Opinion & Analysis – ‘Brutopia’ – A Demonic Raabid Vision

By ‘Sam Vete’
The boundary of Esher and Walton reveals a peculiar ‘ménage à trois’ between Hampton Court and Thames Ditton; the historical figures Thomas More and Thomas Wolsey cohabit with Dominic Raab.
Thomas More wrote ‘Utopia’, criticising the politics of belligerent European nations while imagining an island nation fulfilling liberal political ideals. The English language and social thought were enriched. Wolsey and More collaborated to reject Lutheranism, putting all their eggs in Rome’s Catholic basket. They became devilled eggs when Henry VIII chose Anne Boleyn above religion.

David Starkey’s TV series erroneously portrays the Reformation as ‘Tudor brexit’ (peering penetratingly, troll-like, from behind a tree). Yes, Henry wanted to take control from Rome for selfish reasons. Similarly, hard-core brexiters want ‘Henry VIII powers’, passing laws ignoring EU liberalism. That does not parallel the historical events as Lutheranism spread throughout free-thinking states. Elizabeth I put things right in England!

Where do Raab’s demonic diatribes fit this religious triangle? His referendum sermons preached a fundamentalist belief in brexit; scorning basic economic theory and playground savvy – ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. A ‘Brutopia’ which ignores the detrimental implications of economic separatism and autocratic legislation, preferring cronyism to a fair, progressive broad church. Since brexit myths have been exposed as lies, many have changed their minds. Polls show Raab’s views are now seriously out of step with the UK majority. They have NEVER been in step with the pro-EU majority of his constituents. Brexit is not the dish-of-the-day, démodé!

Where else do Raab’s views clash with his constituents? In another modern religion – air travel. He ignores technological progress and the economic and ecological errors of building a Heathrow runway. Video conferencing replaces air travel. Businesses with an internet presence can make decisions quicker than ordering an airport taxi. Progress in flight technology means that runways can be shorter, lightweight carbon-fibre planes (powered by electricity rather than polluting kerosene) will carry more passengers, better booking systems will increase seat occupancy, and additional airport infrastructure will be a white elephant.
Similarly, Dominic Raab; his ‘Vim’ has been scrubbed out! Meanwhile, Theresa May is no Gloriana!

Green Belt in Long Ditton

Long Ditton councillors, Shweta Kapadia, Barry Fairbank and Neil Houston wish to dispute the statement made by Hinchley Wood/Long Ditton Green Belt group that they are doing nothing to protect the Green Belt.  All three of them are working hard and will continue to work hard to protect the Green Belt. All councillors recognize the need for housing but do not agree with building on the Green Belt.

Every single councillor in Elmbridge is against building on the Green Belt.  An application for over 1,000 homes in Green Belt in Walton was unanimously refused by the Residents’ Association (RA), Tory and Lib Dem councillors.  The borough has poured vast resources into defending the Drake Park Appeal last November to defend Elmbridge Green Belt. But the national government has ignored the will of the people and the borough and the application will now be determined by a Conservative Secretary of State – till recently Sajid Javid and now James Brokenshire. The Drake Park decision was however ‘deferred’ only a few days ago until after the Elmbridge Election.  Just weeks ago Sajid Javid allowed 300 homes in the Green Belt in Effingham, Guildford, although the parish and borough refused permission. There is an appeal still outstanding for Wisley (2,000 homes) which will similarly be determined by a Conservative government minister.

Are local Conservatives going to defy their national government and not build on the Green Belt or in fact not build the 12,500 homes this Conservative government wants to build in Elmbridge? Conservative councillors in other Surrey districts have allowed building on the Green Belt. Tandridge Council is planning a whole new village in the Green Belt. Guildford has released land in the Green Belt. Are Elmbridge Conservatives going to be the only ones in the country to defy their Government?

