Weybridge town meetings

In my May 2018 election literature I promised to run town meetings, if elected.

My ambition is to try and establish a kind of forum where residents and businesses in Weybridge can come together on a regular basis and talk about the kind of Weybridge we want for the future.

Why did I want to do this?

I am committed to trying to enable generative and creative conversations. Conversations which bring people in at the early stages of developing anything new in the town.

All we need is YOU!

We need your ideas, your input, your voice and your help.

  • Shape what happens to the town.
  • Influence and support ideas and plans.
  • Get support from the others and the council for for your own ideas and projects.

We will talk about:

  • The spaces we use.
  • How we get about.
  • How we support people and keep them safe.
  • Our local economy and business.

And we want to know from you:

  • What do we love that we want to protect?
  • What do we need to make better?
  • What would we rather do without?
  • What can you do and what help do you need from the council?

Let’s bring the community together and create a future for Weybridge that we all want.

Trade Deals

Do you want to know what the British proposal is for handling customs after Brexit? Alright then here you go, it’s very simple really…..

If Britain imports something from outside the EU-27 and then that product is shipped into the EU-27 then the British government collects the EU tariff and pays it on to the EU once the goods have been exported onwards.

Say, for example, we import a Harley Davidson motorcycle valued at £10,000 into Britain and the EU has a 10% tariff then if that bike is then exported into an EU-27 country then we would pay the EU £1,000.

Let’s look at another example. Say we import 20 tons of beef from Argentina (at £1,000 per ton with a 10% EU tariff) and two tons are shipped into the EU-27 we would then pass on the tariff of £200 on the two tons.

See I told you it’d be easy.  Oh but wait…. what if we use ten tons of that beef as materials for making beef curry and then sell on that curry as a ready meal into the EU-27? We would have to calculate the proportion of the meal that matches the beef tariff from Argentina.

Oh and if we are importing vegetables in that meal from Asia then we’d have to look at the tariff on each ingredient and then calculate how much we owe the EU-27.

What about car parts? Say we export a car into the EU built by Nissan in Sunderland? Valued at £20,000 export price we’d have to identify the value of specific parts that came from the EU (with a tariff), identify what parts came from outside the EU (with different tariffs) and then when it’s exported into the EU deduct the tariffs on the parts from the EU and pass on the tariffs we collected on non-EU parts.

Getting more complicated now eh? Bear in mind that a car has 30,000 parts! We’d have to do this for all 4,500 plus product nomenclature (product groups) that we trade with the EU.  Bear in mind just one product group like steel plate has over 3,200 different grades of steel and you can begin to see the size of the complexity – and THIS my friends is the top suggestion that Theresa May is still trying to get all her Cabinet and party to agree on from the Body Bag Summit at Chequers, despite the fact that it’s already been ruled out by the EU as completely unrealistic and unworkable. And they’ve categorically stated that the EU will not allow a third country to collect tariffs and duty on its behalf. If there was a dispute then where would Britain as a third country go for resolution outside the EU?  The incompetence of this administration is simply astounding. It’s almost as if they don’t know what they are doing!

Chequers Accord

The Chequers Accord was dead before it was written and the cabinet should have known that after being told for two long years that it is illegal to cherry pick the four pillars/freedoms of the European Union (EU).

The very foundation of the four freedoms of the EU, freedom of movement of goods, capital, people and services are indivisible. If the EU decided that it was going to allow Britain to split these freedoms by permitting cherry picking for goods but not services then they would have to make these same allowances for fifty plus other countries too… because the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules state that you cannot provide a better deal for one nation that you do for others.

In order for the EU to accept the Chequers Accord they’d be in breach of their own international treaties. I suggest that this is a highly unlikely scenario as they’d likely have to start re-negotiating the Canada-EU deal and the Japan-EU deal amongst others.

Another key WTO rule is that if you want to trade favourably then a country must check, measure and control goods coming in and going out of the country. All members of the WTO have agreed this so that they can ensure the right tariffs and quota and quota are being applied.

However, the sovereign British parliament’s EU Withdrawal Act that recently received royal assent by Her Majesty the Queen specifically states in Section 10 that it would be illegal for a British government to do anything that creates new checks and controls on the border on the island of Ireland or damage the Good Friday Agreement. This means that if we crash out of the EU with no deal then we would be subject to the highest possible external tariff regime for every single country in the WTO.  And it would also be impossible for Britain to negotiate free trade deals to mitigate these extortionate tariffs. This would devastate British exporters. completely.

So where are we?  With six weeks of negotiations left before the conclusion of the Article 50 talks, the only proposal from the British government is to ask the EU to break its international treaties and agreements or we leave on the absolute worst possible terms for Britain. A situation you wouldn’t even consider in a nightmare. Or…. alternatively…. we could remain in the EU where we currently trade all around the world, make our own laws in Westminster while also heavily influencing the laws of the largest trade bloc on the planet, control our standards and quality, while also not bringing the country to a standstill. Did you know that between 1990 and 2016 the British economy grew by 68%? That’s faster than the G7! It’s already been damaged since the referendum to one of the worst on our continent.

