Nick Hollinghurst

Liberal Democracy – equal opportunity for all, freedom within a fair society, security in a greener world

Labour Plans to Scrap Half a Million Apprenticeships

April 19th, 2014 by nickhollinghurst
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Labour_halves_apprenticesBLOGNick Clegg has revealed Labour’s secret plans to scrap half a million apprenticeships.  Apparently Labour and their Union bosses see no value in this popular and effective way to help people into work, because they think they are ‘deadweight’.

This is the strongest signal yet that Labour can’t be trusted to build a stronger economy.  Their wrecking plans would make it harder for young people to find good, well-paid jobs, and would damage the skills base in the British economy.

In a little-publicised paper written by the Labour Party, they propose to scrap Intermediate (level 2) Apprenticeships, replacing them with a downgraded “traineeship”.

The Liberal Democrats, the party most in favour of apprenticeships, have strongly condemned Labour’s backward and destructive plans.

While Liberal Democrat ministers such as Vince Cable, have created record numbers of apprentices, seeing over 1.6 million apprentices start since 2010, Labour’s plans would pull the rug from under the feet of a generation of young people.

3 Millionth Worker Gets a Workplace Pension

April 18th, 2014 by nickhollinghurst
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Steve_WebbBlogOver 3 million workers have for the first time been given a workplace pension, according to figures from the Pensions Regulator. The 3 millionth worker is employed by West Ham United. 

The new scheme, which Liberal Democrats in Government began rolling out in 2012, provides workers with a safe, private pension that both their employer and the Government pay in to. This tops up the worker’s contributions significantly.

Welcoming this news, the Lib Dem Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, said:  “Before automatic enrolment, pension saving in this country was at a very low level. Too few people were being offered the opportunity to save into a workplace pension. We have restored fairness by ensuring pensions are no longer the preserve of the fortunate few.

“We have kicked off a savings revolution that will benefit millions in their retirement.”

Liberal Democrats introduced this scheme, which will eventually see 9 million workers access a workplace pension, to address chronic under-saving, with millions not putting aside enough for retirement. Previously only 1 in 3 private sector employees had been paying into a workplace pension.

So far more than 10,000 employers of all types from charities to supermarkets, hospitals to football clubs – have automatically enrolled their workers.

Thousands of medium sized employers will follow them over the next 6 months

All Lib Dem Majority Controlled Local Authorities have Frozen or Cut Council Tax: As Published Figures Show

April 17th, 2014 by nickhollinghurst
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council taxCouncil tax figures for all local authorities have been published.

The figures show that 100% of Lib Dem ’majority controlled’ councils are cutting or freezing Council Tax, compared to just 73% of Tories and just over half of Labour. 

Cambridge, with a Liberal Democrat administration without an overall majority, has agreed an increase of just under 2% in the face of particular local financial pressures.

But even with the inclusion of Cambridge it is clear that Liberal Democrats are the only party to be cutting Council Tax on average, while maintaining services.

 LA Control Freeze Rise Cut Average Total % Freezing or Cutting
Conservative  104 49 27  0.40 180

73%

Lib Dem  11  0  2 -0.20  13

100%

Labour  53 45  2  0.86 100

55%

Independent   0 2  0  1.93    2

0%

Herts CC Put Up Their Own Funding for Adverse Weather Recovery – “But Is It Enough?” Ask Lib Dems

April 16th, 2014 by nickhollinghurst
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 FloodWarningLiberal Democrats at County Hall were heartened to discover that the Conservative administration had listened to the recent Lib Dem budget suggestion and decided to commit extra funds for repairing our roads and pavements after the recent flooding and atrocious weather.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives at County Hall were clearly not listening properly, because they decided they could fix all the damage with just £1m (£270 for every mile of road in Hertfordshire) rather than the £2m the Liberal Democrats proposed in their alternative budget.

The £1m, from a special reserve, was agreed by HCC at a Policy, Resources and Transformation Cabinet Panel  and was confirmed by HCC Cabinet. The funds are available to help fix some of the damage the recent weather caused.

Paul Zukowskyj, Shadow Cabinet Portfolio-holder for Corporate Issues commented: “Yet again Herts Tories are short-changing residents. Our roads are in a terrible state, yet the Conservatives believe £1m will fix all the problems. It’s simply not enough!

