Wednesday, 19 December 2012

£14,815,000 for Schools in Bristol

Find out how much the Pupil Premium is worth in area or school by clicking here.

David Laws, Minister of State (Schools) at the Department of Education has today announced another step forward in the funding of the Liberal Democrat's Pupil Premium which channels extra funding to schools based on the number of pupils claiming (or having claimed in the past 5 years) free school meals.

The premium for 2013/14 will be £900 per pupil (worth £1.875bn according to this briefing from the Department for Education - as opposed to the figure on the above link - although I believe the latter may include the cost of other related schemes). This is an increase from £623 in 2012/13 and a step towards a target of channelling £2.5bn in this way.

The beauty of the Pupil Premium is that it is an additional sum for the school to use in the way they best see fit. There is no central dictation of how to spend the funds so they can be used for the general good of all the pupils or in a more targeted way. Outcomes are monitored by Ofsted, though, so any spending should have a measurable result.

It's another example of a thoroughly progressive measure being pushed from the Liberal Democrat Manifesto, through the coalition agreement and into practice by Lib Dems in Government. In hard and austere times, we are - contrary to the popular narrative - working to introduce fairness into the system. We can't always be successful but we can make our successes count. 


Saturday, 15 December 2012

Gaining in Government, Differentiating from the Tories

Being a Liberal Democrat is not always never easy but some things have the power to make it all worthwhile - and in the last few weeks there have been a number of things that fall into that category.

I've discussed Equal Marriage here, here and here. And equal marriage legislation is something of which we can be, justly, proud.

But there have been other things which have made me proud to be a Lib Dem: The raising of the personal allowance as far and as fast would never have happened under either a Labour or Conservative Government: millions have been lifted out of Income Tax and millions more have had their Income Tax cut.

On Leveson, Nick Clegg set new parliamentary precedent by setting out a distinctive Liberal Democratic response from the Government front bench.

Liberal Democrats have also been central to the introduction (from 2015) of shared Parental Leave: allowing parents to decide what best works for them when they have a newborn child.

This week, two parliamentary committees have challenged the Government: the Home Affairs Select Committee has called for a Royal Commission into Drugs and the Joint Committee of the Houses of Commons and Lords has torn apart the Draft Data Communications Bill.

On both of these issues, Clegg has stood up and supported the outcome of the reports in direct conflict with the Prime Minister and the Home Office.On both of these issues he has stood firmly, and vocally on the side of Liberalism.

Here is the Deputy Prime Minister in his letter to Members and Supporters this week:

Dear Andrew, 
Do you want the Home Secretary to be able to order the storage of vast quantities of data about who you email and call, your physical location, your web browsing and Facebook sessions? No, neither do I. Untargeted, blanket powers like these are an invitation for future governments to invade your privacy.
That's why this week I pressed the pause button on the Communications Data Bill that was going through Parliament. A special committee was established to look at the legislation and its conclusions, published on Tuesday, were crystal clear - the legislation didn't strike the right balance between our security and our personal privacy. We need to have a fundamental rethink and produce better proposals which give the police and security professionals the powers they need without going over the top. 
My decision sparked controversy in some quarters, with the usual allegations that by attempting to protect civil liberties you are, by default, on the side of terrorists and paedophiles. I’m not usually inclined to dignify such arguments with a response, but let me just repeat what I said in the papers: of course we need to look at what new technology means for how we protect people from serious crime, and we will need to take new measures to address the problem. But we can do that by striking the right balance between our collective security needs and our individual right to privacy. 
That is a difficult balance to strike - even more so when you are in Government. But it is no use standing up for civil liberties in opposition if you then forget all about them in power. It’s the same pattern that sees politicians rule out a sane approach to drug laws until they are safely out of office and only then they reveal they always favoured the kind of approach this week’s Home Affairs Select Committee suggested - a willingness to look in an open-minded way at all the evidence and alternative ways of dealing with the problems caused by drugs. 
In all of this I am bewildered by the way some of the biggest opponents of any kind of independent regulation of the press see no problem with the apparently limitless Government regulation of individual citizens. Liberalism for me is about protecting people from overmighty institutions while enabling people to get on in life. That’s not easy and we must always ensure that we ask ourselves tough questions, but I’m confident we are playing our part in getting the balance right. If you want to help the Liberal Democrats as we campaign for civil liberties you can support us here.
Thank you,

To subscribe to Nick's weekly letter, click here.


A special mention to Julian Huppert MP who (along with Lord Strasburger) was a member of the Joint Committee and is also a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee. A true Civil Libertarian and justly one of our most highly regarded MPs.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Equal Marriage: A Lib Dem Gain.