Only the Liberal Democrats and the Residents’ Association councillors can defy this Conservative government. The Residents’ Association / Liberal Democrat coalition administration has done just that: they have lobbied and put considerable pressure on Dominic Raab and Philip Hammond, Elmbridge’s two MPs. But being Conservative both of them are toeing the national party line and will not say that the Green Belt should not be built on even though they know the borough’s residents are against it. The RAs / Lib Dem administration has also protested to Sajid Javid highlighting the deficit in infrastructure provision in Elmbridge. The administration responded robustly against the large amount of housing that this Conservative government is attempting to force on Elmbridge.

Regards the Elmbridge consultation in 2016/17 on the new Local Plan and Green Belt review – the facts of the matter are: All Elmbridge councillors voted UNANIMOUSLY for the consultation on the Strategic Options which took place in December 2016. The minutes of the meeting of full council held in December 2016 clearly show that.

Until Tory politics on the Local Plan started, Tories, RAs and Liberal Democrats worked on this together. There are the Conservatives and three RAs and only one Liberal Democrat on the Local Plan Working Group so the Tories have a strong voice on this working group and they agreed to the consultation.

There is a large amount of mis-information circulating. Since the public consultation in December 2016 Elmbridge Borough Council has not produced any specific proposals in relation to the Local Plan and there has been no vote in the council on building on the Green Belt for the Conservatives to have opposed it.

Norman Lamb MP visits Walton

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for Norfolk North, spoke in Walton on Thames last week  about Brexit and the NHS and social care.

BREXIT   He  started by saying  there is  hardly any debate on anything other than Brexit  going on in Westminster at the moment.  He said that he had not known anything like it, it was as if  normal service has been suspended.

He said that when the reality of the Brexit deal is determined; sometime in the Autumn, he anticipates strong disquiet in the Conservative ranks and does not believe Jeremy Corbyn is electable.  However,  he continued,  that sadly this has not currently led to a boost to the Lib Dems in the polls. An autumn a political constitutional crisis was likely  (note by author : Vince Cable said something similar) but felt it was very hard to predict how this will play out and how Theresa May might navigate her way through it.

HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE    “ There was a  crisis in the provision of care,  we have seen a  15% increase in the need for care of the elderly over the last 10 years,  very rapid change.

  • 1984 there were 600,000 people in care in the UK,
  • 2002 there were 1,300,000
  • 2032 there will be 3,100,000

At the moment there are 1.2million people with unmet care needs. Half the population over 75 live on their own, and could become increasingly dependent especially as families have become much more dispersed, making  support difficult”.

He posed questions:

  • Should young people pay?
  • Should most of it be paid by older people?
  • Should freebies like winter fuel payments be paid universally?

We don’t yet have fair answers.

He said that traditional party politics are not moving this forward, although the Conservative manifesto proposal of guaranteeing that no one should pay more than £100,000 for their care was a brave initiative. However, it was not well received and was somewhat unfair as it depended on the value of property and on an individual’s wealth as only poorer people would likely have to sell their house.

So how to raise funds fairly? He had been instrumental in bringing together 90 cross party MPs to consider the options as Government is clearly not addressing the issue. It seems that Theresa May  is clearly not cable of taking initiative but wonderful at arranging consultations, she was  hostage to the right of her party and the Brexit process. The cross party group proposes that there should be a hypothecated charge of say 2% on income tax but it would be separately identified and separately and independently managed and monitored. It could be reviewed from year to year by the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR)  This idea had been  discussed with various civil servants who are supportive.

He went on to talk about the very severe shortage of support for mental health issues especially with young people. When he was in the coalition (2010-2015) he set the first ever target for mentally ill patients to receive attention to be within 2 weeks of it being sought. This has drastically slipped now but it is widely recognised  advantageous.  If mental health problems can start to be tackled within two weeks the further development of the symptoms and the loss of employment, friends and society links can be substantially avoided leading to earlier recovery.