“The Conservatives aren’t living in the real world. The damage to our highways has been extensive, and coming on top of the chronic backlog of outstanding maintenance work we’ve seen accumulate in recent years, it’s a drop in the ocean.

“We suggested the recovery programme needed to be at least £2m, and that was on top of the £9m we’d budgeted to expand normal highways maintenance. This would have given Hertfordshire residents some chance of seeing a real improvement in our highways network.

£1m simply isn’t enough. We welcome the attempt, but we’re left wondering when they will realise residents are utterly fed up of driving over moonscapes instead of roads.”

Herts CC – No Number to Call in an Emergency !

April 15th, 2014 by nickhollinghurst
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 On Tuesday 25th March residents in West Watford’s Benskin Road were disturbed by a loud bang. On investigation they discovered that a lamp post had literally just fallen over. No cars were involved and it later transpired a resident had reported the danger of the wobbling concrete light that morning.

emergency phoneLocal Lib Dem Activist, Susan Gaszczak a Benskin Road resident, responded to the bang and googled ‘Herts Highways Emergency’ number to be greeted by the appalling county website. The first hit comes up with a generic number not suitable for an emergency at a time when when school children are walking home past a live electrical fault. The second click gets you to the Highways online reporting system.

Susan said: “It was ridiculous, there was just no emergency number. I needed to get immediate help and I couldn’t find a number to report it on. Luckily one of the local Lib Dem County Councillors was in County Hall that day and a phone call to them meant the matter was reported straight away – directly to the directors office. A Highways official arrived within the hour.”

She added: “I also tweeted and eventually got a reply but by that time I had resolved the initial issue of getting the live wires cordoned off. There needs to be a number, direct to highways and accessible by googling on the website.”

County Councillor, Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Liberal Democrat Group Leader added: “We pointed this out to officers last year, this is why a number is needed. Their response at the time was that we were mad. This proves the point we were not. The Tory run administration should be grateful that no-one was injured, especially as residents had drawn attention to this danger.”

British Workers Now Have the Best Tax Deal in the G7

April 14th, 2014 by nickhollinghurst
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 The amount British taxpayers can earn before paying income tax is the highest starting threshold across the G7 countries, Treasury analysis released by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has revealed. The personal allowance has risen by over 50% since 2010, an increase five times larger than any other G7 country has increased their income tax starting thresholds

G7incometaxBlogIn 2010 the personal allowance was £6,475. It has risen each and every year of this Parliament, and thanks to the Liberal Democrats it has reached £10,000. This represents an income tax cut of up to £705 for over 26 million workers and lifted over 3 million out of paying income tax altogether.

Commenting, Danny Alexander said: “We have delivered the £10,000 income tax threshold – a Liberal Democrat tax cut worth up to £705 for over 26 million working people. Not only is this now the most generous income tax allowance in British history, but thanks to these changes the UK now has the best tax system for working people in the G7. 

“These tax cuts are helping with family budgets and are a boost to job creation and growth.  It’s no coincidence that Britain has record levels of employment and that we are the fastest growing economy in the G7.  Our income tax cuts are not just helping people, but powering the recovery too. 

“If the Liberal Democrats are in Government after the next election we will go much, much further and push the personal tax allowance to £12,500.  That would mean a total tax cut of £1200 since 2010, and give us the best tax system for working people anywhere in the developed world.”

How Far Do You Have To Go To Get Rid Of Your Household Waste?

April 13th, 2014 by nickhollinghurst
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HCCwasteawareFollowing the unplanned partial or complete closures of more than half of the county’s household waste sites over the first sunny weekend of the year, the ruling Conservative administration displayed breathtaking complacency when challenged at a meeting of the County Council.

Hertfordshire Tories thought it was acceptable that people should have been turned  away. One even boasted how he had taken rubbish to his local tip at Ware, found a big queue causing a potential traffic hazard, and so drove all the way to the Stevenage site where he also had to queue.

 “It seems they have a cavalier approach to running the waste sites.” said County Councillor Sandy Walkington, Liberal Democrat Environment spokesperson. “Those occasional users who come out at weekends, if they think waste sites are going to be closed, of course they’re not going to drive to an entirely different town, they will simply find other ways to dispose of their rubbish.

