Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Pupil Premium

One of the biggest achievements of the Liberal Democrats in this government is pushing through the introduction of the "Pupil Premium". Whilst this was in both party's manifestos, the Tory commitment was much less specific than the Lib Dem's policy as I discussed here.

Today the Department for Education announced that next year a total of £1.25bn will be available for the programme, partly due to a reduction in the number of pupils claiming free school meals, with the figure increasing to £2.5bn in 2014-15. This is important as £2.5bn was the commitment in the Liberal Democrat's manifesto.

But what does £2.5bn mean in practice? Too often we hear governments and others bandy around large figures out of context in the hope that their size alone will impress. In my constituency (Bristol South) the Premium will amount to £1.84m - again hard to assess given the size of the constituency and number of schools involved.

Fortunately, the government is being open about the funding formula: an extra £488 for every pupil on free school meals, aggregated and paid on a per-school basis.

This money can be spent as the school feels fit but there is no doubt that this measure is a real attempt to target funding at those areas of need - a point addressed in this letter to party members from Sarah Teather MP, Minister of State for Children and Families (pictured above):

"Dear Andrew,
Liberal Democrats have always believed that education is the engine of social mobility, now we are making it happen.
Today the Government released the final Pupil Premium figures for every English local authority, constituency and school. I am delighted to announce that every school this year will receive an extra £488 for each child on free school meals they have on their roll.
Schools in your constituency of Bristol South are getting an extra £1,840,000 from the Pupil Premium to improve the education of the most disadvantaged children. You can find out what each school in your council area is getting by clicking here.
This is a real milestone for our party. The Pupil Premium is a policy we devised and campaigned for, and put at the heart of our Coalition negotiations. Now it is more than good policy, it is a reality making a difference to the school down your road. It goes directly into classrooms and will benefit all pupils.
It is also a milestone in breaking the link between poverty and achievement, tackling Labour’s shocking legacy where the richest 16-year olds are three times as likely to get five good GCSEs as the poorest.
This is just the start. We know that some families eligible for free school meals don’t claim them, for example, because some don’t know they can, and so their schools are missing out on funding. We also need to find out what schools are doing that’s really making a difference.
If you’d like to help, you could contact your local school to find out how they are using their Pupil Premium funding, and how they are making sure they are reaching every child.
Together, we can ensure every child is able to fulfil their potential.
Thank you

Sarah Teather MP
Minister of State, Department for Education"

This is a major achievement of being in coalition - and deserves to be shouted from the rooftops for the next 3 and a half years.


Saturday, 17 September 2011

A gain for Lib Dem Gains

Total Politics is currently in the process of publishing the results of their annual awards, voted for by political bloggers across the bloggersphere. Yesterday they published the list of the Top 100 Lib Dem Blogs which I was pleased to see featured the following blogs so highly (amongst many other favourites);
What I didn't see, and it took a Twitter message from a Lib Dem conference attendee who was up 2.16am to catch his plane to Birmingham to alert me to, was this list: Top 100 Lib Dem Bloggers and, in particular, the entry at number 58.

Given that it has been (let's face it) some time since I updated this blog and that my main blog is largely politics-free, this is very flattering - especially as I didn't even vote for myself. So if you did vote for me, many thanks. Here's to future Lib Dem Gains and more blog posts!


Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Green Edition

Yesterday I along with, presumably everyone else on the Lib Dem membership e-mail list, received an e-mail from Simon Hughes (in his capacity as President of the Green Lib Dems) with regard to the party's achievements on Green Issues. Unfortunately I didn't have time to blog last night, so here I am, at the coo's tail as usual.

Those of you who follow Caron's Musings may already have seen her take on the e-mail which got her on the wrong foot from the off - and with good reason. Here, however, is the main text, complete with the links provided. 

Two weeks ago, Chris Huhne, as Energy and Climate Change Secretary, led for the government when his Department's Energy Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons. This creates the framework for the Green Deal, a comprehensive programme of energy efficiency improvements for housing and office buildings, cutting both energy bills and emissions. Householders and business will be able to see up to £10,000 invested in insulation, at no up-front cost, paying back the investment through the lower energy bills they will enjoy as a result.

