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.

Heathrow third runway – your say








In  October 2016 the national government announced that the Heathrow Northwest Runway Scheme was its preferred location for new runway capacity in the south east,  and ran a 16 week consultation.

A consultation on the revised draft Airports National Policy Statement is now underway. This is an opportunity to record your views on the proposals.

The revised draft Airports National Policy Statement sets out:

  • the need for additional airport capacity in the south-east of England
  • why government believes that need is best met by a north-west runway at Heathrow Airport
  • the specific requirements that an applicant for a new north-west runway will need to meet to gain development consent.

The consultation runs until 19th December 2017. For more information click here or phone 0300 123 4797 or go to this page to make a response.

Homes for the future

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.

The perverse position is that we already have enough bedrooms to house everyone.  Properties are left empty and others have more bedrooms than people.  The mix of housing is totally out of kilter.  We have to rebalance the supply of housing to reflect the needs of our people today and for the decades to come.

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

On a national scale we would create at least ten new garden cities in providing tens of thousands of high-quality new zero carbon homes, with gardens and shared green space, jobs, schools and public transport.  Only when homes are built alongside transport, education and health facilities can communities develop robustly.

On a local scale the national government should stop undermining local government.   The Liberal Democrats would empower localities to look after the needs of their own population and their own priorities.

Such action would include:

  • The national government fully funding the right to buy social housing programme.  In other words, if the national government maintains the right to buy for tenants, the discount between the market price and the price offered to the tenant is paid for by the national government.  This sum could then be used to build more social housing.
  • Ending the national government’s restriction of local government borrowing for housing.  This would greatly increase the supply of social housing to meet local needs.
  • Requiring local plans to take into account at least 15 years of future housing need for the indigenous population – focusing on long-term development and community needs.
  • Improving renting by banning lettings fees for tenants, capping up-front deposits, and increasing minimum standards in rented homes.
  • Promoting longer tenancies of three years or more with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built in, to give tenants security and limit rent hikes.
  • Strengthening local government powers to enforce higher quality standards in private rented properties.
  • Improving protections against rogue landlords through mandatory licensing and allow access for tenants to the database of rogue landlords and letting agents.
  • Giving tenants first refusal to buy their rented home, if their landlord decides to sell during their tenancy, at the market rate.

In the longer term the provision of extra homes would be assisted by: gradually removing the capital gains tax exemption on domestic property; reforming and gradually eliminating stamp duty; and, introducing a land value tax.  These actions alone will begin to nudge people into considering their house as a home and not as their main investment opportunity.  Not only would this allow people to move more frequently to new homes that suit their needs but would help the economy by rebalancing our savings into investing into industry and commerce.

The national government and the media often blame nimbies and local planning for the lack of housing in our country but it is the national government’s taxation and spending policy that stops local governments like Elmbridge planning for building the homes needed for healthy communities.

Public workers’ pay cap

We believe that the government should end immediately the public sector pay cap and allow public organisations to arrange their own pay structures. For example, Elmbridge borough does not follow national pay agreements simply because we could not recruit the staff we need if we kept pay within the British government’s guidelines. Since the recent dramatic fall in value of the pound the pressures on living standards have been even greater. The English health service is under strain as service demand increases and fellow Europeans begin to leave in anticipation of Brexit. Hospitals are put into the perverse position of having to hire agency nurses because so many full-time nurses are leaving. The British cabinet loves controlling everything. It has jettisoned Europe, it is now attempting to override parliament and it has long since emasculated local and provincial government. The health, fire, education and police services have their own
budgets so why not let them pay what they want and deliver in the way they want without being second guessed by Westminster.