaign.

As the recent disaster relief operation in the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma showed, the UK need to retain both long distance transport and rapid response capability for both military and civil eventualities.

The ceaseless grind of austerity continues to erode our national defence capabilities, whilst the government persists with a Trident refurbishment program expected to exceed 31 billion pounds.

This is an expenditure that the Liberal Party considers to be both wasteful and a distraction from maintaining credible conventional forces.

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  NEC Statement - Leasehold reform
Posted by: ReadingLib - 10-19-2017, 07:03 PM - Forum: NEC Press Releases - No Replies

The Liberal Party annual Assembly, conducted in Bristol this year, debated the reform of leasehold property rights in this country.

The party notes the almost feudal nature of the scheme and recent revelations have called into question a long term residential leasing scheme almost unique to England and Wales.

Home dwellers with such leaseholds are seeing a periodic doubling of ground rates, punitive fees for basic home improvements and the transfer of leaseholds to offshore havens for tax purposes.

The party is weary of any government plan that falls short of anything other than complete abolition, and calls for compensation for leaseholders, the right to buy their lease and temporary provision for all leases ending before 2025 to revert to the leaseholders with fair compensation if appropriate.

Such reforms are in line with the party constitution which calls for a society where every citizen shall possess liberty, property and security.

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  Letter to local media - response to nationalisation claims
Posted by: ReadingLib - 10-15-2017, 06:00 PM - Forum: Local Association Press Releases - No Replies

I read with interest the open letter from Richard Benyon, MP, and his arguments against nationalisation(10th October).

As a Conservative he appears to have singularly failed to notice the public anger at the trajectory private ownership has taken, for example where energy companies are eager to raise domestic prices, but not reduce them so quickly.

The figure of 12 billion pounds he quoted to renationalise Thames Water presumably includes the 2 billion pounds of debt loaded onto the company by its one time owners Macquarie bank.

As outlined in a recent BBC investigation they stand accused of borrowing the money to finance the purchase, transferring the debt to Thames Water, and then selling their stake in the company, but leaving the new owners, and more importantly customers with the debt.

The nationalisation of the railways is actually a relatively painful process, as the companies would fall back into public ownership at the end of their franchises at no upfront cost to the tax payer.

And before he starts to make claims about the number of nurses and policemen that could be paid for by the monies needed to renationalise these industries, perhaps he can dwell on the 20,000 front line police posts lost in the name of austerity since 2010.

As a Liberal I believe in fair competition and a level playing field for consumers, with private ownership where it benefits society, not solely to the benefit of institutional investors, pension funds and increasingly foreign owners.

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  NEC Statement - Residential tower block remedial funding
Posted by: ReadingLib - 10-12-2017, 07:01 PM - Forum: NEC Press Releases - No Replies

The Liberal Party note with concern media reports that a number of councils have alleged that central government has declined to release urgent funds for remedial work to residential tower blocks.

Any argument concerning whether such work is additional rather than essential is academic when many tower blocks have seen their external insulating cladding removed as a fire precaution.

The party accepts that the fitting of water sprinklers is a long-term aspiration subject to design and structural assessments, but as a minimum external cladding should be replaced as matter of urgency with the onset of winter.

The Grenfell tower tragedy has highlighted the disparity in living conditions of many of this countries most vulnerable and cost should not be a consideration when providing adequate and safe accommodation.

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  NEC Statement - Scottish fracking moratorium
Posted by: ReadingLib - 10-06-2017, 06:05 PM - Forum: NEC Press Releases - No Replies

The Liberal Party notes with agreement the decision of the Scottish government to extend its existing moratorium on fracking.

The Westminster government continues to push fracking aggressively despite there being sufficient evidence to show that the fracking process poses a real risk to public health, the environment, the climate and fair competition.

The party remains concerned that insufficient research exists into the long-term effects of pumping high pressure water and chemicals into subterranean strata and its effect on the public water supply.

As such it believes such a moratorium should be extended to all of England and Wales until adequate research into fracking has been conducted and reviewed, and the public are fully briefed on its effects.

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  Policy Development - Road Pricing
Posted by: ReadingLib - 09-27-2017, 07:14 PM - Forum: Party Policy Draft Papers - Discussion - Replies (1)

The subject of road pricing to reduce congestion and pollution regularly raises its head, most recently in The Economist(Aug 5-11th 2017).

As a policy it meets the Liberal criteria of taxing a limited resource, ie road space, therefore rationing its availability for the wider good, namely a more efficient road network.

Road pricing can be used to combat pollution, fund transport or simply act as a form of taxation to fund expenditure not directly related to its source, as happens with a majority of vehicle related revenue at the moment.

Unfortunately the desire to better improve the efficiency of our road network and the wider environment comes up against a number of fundamental obstacles.