Last week, Chris Huhne announced the government’s ‘carbon budget’ for the mid-2020s, setting a legal requirement for a 50 per cent reduction (from 1990) by 2025. This creates the certainty businesses need to put in place long-term investments in the expanding low-carbon industries – renewable electricity, electric cars, home insulation. This is the most ambitious legally binding carbon budget set by any government anywhere; and by putting the UK at the forefront of the international debate, we will be able to push the EU and the international community towards further emissions cuts world-wide.

And this week, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, revealed details of the Green Investment Bank, the world’s first green development bank. Up and running from April 2012, this will use an initial £3 billion of public money to lever an additional £15 billion in private investment towards the low-carbon opportunities that are opening up – particularly in offshore wind and energy efficiency.

I was this party’s first environment spokesman over twenty years ago. It makes me proud to see what so many of us campaigned for all those years ago being made a reality now we’re in government. This is a key part of what we Liberal Democrats bring to the coalition, and none of this would have happened without us. As Nick said yesterday, ‘the LibDems have long been the greenest of the main three parties - the difference now is that it is not just a green party but a green party of government’.

Simon Hughes MP
Over on Lord Bonkers' blog, he has an excerpt from a very favourable report on these developments - from the Telegraph, believe it or not!


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

In Which Every Party Gains (or should have...)

Here are excerpts from the three main party manifestos for the last election, in no particular order. See if you can work out which is which:

"We will work to build a consensus for a mainly-elected second chamber to replace the current House of Lords, recognising that an efficient and effective second chamber should play an important role in our democracy and requires both legitimacy and public confidence."
"We will ensure that the hereditary principle is removed from the House of Lords. Further democratic reform to create a fully elected Second Chamber will then be achieved in stages. At the end of the next Parliament one third of the House of Lords will be elected; a further one third of members will be elected at the general election after that. Until the final stage, the representation of all groups should be maintained in equal proportions to now. We will consult widely on these proposals, and on an open-list proportional representation electoral system for the Second Chamber, before putting them to the people in a referendum."

"Replace the House of Lords with a fully-elected second chamber with considerably fewer members than the current House."
The answer? The first is the Conservative Manifesto, the second is the Labour Manifesto and the, third curiously, is the Liberal Democrat one. 

There is something slightly odd about the fact that this one of the key policies and long-standing policies of the party be reduced to just 19 words (plus a further 5 in the summary of key priorities) but perhaps this a measure of how straightforward the policy was - simply an elected second chamber with no ifs, buts or further qualification.

The Labour proposals appear to be more thorough but the commitment was to consult on their proposals before putting them to the public in a referendum (along with AV) so this was rather less a cut and dried policy as it would seem at first reading.

Today the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (with the apparent wholehearted backing of the Prime Minster) has published a draft bill and white paper detailing proposed reforms. You can get more details by following the link, and on this BBC News report, but this excerpts summarises the proposals:
"The draft Bill sets out firm proposals, while the White Paper considers alternative options on which the Government remains open-minded.
The Government is committed to a wholly or mainly elected chamber and both options are reflected in what is published today.
The draft Bill illustrates how a reformed House of Lords with 80 per cent of elected members could look, with the remaining 20 per cent appointed independently to sit as cross-benchers. Alongside this, the White Paper sets out the case for a 100 per cent elected chamber."
Overall, what is being proposed is similar to what was in the Labour manifesto but, unfortunately, they have not responded favourably. Instead the progressive agenda is being carried forward by a Conservative/Lib Dem government.

In one respect this would appear not to be a Lib Dem Gain - after all the draft bill is for a majority rather than wholly elected house and every party accepts the need for reform - but the win is House of Lords reform at all. It is the presence of the Lib Dems in the coalition that has driven this forward - without us it may well have been kicked into the long grass or faced the same fate as every previous attempt at reform over the past 100 years.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Nick lists some Lib Dem Achievements...

In a post here on Wednesday I mentioned Nick Clegg's speech at the National Liberal Club, marking the first anniversary of the coalition government. As part of that speech he discussed what he sees as some of the challenges for the party and for coalition government in the next few years as well as listing some of the Liberal Democrat successes achieved so far.