Opinion & Analysis – Targeting the ‘brexit bull’ in Elmbridge

By ‘Sam Vete’ – 12 March 2018
How does brexit affect Elmbridge? And how can Elmbridge voters help to avoid the potentially disastrous outcome of the devious brexit strategy?
Elmbridge is heavily Tory but, despite the glib rhetoric of brexit’s chief standard bearer, local MP Dominic Raab, we voted strongly to remain in the EU. Pro-EU Elmbridge residents realised that what was caricatured as ‘Project Fear’ was well-founded caution. The Government went ahead and fired the Article 50 bullet regardless of the predictable collateral damage.
Contrary to Eurosceptic pre-referendum boasts, because the brextremists’ are fixated with leaving the single market and the customs union, many businesses have already announced intentions to relocate and remain within the EU.
City jobs, particularly in the financial and scientific sectors, are at risk and the impact will be significant. Elmbridge will be one of the suburban commuting areas affected. There are also the city’s support occupations to consider; transport, administration, event management, and hospitality will suffer a knock-on effect, with Elmbridge based foot-soldiers caught in the cross-fire.
Many Elmbridge families rely on domestic support staff. EU immigrants will no longer be the source of qualified applicants. The rate of applications has already fallen.
Qualified dental, medical and care staff similarly are moving back to EU member states, increasing the strain on the NHS as well as the cost of private services. This affects the centres of excellence in Elmbridge and peripheral areas Guildford and Kingston-upon-Thames on which the Elmbridge community depends.
Travel practices will be rolled back decades. With the high living standards in Elmbridge, the once familiar short break to Bruges, Paris, Prague, Tenerife or Dublin etc. will be a distant memory. With unpredictable queuing times at customs and passport control, one BBC report expects queues of up to 29 miles on Chunnel access routes. What an incentive for a ‘staycation’ in a traffic queue on the M25!
Biting the bullet?
What can Elmbridge residents do to potentially affect the rake’s progress of brexit. Well, to all politicians, votes matter; local votes on May 3rd will translate into national trends.
Labour pro-EU voters can give their hard-brexiter leadership a much-needed close shave by voting for a pro-EU party.
Pro-EU Tory voters need to show their metal and demonstrate strong disapproval by voting for a pro-EU candidate. The Tory Eurosceptic grandees will downplay any local losses but behind the scenes they will be panicking.
Raab’s seat is one of the safest in the country and he is brexit’s ‘Golden Boy’. A significant local protest vote will force Tory HQ to take notice. Every anti-brexit vote will contribute to the fog-of-war surrounding the brexit folly. Every vote counts, so let yours help to deflect the ‘brexit bullet’!

Opinion & Analysis – Whatever happened to the Conservative party? by Anthony Sheppard

You used to know where you were with the Conservatives, even if you didn’t support them. They had cordial – some would say cosy – relations with the City, with the CBI, the Institute of Directors. There was a kind of assumption that what was good for business was good for the British economy and that prosperity would somehow trickle down to the rest of us. A lot of us had serious reservations about the social implications of this, but it made some kind of sense in an increasingly globalised capitalist economy.
But since the vote for Brexit, large sections of the Conservative Party seem determined to throw all this over, turning their back on the City of London, stonewalling the CBI’s pleas for certainty over immigration policy in respect of skill shortages and ignoring the anxieties of sectors like the car industry about how ‘Just in Time’ trans-European supply chains will work if Britain leaves the Single Market and/or Customs Union. Industry and commerce can, it seems, be sacrificed on the altar of Sovereignty: the vision of a sovereign Britain, untrammeled by foreign interference in our judicial processes, trade arrangements (except when it suits us to benefit from EU regulations) or immigration policy. This is a thoroughly 19th century view of the nation state, at odds with the highly connected world we all now inhabit.
And how is Britain to survive economically when deprived of the benefits of EU membership? We are promised innovative Free Trade agreements with the Premier League economies. The question needs to be asked, ‘Can Britain do better alone, negotiating with the likes of China and the USA, than a bloc of 28 European nations?’ What does Britain bring to the table on its own? If we are not in the EEA, what incentive will there be for inward investment in a Britain that is no longer an open gateway to Europe?
These New Conservatives would have us chasing the leprechauns’ gold! Continue reading

Welcome to Liberal Exchange with Ed Davey MP on Wednesday 21st February 8pm at Claygate Day Centre

Ed Davey MP for Kingston and Surbiton will be the guest speaker in the next Liberal Exchange at Claygate Day Centre, Elm Road, Claygate KT10 0EH on Wednesday 21st February 2018 at 8pm.