Be in no doubt, this would not have been achieved as fast and as comprehensively as it has without the Lib Dems in Government. You only have to look at the number of Tory backbenchers who are against the issue to see it wouldn't have been pushed through a Tory government - and the jury's out as to whether Labour would have pursued it.

It may not be perfect, there may still be work to do, but EVERY Lib Dem can be proud today.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Don't Go To Corby*...

...come to Bristol instead!

Two weeks today in Bristol we have a Mayoral Election. If you are anywhere near, your help in support of our candidate Dr Jon Rogers would be much appreciated.

As you are no doubt aware, Bristol is currently a minority Lib Dem administration. The Labour candidate is currently favourite which would see a Mayor drawing his cabinet from the minority party on council! With Jon as mayor we can continue to drive forward Liberal Democratic principles in the City.

There's an action day this Saturday; if you are at a loose end, why don't you sign up here. Otherwise, the campaign office is open every day from now until Nov 15 - and there's always things to be done!


*Obviously if you are in the vicinity of Corby (or Cardiff, or Manchester) then I wouldn't to stop you helping there; but if you're nearer Bristol - or making a special trip - then this is really the place to be!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

An improved Focus - and an appeal

When I started Lib Dem Gains in December 2010, I envisioned making 2 or 3 short posts a week as a digest of Liberal Democrat achievements in government and how these were being reported in the Lib Dem blogsphere and beyond.

My first post outlined my intentions for the blog thus:

"I intend it to function as a digest of links to news reports and blog articles about positive Liberal Democrat achievements arising from the coalition. Occasionally I shall cross-post longer pieces but don't anticipate I'll have the time to do that on an ongoing basis."
Unfortunately I never kept up the pace of the posts and as a result, the blog looks a bit sorry for itself. I do think, however, that there is room for a positive blog "tracking and celebrating Liberal Democrat influence on Government Policy." Almost exactly 18 months after that first post, the Lib Dems are still being used as a punchbag, despite a good many achievements in implementing manifesto commitments or minimising the excesses of the Conservatives. So I'm asking for help...

Whether it be the Pupil Premium, Increased Tax Allowances or Civil Marriage Equality, - or any one of a host of other issues - if you have something positive to say, I want to hear from you. I'd like, somehow, to build Lib Dem Gains into a kind of online, national edition of Focus. I'm not sure how, yet, but think additional content from both guest and regular bloggers could be one way forward.

If you want to help, drop me an e-mail.


P.S. I would note that the remit of Lib Dem Gains is a positive one. There are issues that I do not agree with the Government on and I express these opinions elsewhere. I'd ask potential contributors to do the same.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Election Broadcast

In common with every other Lib Dem Blogger, here's the Local election Broadcast which succinctly outlines some of the key achievements in National Government. I particularly like Nick Clegg's comment that
"we should make sure that tax cuts are aimed at people on middle and lower incomes and I just want us to move the tax system in a direction where there is less tax on income, effort and work and more tax on wealth and the wealthy."
The video is light on achievements in Local Government - I assume these will be elaborated on later in campaign and by local parties - but party members got an e-mail from Jo Swinson MP today which outlined some of these too:
Unlike Labour and the Conservatives, every Liberal Democrat council in England has frozen council tax.

Also, according to the Local Government Chronicle, Liberal Democrat councils are twice as likely to give pay rises to low paid workers compared to Labour and five times more likely than the Conservatives.

Anyway, here's the video:


Sunday, 11 March 2012

What will YOU do with YOUR Sixty Pounds?

This is another post about the Liberal Democrats push to increase the Personal Allowance towards (and beyond) £10,000. I make no apologies for that, although I do promise to focus on other things in future posts.

I mentioned in this post about Caron Lindsay's idea that we should relate the figures of tax saved to real-life examples of what this money could be spent on. It appears that Caron's wise words have been listened to by the party as members got an e-mail from Party President, Tim Farron on Friday.

In it he discussed this issue and launched a website encouraging people to think about how they would spend an extra £60 a month. (This represents* the basic rate tax saved by increasing the Annual Allowance from £6,475 when the coalition took power - which was unchanged from previous year - to £10,000.)

So what are you doing with the £16.67 you're already saving in income tax each month? What would you do with an additional £43.33?

For myself, it'd make things a bit more comfortable while I pay down debt and save for a trip to Australia. I appreciate, though, that that isn't going to help with an economic stimulus, so I shall also purchase new clothes, which are even more desperately needed now I've lost over a stone in weight!

You can respond here and say what you would do? Note that the website asks for an e-mail address which is, presumably, for authentication purposes but may also lead to you being added to a mailing list.

Once you've completed the form, the site will also give you information about the impact of the policy locally. In Bristol, 16,200 people will be taken out of Income Tax altogether.