Many of these have already been mentioned on this blog, but here is a list of the things Nick chose to highlight in his speech:

"...cutting income tax for ordinary taxpayers
ending child detention 
increasing the state pension 
introducing free nursery education for disadvantaged 2 year olds 
adding a quarter of a million apprenticeships 
increasing tax on capital gains 
reining in the banks
creating a Green Investment Bank and a green deal
getting more money into schools to help poorer pupils."
Earlier, there was an interesting section of the speech emphasising the Lib Dem's strength on the the economy in the last parliament and giving a vision of a rebalanced economy for the future:
"But we also needed a Government willing to embark on the long-term changes necessary to fix the economy for the future. Short-term repair and long-term reform: that’s the Liberal Democrat economic agenda in government.
The Liberal Democrats were in the lead in identifying what was wrong with the economy long before the last election. The dangers of the deficit, for one: in fact I remember being criticised for warning of the depth of the cuts that would be required.
But we have also been warning for years about the way in which the economy had become dangerously lopsided; too reliant on London and the South East; pumped up on private and public debt; at the mercy of an under-regulated banking sector; and struggling with a creaking infrastructure.
It is this Liberal Democrat analysis of what is wrong with the economy that underpins the Government’s approach to putting it right.
Reform of the banking system. A Regional Growth Fund to support businesses across the nation. A Green Investment Bank to build the green infrastructure needed to cut carbon emissions.
In short, a rewiring of the economy to ensure sustainable, balanced growth."


Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Accentuating the Positive

There hasn't been a lot for the Liberal Democrats to cheer about in the past couple of weeks and the blogosphere is awash with analysis of where we're at and how we remedy the situation. An excellent post in this regard can be found at Caron's Musings in which she reacts to Nick Clegg's speech this morning.

One of the key factors which has been identified for rebuilding the electoral base is the communication of the positive impact of the party on the coalition - not just on our pet issues but also on those issue which resonate most with the public. I think Caron's picked a particularly unsung Lib Dem Gain in the example she uses here:
"By suggesting that the Liberal Democrats be more assertive about their differences he makes it sound like we need to argue our case more in the Government. It's more that we have to do it in public. I know that our ministers have robustly fought and won arguments within the Government. Remember that mad idea of Osborne's of cutting Housing Benefit for people out of work for a year? That's gone. And who got rid of it? I'll give you a clue. It wasn't any Tory. It was our ministers calmly and feistily acting on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable."
Over on Stephen's Liberal Journal, in his post reacting to Clegg's speech, he lists some of the issues and areas where the Lib Dem influence on Government policy has been stronger and gives the lie to Conservative claims that this is not the case (reported here):
"David Cameron is denying claims that Lib Dems have "moderated" the Conservative agenda. So Dave, as the Browne report suggested uncapped tuition fees, would the debacle of yesterday where [it was suggested] students paid full fees have become a reality for all without Lib Dem intervention? Would this have been brought in without any requirement on the Universities to help the poorer students into Higher Education? Would the income tax threshold have risen so far ahead of inflation, to ease the burden of your VAT increase on the poorest families? Would you have returned pensions in line with earnings, something your party has said for a long time they were against?"
There's a mountain to climb, and many other electoral tests to come, but there is also a lot of positive things to shout about even if things may have been somewhat negative of late. As well as learning the various lessons of last Thursday, we cannot and should not forget them. And we should communicate them as widely as possible.


P.S. Stephen's post also features a bit of classic New Romantics in direct contravention of what Nick says about not going back to the Eighties! :-p

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

What Have the Lib Dems Done for Us? A Poetic Response

Courtesy of Caron at Caron's Musings - which you really should visit, favourite and re-visit, this excellent video has come to my attention:

You can see more of the performer, Chris Young, on his website and his other website and you can follow him on Twitter.