 “We were even more dumb-founded when they said it was wholly inappropriate to raise this issue in the middle of the procurement for the new service, With their objective of slashing £750 thousand from the budget, you would have thought they would want to highlight to the tenderers the problems seen over that weekend and ask that they address such peak-time capacity challenges in their bid.

 “But as ever the Conservative administration at County Hall is all about self congratulation and not about a decent service to hard-pressed council tax payers,” Sandy concluded.

 Liberal Democrat councillor Malcolm Cowan added, “It appears we are not only affected by frost and rain destroying our poorly-maintained roads, we now have to worry about the wrong type of sunshine shutting the waste sites and causing hazardous queues on our roads”

Lib Dems to Create 100,000 Apprentices

April 12th, 2014 by nickhollinghurst
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Clegg-apprenticesBlog

The Liberal Democrats have delivered a huge boost to apprenticeships, with at least 100,000 new apprentices being created over the next two years.

As the party of opportunity for young people, the Lib Dems have fought in Government to give more young people the chance to get on in life.

Thanks to this, the newly announced budget includes two schemes to support apprentices:

  • £85m in both 2014-15 and 2015-16 to extend the Apprenticeship Grants for Employers scheme, giving businesses incentive payments to take on apprentices
  • £20m to support apprenticeships up to postgraduate level (i.e. degree and masters level apprenticeships)

There is high demand from young people to do an apprenticeship, but not enough employers are coming forward and offering them. On average 12 people apply for every apprenticeship place, but in some sectors the level of demand is twice as high.

The Apprenticeship Grants for Employers scheme, which has already created 40,000 new apprentices, is designed to encourage more employers to offer apprenticeship places, to help meet demand from young people.

The new funding announced today will provide over 100,000 additional incentive payments under the scheme – providing a major boost to the job prospects of young people.

Introducing degree and masters level apprenticeships will give more young people the opportunity to develop their skills to a higher level, where there are currently fewer available qualifications.

Thanks to the Liberal Democrats, 24 Million get a £700 Tax Cut

April 11th, 2014 by nickhollinghurst
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700taxcutgraphBlogStarting this month 24 million people will receive a £700 tax cut compared to 2010. This will put £700 back in the pockets of the lowest earners.

Thanks to the Liberal Democrats, the new income tax personal allowance kicks in, reaching £10,000. It means 24m working people are paying £700 less in income tax than they were under Labour; people on the minimum wage have had the amount they pay in income tax more than halved; and 2.7m of people in the lowest paid jobs will no longer pay any income tax at all.

This was the top policy on the front of the 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto and has now been delivered in full by the Liberal Democrats in Government. From next April, the personal allowance will rise again to £10,500, giving working people an £800 tax cut in total.

Speaking at the Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference in Newport last weekend, Nick Clegg said:

“From the previous Labour government we inherited an economy in crisis: spiralling debt, a record peace time deficit and a broken banking system.

“But by entering into Coalition we gave the country stable government.

“We stuck to our guns on our economic strategy, despite the pressure to change course.

“We made sure that this strategy is about more than just cuts. As important as it is to get the public finances under control, you also have to invest in the things that drive growth: record numbers of apprenticeships, billions of pounds to support businesses, unprecedented investment in Britain’s roads and rail.”

The Liberal Democrat policy is to continue to increase the threshold in the next Parliament to £12,500.

The Tories are keen to try and claim credit for our tax cut, but in reality they came into the election arguing for an inheritance tax cut for millionaires, which we blocked, and have argued in Government for a tax cut for some married couples and to reduce the top rate of tax

Hertfordshire’s Lights Out … Again!

April 10th, 2014 by nickhollinghurst
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Local Liberal Democrats are stunned that for the third year running street lights could still be thrown into chaos as the clocks were moved forward.  

Leader of the Opposition on HCC, Liberal Democrat Stephen Giles-Medhurst said, ” After almost three years of  switching the lights off at midnight, we still cannot get assurance that the problem we have had every time the clocks change will not re-occur. 

“Each year and time we are assured it will not be a problem. At least this time the Tories  admitted in advance that there would be problems.  But the questions I want answered are:

  • ‘Why on earth did they pay for faulty equipment to start with?’  
  • ‘Was the night time turn-off rushed through with no checking of equipment or its capability?”
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