In his speech Ed will address the latest turns in Brexit negotiations, negative impacts Brexit is already having in our area, the government’s lack of negotiation strategy and vision, the problems Brexit is creating whilst it sucks all energy from other aspects of government, deepening crises in education, social care, NHS and provision of social benefits. Ed’s speech is followed by Q & A.

Liberal Exchange is a public forum for discussions about current political matters, organised by Elmbridge Liberal Democrats. All are welcome and invited to put their questions to the speaker.

Financial crisis worsens at County Hall as Tories ask Surrey residents to pay more for less

Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council (SCC) have criticised the Conservative-administration for budget proposals containing £54m of further cuts to services and a 6% council tax rise. The budget recommendations are due be approved by the County Council on Tuesday 6th February.

Liberal Democrats are concerned that a rise of nearly 6% is “unaffordable for many Surrey residents, particularly for those on fixed incomes”.

Why are they in such a mess?

Liberal Democrats claim that SCC is wasting money by not using or selling buildings it owns in Surrey. In just one financial year, 2016/17, £307,464 was spent on maintaining 20 vacant buildings.

They also point out that SCC is investing in property outside of the county – when it could be investing locally and contributing to the local economy.

Furthermore SCC is not using revenue raised from such investments to support the provision of essential services, despite repeatedly assuring residents that income from commercial property will be reinvested in services. It has even recently earmarked £3.8m of this income to be spent on purchasing more property.

Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council, said:

“This budget contains drastic cuts to services such as libraries, road maintenance, services for children and families as well as cuts to support for people with learning disabilities.

She notes it is a failure of the Conservative-administration to get to grips with the financial problems at County Hall, as well as a failure by central government to provide adequate funding to County Councils.

Liberal Democrat Councillors on Surrey are clear that the Conservative administration needs to take its share of the blame for the financial crisis at County Hall and cite the report by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy saying “the Council’s financial plans are not robust and it is at risk of becoming financially unsustainable” and that the council’s financial position was “extremely worrying”. Given the continuing financial mess at County Hall, it is clear the report was entirely correct in its analysis and its warnings have not been heeded.

Councillor Watson also cites the many empty council owned buildings across the county that the County Council has failed to utilise properly, instead letting them decay and incurring hundreds of thousands of pounds of costs keeping them empty, in some cases for over a decade. In just one financial year, 2016/17, £307,464 was spent on maintaining 20 vacant buildings. This is a straightforward waste of money and a missed opportunity to bring in capital receipts or rental income which would have improved the County Council’s financial position.

“Because of the financial crisis at County Hall, the Conservative-administration is now gambling about £200m of pounds of council tax payers’ money on purchasing commercial property, such as warehouses and office blocks, hundreds of miles away from Surrey. This is risky and will not promote economic growth within the county as so many of the properties are so far away.

“Every day, the County Council is acting more like a property investment company rather than a local authority. Even the Government, in a recent piece of guidance, had to remind councils like Surrey County Council that “local authorities need to remember that their prime duty is to deliver statutory services for local residents” – this is something that the Conservative-administration has clearly forgotten.

“This budget is a bad deal for Surrey residents, who are being asked to pay more for less. The County Council’s own survey of residents revealed that only 37% of people believed that the County Council provided value for money. Surrey residents should not have to pick up the bill or lose essential services because of the failures of this Conservative-administration”

Wisley Junction Improvements

In 2017, Highways England held a consultation on improvements to Junction 10 (where the A3 meets the M25 near Cobham. The improvements are needed as there are long queues at peak hours (where traffic joins and leaves the M25) and a high level of accidents. The consultation favoured two options:

  • OPTION 14: high level flyovers taking traffic from the A3 over the existing roundabout and onto the M25 to Heathrow and over the top to the M25 heading to the east.
  • OPTION 9: a replacement for the existing roundabout to provide higher capacity. Highways England chose Option 14, but has made enhancements in response to views which arose from the consultation.