Friday, 8 April 2011

Lib Dem Gains - Bristol Edition

Earlier today I, along with party members throughout the UK, got an e-mail from Nick Clegg's office which outlined how some Liberal Democrat gains will impact on local areas - in my case, the City of Bristol. As a result, here's a special local edition of Lib Dem Gains:

  • 158,000 people are getting a £200 income tax cut (a move which benefits 23 million people across the country
  • 4,700 people have been lifted out of paying income tax altogether, with more to come
  • £625 million extra has gone to Bristol schools, aimed at the most disadvantaged pupils and set to rise to £2.5 billion a year by 2015
  • 64,800 pensioners have been given an extra £4.50 a week – and those retiring from today will be on average £15,000 better off over their retirement.
For those of you in Scotland, or otherwise interested in Scottish politics, mosey on over to Caron's Musings for a list of the gains that could be had from voting Lib Dem there this year.

Feel free to add your own local figures in the comments section, too.


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

What The Hell Have The Lib Dems Done?

The aim of this blog is to document some of the gains made for Liberal Democratic principles and policies in government - either through specific articles or links other places where these are being celebrated.

While I've been without a computer, I became aware of and am now, rather late in the day, able to blog about it. It's a fantastic randomiser of the party's achievements, complete with chapter and verse from the Manifesto.

Click here for the randomiser itemising the many things the Lib Dems have done in government - some of which have been featured on these very pages!

You can also follow it's creator, @william_summers on Twitter.


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Human Trafficking and Student Visas

There have been two quiet, but significant, wins for the Lib Dems in government in the above areas. These are that Britain will cease to opt out of the EU directive on Human Trafficking and there will not be a cap on the number of Student Visas granted. Both of these policies are Liberal Democrat in origin.

I'm not going to go into detail as thas been done better elsewhere. Specifically:

Monday, 14 March 2011

No withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights

You know what it's like, you wait ages for a post to come along and then two come along at once...

The Guardian reports today that withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights will not be an option for consideration by the convention the Government is establishing to explore a UK Bill of Rights despite this being an aim of the Tory right. The commission will also report to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke and Nick Clegg, rather than the Home or Foreign Secretaries.
"Clegg won his battle largely because the coalition agreement, negotiated in haste in the immediate aftermath of the general election, makes it clear that the coalition should not seek to withdraw from the convention. It states: 'We will establish a commission to investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European convention on human rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in British law, and protects and extends British liberties.'"
 The article also points out that this will 
"effectively [leave] prime minister David Cameron with the option of preparing his own party's proposals for the 2015 general election manifesto."
...and for the Liberal Democrats to develop their own policies also.

You can read the article in full here.


P.S. Hat-tip to @NickThornsby on Twitter for the link.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Lib Dem Gains... in the words of Nick Clegg

I know posts here are sporadic but that doesn't meant that I don't believe the Liberal Democrats aren't achieving things in this government. It merely means that my focus has been on other things and that I've not used previous posts in quite the way I anticipated - e.g. as providing a brief digest of coverage on various issues elsewhere.

Anyway, this post comes on the heals of Nick Clegg's closing speech to the Spring Conference, which has garnered much coverage elsewhere. I therefore invite you to visit the party website for the text of the speech, Nick Thornsby's blog for his excerpt and brief analysis of the achievements of the past year and Lib Dem Voice for a summation of key points. 

Also worth a visit are Caron's Musings who has published excerpts with the promise of more analysis later - if you don't already follow her blog, you probably should - and Spiderplant Land where you'll find the text of Nick's opening speech to conference.


Update: Virtually Naked also now has a brief assessment of Nick Clegg and the speech.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Much done, much to do.

In common with every other Lib Dem blogger, here's the party's latest video on the achievements of the past year and ambitions for the next four. 

Featuring Lady (Floella) Benjamin OBE, Party President Tim Farron, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne and Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, it focuses on policies for a fairer, greener, more liberal country.


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Equality of Marriage

Today Lynne Featherstone, Home Office Parliamentary under Secretary of State responsible for equalities and Liberal Democrat MP, announced that the government is to drop the explicit ban on Civil Partnerships in religious settings. This will allow those religious bodies (in England and Wales) that do wish to hold partnership ceremonies to do so.

The bigger announcement, however, is that the government will look at addressing the differences between Marriage and Civil Partnerships.