Firstly people are unlikely agree to pay further to drive their vehicle after they have already paid road tax, heavy fuel duties and VAT on the actual vehicle itself, and road pricing risks a public backlash. This was in part the reason for the withdrawal of a proposed trial scheme in the Netherlands in 2011.

Car ownership is often essential for work and domestic purposes and road pricing is potentially unaffordable to many people particularly in a period of stagnate wage growth.

The Thatcherite manta of the car is an expression of personal freedom and status means that people are unwilling to leave the car at home when public transport is still derided socially as second class, expensive and demeaning and often overcrowded.

The wider use of public transport will only become acceptable once it meets and exceeds people’s expectations for timeliness and convenience. Bus services outside most large towns and cities finish at 6pm, as I discovered on a recent visit to my parents east coast home.

Better fuel efficiency is reducing revenue from petrol sales, and shared ownership will ultimately reduce the number of vehicle, and hence vehicle excise duty.

Road pricing offers a mechanism for making up the shortfall, but without addressing the wider issue of re-directing vehicle derived revenue to none-vehicular expenditure such as the NHS and education.

Road pricing might offer a solution to one emerging issue where by the London emissions scheme is being undermined by private hire vehicle’s and Uber drivers entering the inner zone on a one off payment, and then circulating inside for protracted periods of time.

The technology for road pricing, be it black box devices or digital number plate recognition exists, and continues to be refined, however public acceptance is the most intractable obstruction.

Any road pricing scheme portrayed by its distractors as a ‘stealth tax’ to fund revenue shortfalls will quickly succumb to public pressure. A successfully implementation will only occur when all revenues are seen to be going back into either public transport schemes or road network.

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  Letter to loacla media - Latest Reading traveller encampment
Posted by: ReadingLib - 09-18-2017, 06:40 PM - Forum: Local Association Press Releases - No Replies

I noted this morning that a small band of travellers are now encamped on the corner of the Oxford Road entrance to the Stadium Industrial estate(15th Sept). It would be interesting to know how many have simply moved there from the Granville Road encampment?

Unfortunately such visitations are going to continue to occur until Reading Borough Council adopts a more practical response to such incursions. Rather than rushing round to evict, it could start by providing the 7 dedicated parking spaces RBC were advised they should provide 11 years ago.

This would at least give RBC some control over where such visitation occur and reduce friction with local residents over alleged anti-social behaviour.

Once the council is able to better manage such visitations, I might then be able to address the two most common complains I hear about travellers communities, which is their prolific rubbish dumping, and a casual disregard for the law.

The latter is in part a by-product of the cycle of incursion and eviction which simply moves traveller families from one illegal site to another. This perpetuates their game of hide and seeks with the council and reinforces their disregard for the rule of law as they do so.

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  Letter to local media - Reading traveller encampment
Posted by: ReadingLib - 08-23-2017, 06:28 PM - Forum: Local Association Press Releases - No Replies

I read with interest the recent media coverage of the re-occurring traveller incursion’s to Granville Road in Reading, and the councils continued rear-guard action to frustrate their return.

Driving down the Bath Road this weekend, the caravan’s re-appearance this week or earlier would mark at least the 12th or even 13th visitations this year.

Indeed the gutted caravan abandoned from the previous encampment has yet to be removed and appears to be already accumulating the detritus we all too often see accompanying such encampments.

Whilst the council spends another part of its 100k pound fund on further preventative measures, the BBC coverage pointed out the stark fact that Reading Borough Council has yet to provide the 7 traveller pitches it was advised it needed as far back as 2006.

Perhaps when the council has actually provided at least this minimum provision, it might be better able to manage the influx of travellers, moving them to a more manageable location, and controlling the accumulation of rubbish.

Provision of such a place will also have the added benefit of reducing the conflict between local residents and travellers which inevitably occurs with the latter’s unannounced appearances within the local community.

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  NEC Statement - Payments to police informants
Posted by: ReadingLib - 08-12-2017, 12:10 PM - Forum: NEC Press Releases - No Replies

The Liberal Party views with considerable concern the revelation that a convicted criminal was paid 10k pounds to secure the conviction of the members of a child exploitation gang in Newcastle.

Whilst financial rewards may encourage intelligence, they should not be seen as the easy option, nor should cuts to frontline policing be seen as a justification for neglecting conventional investigative methods.

There is considerable public unease at the use of tax payer’s money to facilities such intelligence gathering, and subsequent media coverage has already detailed how the prosecution case was threatened by a breakdown in the relationship between informant and handler.

However difficult it is to investigate and prosecute such appalling cases of exploitation and abuse, investigative methods must ensure public trust in not alienated in the search for justice.

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