It has enhanced its new roundabout scheme and provided dedicated left turns onto and off the M25. They have avoided the need to take land from RHS Wisley and have enhanced the traffic flow off the A3 at the Painshill junction.

This scheme aims to alleviate long queues, reduce accidents and encourage traffic from the north to use the A3 and the improved junction instead of cutting through Weybridge, Cobham and Esher. The construction is planned to start in 2020/21.

Find out more

Crisis in care

Our care system is broken. Austerity policies, reduced central grants to councils and an ageing population together have brought us near to crisis. This is a national problem, felt locally. It is made worse when local councils have mis-managed their budgets. In Surrey, Conservative Surrey County Council (SCC) kept rate increases lower than they needed to and made costly investment errors. As result SCC has to make serious cuts in services to our needy elderly and high-dependency younger adults.

There are now more people being refused help because their needs are “not great enough”; less support for voluntary services, and a greater dependence on regular input from family members to take care of basic needs – no good if you have no family locally, or if they are worn out by caring.

In 2011, the Liberal Democrats in government led a review of care. The resulting Dilnot report and legislation designed to fix funding of care have been ignored by Conservative governments. We need reform, and soon.

Tackling the housing crisis

The housing crisis in Britain has become an emergency. For far too long Britain has built many fewer homes than we need. Unless we build enough to meet demand, year after year, we will find that housing costs rise further out of reach.

Just to catch up with what we need today, we have to build 300,000 homes a year nationally – almost double the current level. These new houses and flats must be sustainably planned to ensure that excessive pressure is not placed on existing infrastructure.

Elmbridge borough wants to meet the needs of its people in terms of housing. Yet at every turn it comes up against the elephant in the room – the British government – which undermines local government at every turn.

The Liberal Democrats would empower localities to look after the needs of their own population and their own priorities, rather than being dictated to by central government.

A Lib Dem approach in Elmbridge

What would a Liberal Democrat Elmbridge do to solve the housing crisis if the national government got off our back?

Without restrictions from central government, Elmbridge could:

Borrow funds to build social housing

Elmbridge has the ability to service the loans, especially as interest rates are still at an historically low level. We would be investing in bricks and mortar which is always considered a very safe investment.  Elmbridge can’t though, because the national government heavily restricts our ability to do this.

Get money back when social housing is sold and reinvest this in more social housing

The national government forces local authorities and housing associations to sell houses at a discount of up to £80,000 under its ‘right to buy’ social housing programme, without any compensation to us, the owners. And then, prevents councils from using the revenue they do receive from the sales to build more social housing.

Improve the experience of renting

Elmbridge could ban letting fees for tenants, cap up-front deposits at a reasonable level, and increase minimum standards of repair and services in rented homes. We would Introduce longer tenancies, with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built in, to give tenants more security. Elmbridge cannot do this now because councils are prevented from doing this by the national government.  Our national government makes it impossible for Elmbridge to implement all the improvements we could offer to people renting in the borough.

Stop developers reneging on development payments to local councils

When Elmbridge gives permission for a developer to build a block of flats or a new street, this is on  condition that a certain proportion of the build is affordable housing. Alternatively, the developer may offer to pay a sum of money instead. The national government has made a law that allows developers to renege on paying this money once the development is built. This makes a complete mockery of the planning system.

Scrap stamp duty

The national government policy on stamp duty – a punishing 5% on homes over £250,000 across Britain – deters people from moving when they need more space. Instead of  buying a larger property and releasing a smaller one to the market, residents add extensions and loft conversions – making smaller houses bigger and reducing the number of smaller homes for first-time buyers and couples starting a family.

Our view

The national government and the media often blame NIMBYs and local planning for the lack of housing in our country. This is far from the truth. It is primarily the national government’s taxation and spending policy that stops local governments like Elmbridge planning for building the homes needed for healthy communities.