While a commitment to look at the issue is a long way from legislation allowing for same-gender marriage or mixed-gender Civil Partnerships, I think we can be reasonably certain that had the Conservatives (or, of course, Labour for that matter) been governing alone, this would not be on the agenda at all.

Full equality of access for marriage and Civil Partnerships was only adopted as Liberal Democrat policy adopted at the autumn conference.  Today's announcement means that the party is not now influencing government thinking just in those areas covered by the manifesto or coalition agreement but also in the development of future policy.

As we move towards the first anniversary of the government there will increasingly be issues and policies which were not in either manifesto or the coalition programme. It is reassuring therefore to see that a Liberal tone is being adopted in relation to this issue and this will hopefully apply  to other subjects too.

You can read Lynne Featherstone's blog here and you can read more on the announcement on the Government Equalities Office website.


Friday, 11 February 2011

Protection of Freedoms Bill

Today the government unveiled it's Freedom Bill. As is tradition with these posts, I'll quote from both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Manifestos... and the Coalition Programme for government:

First the Conservative Manifesto:
"To protect our freedoms from state encroachment and encourage greater social responsibility, we will replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights."
Now the Liberal Democrat Manifesto:
"Restore and protect hard-won British civil liberties with a Freedom Bill"
"Introduce a Freedom Bill. We will regulate CCTV, stop councils from spying on people, stop unfair extradition to the US, defend trial by jury, and stop children being fingerprinted at school without their parents’ permission."
"Remove innocent people from the police DNA database and stop storing DNA from innocent people and children in the future, too."
"Ensure that everyone has the same protections under the law by protecting the Human Rights Act."
And finally the Coalition Agreement:
"We will introduce a Freedom Bill."
While the Conservative idea of a UK Bill of Rights sounds attractive on some levels, repealing the Human Rights Act and (potentially) leaving the European Convention on Human RIghts would have been a retrograde step. Now we have a bill which has the following statement on its very first page:
"Secretary Theresa May has made the following statement under section 19(1)(a) of the

Human Rights Act 1998:

In my view the provisions of the Protection of Freedoms Bill are compatible with the

Convention rights."
While it may not (quite) cover all the areas listed - although it also covers a number of other areas - the Protection of Freedoms Bill would not have happened without Liberal Democrats in Government.

Here's a video of Nick Clegg addressing the issue of criminal record checks for those working with children, courtesy of the BBC:

Caron's Musings , Richard Baum , and Duncan Stott have more and if you're so minded, you can read the bill here.


Thursday, 20 January 2011

An End to 28 days Detention Without Charge

It has been announced today that the Government will end the provision for detention without charge for up to 28 days. The limit will now be 14 days although allowance will be made for "very exceptional circumstances" when 28 days may be required.

This measure wasn't in the Coalition Agreement nor was it in the Conservative Manifesto. It sounded familiar, though...
"Reduce the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 14 days."
Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010, page 95

Hat-tip to Virtually Naked for this. Further information can be found on the BBC News site and on the Home Office website.


Thursday, 6 January 2011

Extending Freedom of Information

"We believe in freedom, justice, prosperity and human rights for all and will do all we can to work towards a world where these hopes become reality."
 The Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010

On Friday, Nick Clegg is set to announce plans to extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act and make it easier to process such requests. Bodies such as the Association of Chief Police Officers and UCAS could be covered, according to this report by the BBC.

The Freedom of Information Act was mentioned twice in the Liberal Democrat Manifesto - with specific but not exclusive, reference made to Network Rail:
"Overhaul Network Rail to put the interests of passengers first and bring it under the Freedom of Information Act to make it more open."
"Strengthen the Data Protection Act and the Office of the Information Commissioner, extending Freedom of Information legislation to private companies delivering monopoly public services such as Network Rail." 
By contrast it was not mention in the Conservative Manifesto, although the Office of the Information Commissioner was:
"We will strengthen the powers of the Information Commissioner to penalise any public body found guilty of mismanaging data."
So there's no prizes for identifying the origin of the following commitment from the Coalition Agreement:
"We will extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency."
...and no prizes for guessing the origin of tomorrow's proposals.