It’s not too late. Stop Brexit and stop the damage – now before it’s too late.

Welcome

Featured

Membership of the Liberal Democrats locally has been growing fast with people joining from other parties and none.  Recently, our strength in the borough council has doubled – we now have 20% of the councillors and our party has moved from fourth place to second in the council.

We welcome anyone who wants a responsive and accountable local government. This can only be achieved when councillors work hand-in-hand with the people they represent. We value citizen participation. Our goal is a more open, personal and service-minded form of local government. We believe this is the key to enhancing the quality of life of all in Elmbridge.

By-Election in Oxshott and Stoke d’Abernon Ward

Why was the by-election called?  Put simply it was because the incumbent, Cllr James Vickers, resigned.  Why would a councillor resign just after the local elections?  Of course, James knows but was his reason for resigning personal as the Conservatives say?  Reports say not.

First, a little background.  In the election of 2016 all the councillors were up for election at once.  This was because of boundary changes.

Oliver Chappell had the highest result so his term of office was set for four years.

 

Andrew Burley and James Vickers tied at second place.  So to determine whose office would last for three years and whose would last for two years, lots had to be drawn.

 

James Vickers expressed the wish that his term last only two years but there was a legal requirement to draw lots. James won the lot so he was due to serve for three years.  In other words until May 2019

 

It was clear that James would rather serve for a shorter term and to do so he could have resigned in May.  This would have avoided the considerable cost of the by-election around £8,000 to £10,000 for the borough and perhaps £3,000 for the candidates.

Second, the election in May resulted in gains for the Liberal Democrats, net gains for the Conservatives, losses for five of residents’ parties and a wipe out for one residents’ party.  The Conservatives totalled 24 councillors as did the Lib Dems and Residents.    Neither side had a working majority.  The Leader of the borough council, Stuart Selleck of Molesey Residents’ Party, chose to resign.

Without a working majority the new Conservative administration could not guarantee to pass their policies.  The Liberal Democrats believe that such an arrangement would have been in the interests of the people of Elmbridge.  To make the governing of the borough as smooth as possible the party leader agreed a protocol, the details of which are here  Operational Protocol 2018 19.

We, in the Liberal Democrats, expected business as usual.  We were newly in opposition.  However, it quickly became clear that internal squabbles of the Conservative party could not be contained in private.

A small point.  Usually, when the new cabinet is formed they sit in the front benches – as in the national parliament.  But when the council met for the first time some cabinet members had been bounced to the back benches by other factions in the Conservative party.

But then came the bombshell. At the beginning of every year, as each committee meets, the members elect the chair and vice-chair of that committee.  Normally the nominee of the majority party is elected unopposed.  Occasionally there is a contest between the parties for their nominees which is duly won by the majority party.  But this year, in one committee, the Conservatives proposed two councillors for chair.

When the presiding officer sought nominees, Cllr James Vickers nominated Cllr Dorothy Mitchell of Cobham.  Then Cllr James Browne of Cobham nominated Cllr Barry Cheyne of Oatlands.  The councillors from the other parties were dumbfounded. The staff found it difficult to mask their own surprise in their stringent professional presentation of independence.

Cllr Barry Cheyne won the vote and Cllr Dorothy Mitchell stormed out of the room and did not reappear for the remainder of the meeting.  Not long after this meeting James Vickers resigned.

However the Conservative try and present it in public, the Conservatives are clearly not happy bunnies.  By all accounts James Vickers resigned “on a matter of principle”.  He did not like the direction of travel of the new Conservative administration.  Not so much the policies but the general conduct of business within the Conservative Party.

Now you have a chance to make a real difference and vote for Dorothy Ford and the Liberal Democrats.

Dorothy Ford for Oxshott, Stoke d’Abernon and Cobham Fairmile

I moved from Germany to live on the edge of our precious Green Belt, at the very heart of our ward, 36 years ago.  My children enjoyed attending some of the local schools. I enjoyed sharing my love of music with Royal Kent School pupils by playing guitar and singing with them.

I taught languages at a university and at comprehensive schools before working on government policy in Whitehall, and occasionally in Brussels and Strasbourg. I now sing in choirs and study piano.  I am passionate about the enormous benefits of lifelong learning. Providing a quality education, including music and the arts, for all school pupils helps the pupils and society as a whole to blossom.

I am honoured to have recently been awarded the Ashdown Prize for my proposal to accelerate redistribution of food to the homeless and the poor.  This proposal has great potential to benefit the disadvantaged as well as the environment. I am closely wedded to both of these issues. As a teenager, on Saturdays I taught poor hungry children how to read and gave them milk.  As an adult I have helped a young mother learn to read at Oasis Childcare in Cobham, and I helped set up the Cobham Community Hub at Cobham Library. Volunteering to help others can be a friendly, rewarding experience.

It is a sheer pleasure to take daily exercise on our beautiful green fields.  I am fully committed to both safeguarding and enhancing our unique environment, and to building much-needed affordable housing on appropriate sites such as brownfield sites and town centres.  If we are to improve our environment’s footprint, our air quality should be monitored. There is just the first step forward.

I also campaign to protect all the rights of all EU residents.  Many of our local businesses, education services, care services and health services rely on EU citizens as staff, service providers and customers.

I look forward to continuing to listen to, and represent the views and values of all my fellow residents if elected a Councillor.  I offer not just a new face – but a new voice.”

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Coalition

Elmbridge Council ChamberTwo year’s ago, the newly elected leader of the Elmbridge council, Stuart Sellick invited the Liberal Democrats to join the Residents Groups to form a coalition administration.

We had had three choices: support the Conservatives or the Residents on a confidence and supply basis;  join a coalition with the Residents (there was not an offer of a coalition from the Conservatives); or, remain separate from both.

The Liberal Democrats had, in 2015, come out of a coalition nationally and had suffered for it – despite our believing that in 2010 a coalition was the best option for the country.

The residents group was and is already a coalition so our joining it meant a coalition of a coalition.  But unlike the national coalition, in Elmbridge the Liberal Democrats were the largest party in the coalition.

At that time, there was much criticism, as well as speculation, that the new coalition would be short-lived and unable to achieve any significant changes to the borough but we in the Liberal Democrat felt it was the appropriate course of action for the smooth running of the borough.

We wanted to improve the planning enforcement function, begin a serious housing programme, move the car park policy from a money-making to a service basis and put the local plan process onto a firm footing – all this was achieved whilst maintaining our council tax below general local inflation and maintaining our financial reserves.

We met all of our targets and more but there is still more to do.  This was the first Liberal Democrat coalition in the borough’s history.  On our way to running Elmbridge by ourselves – in the not too distant future – we plan to work with councillors of all parties and of none to ensure the borough is well run and that Elmbridge remains the best place to live in England.

Elmbridge May 2018 Elections

The May elections the Conservatives gained four councillors but lost one, the Liberal Democrats gained one and the Residents lost four councillors.  The election did not produce an outright winner and therefore there is no overall control in the borough.  The Conservative Party ended up with 24 councillors, the Residents 15 and the Liberal Democrats 9.

Change in Party Success

Over the last few years in Elmbridge the Conservative Party and the Residents Parties have been losing seats and the Liberal Democrats gaining.

Elmbridge Change in Seats

Year on year, albeit gradually ,the proportion of councillors in the borough has been moving towards the Liberal Democrats.  The Lib Dems have risen from a tenth of the councillors to a fifth.

It looks even more dramatic with the numbers.of councillors.

Seats Change

If you were expecting the negative numbers to be balanced by the positive numbers, which is of course usual, then you might not have remembered that the number of members of the council was cut from 60 to 48 in 2016.

Changes next time

Elmbridge consists of a number of very safe wards and some very close contests.  The current position is as follows.

Swing by ward

The largest swing in the recent elections was 22% from Resident to the Conservatives in Walton Central ward. So the top half of the table above could all change hands next time.  Your vote in such wards will make a difference.  The world would have to turn flat before Oxshott changes hands.

Your Personnel Planning Alerts

Planning Alert

Registering your account

If you would like to receive alerts for planning applications in your locality simply click here. Alternatively, go to the Elmbridge borough website and click on the “My Account” at the top right of your screen.  On the next screen register your details. You will then be given the option of getting planning application alerts.

Choosing your planning alerts area

You will then be given the option of choosing the extent of the area that you will be given alerts – up to 500m.  I would recommend choosing the maximum area because you can always cut it down later if you find there are too many alerts.

You can also take up other options relating to changes to local services.

More Planning Information

If you would like more planning information at Elmbridge, for example to find a planning application to how to object to a planning application click here.

Councillors’ Allowances

In the recent Conservative Party manifesto they say

“They even put up their personal allowances by 12%”

Here is the truth

Coupled with the reduction in the number of councillors, the overall councillor pay bill was reduced by £22,547 a year.  In 2008/09 the total councillor allowances and expenses came to £389,296.  In 2017/18 the total was £338,855, a reduction of over 13% or £50,000.

In May 2016 the number of councillors of Elmbridge borough was reduced 60 to 48.  This move was supported by the Liberal Democrats who would rather have had the number of councillors set to 32 or even fewer.

In consideration of this reduction in the number of councillors and the consequent increase in workload, the the independent body that recommends councillors’ pay decided to undertake a comprehensive review of councillors’ pay in Elmbridge.

The Liberal Democrats view was whatever the review body recommended, we would accept it.

The review decided that councillors should be paid less than £7 an hour (the minimum living wage is £8.75-£10.20). Some pay would be cut, others increased – depending on the workload involved.

The Liberal Democrats voted to implement the recommendations of the independent review body. The Conservative did not.  So the Conservatives voted to set up an independent review body to remove the possibility of councillors setting their own pay and then – when the review body reported its findings – voted against the findings.

The review was coherent and comprehensive – see the report for yourself Report of the Independent Remuneration Panel – September 2016.