*Pedants note - the actual figure before rounding is £58.75.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Sooo... What have the Liberal Democats achieved in Government?

I recently posted a piece which had a link to Mark Pack's Facebook page where he is posting an achievement for the Lib Dems in government every day. Today, though, he has published this 'infographic' which pinpoints a number of the party's policies which are now being enacted.

You can visit Mark's site here, where you can see a larger version and also sign up to his excellant monthly e-mail.


Saturday, 3 March 2012

Winning the Arguments on Tax (2)

Earlier this week, over on Lib Dem Voice, Stephen Tall reported on a ComRes poll for the Independent which saw 60% of respondents agreeing with the proposition:
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? People on high incomes should pay more in tax in order to take people on the lowest incomes out of tax altogether.
As Stephen points out, this isn't quite Lib Dem policy (which is to seek to tax wealth whilst taking lower income families out of tax) but it does show a general support for the principle of the state seeking to supporting those with the lowest income and wealth in society through the taxation system.

Stephen provides some analysis of the figures, based on the poll's tables (which you can find here). 

I'd like to add a couple of points:

The tables show the policy is supported by a majority in each social group although this support is weaker amongst those in the "higher" groups. 

More surprisingly, though, support is weakest amongst younger people, who would be amongst the likely beneficiaries, which suggests a (probably general) need for greater engagement with these (18-24 and 25-34) age-groups.

There's a few other points that are thrown up in the tables but which probably fall outside of the remit of this blog - you may find another post on the subject appearing over on the the widow's world sometime!


Saturday, 25 February 2012

Winning the Arguments on Tax

Courtesy of Mark Pack's Facebook page, which is a fabulous resource for Lib Dem related (and general political) news, here's a link to a photo of The Times' editorial yesterday which considers favourably the principles underlying Lib Dem tax policy: a presumption towards the taxation of wealth as opposed to income.

And it's not just The Times: Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home also advocates tax cuts and (an element) of increased Wealth Taxes, although he comes at this from a somewhat different angle.Tory MP Mark Reckless has popped up on the wireless advocating Council Tax rebanding and closing of Stamp Duty and Capital Gains Tax loopholes. The Spectator has an interesting report on two papers from the OECD which would also appear to support this position.

Of course, there are still a number of disenting voices on the right... you can always rely on The Telegraph to see moves to rebalancing the burden of taxation as "cynical targetting of the better off"...


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Every action...

...has an equal and opposite reaction. It's an irrefutable law of physics (at least for now, although we did think that nothing could travel faster of light and that is now being questioned...)

It could also be a law of coalition politics - the Tories and Lib Dems are able to press ahead on things on which they agree and give way on other things with with which they don't. Earlier on Facebook, Caron Lindsay posted a link to this Huffington Post piece by Louise Phillips which deals with exactly this. Every time you hear a Lib Dem talk about increases in personal allowances remember that Tories gave up plans to increase the Inheritance Tax Nil Rate Band, (re-)introduce Married Couples Allowances or remove the current 50% "Additional Tax" band.

Caron being Caron, though, she didn't leave it at a just a Facebook link - she's written her own excellent post on the subject. She succinctly points out that the reduced tax has been swamped by people's experience of high inflation and wonders whether it is better presenting the facts as practical examples of what this could have purchased rather than just pounds and pence.

As inflation comes down and this year's annual allowance increase (whether that be the £8,105 previously announced or a new, higher figure urged on Osborne by Lib Dem ministers) kicks in, she'll have to think of bigger examples of how the Liberal Democrats are making a positive difference to people's take home pay, and their monthly finances.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Les Ebdon appointed by Vince Cable

Today, the (Lib Dem) Business, Innovation and Skills Secretary, Vince Cable, appointed Les Ebdon as the head of the new Office for Fair Access (OFFA), the body charged with safeguarding and promoting  fair access to Universities and helping ensure that admission policies do not unfairly discriminate against those in state schools or from less privileged backgrounds.

Tory backbenchers (as well as Michael Gove and, it is said, David Cameron) were against the move, and the right-wing media are crying foul. These pieces, from The Telegraph and The Spectator, are especially sneering (written, coincidentally, by former pupils at, respectively, Eton and Winchester who both studied at Cambridge). Much is made of the rejection of his candidature by the BIS select committee.

These protests smack of faux-indignation at a Government minister rejecting the wishes of parliamentarians and completely overlooking the fact - despite the fact the committee is finally balanced with 5 Tories, 5 Labour and 1 Lib Dem - the sections in the report which specifically questioned Mr Ebdon's suitability were voted down by Conservative members.

The truth is that the idea of a Lib Dem Secretary (with the support of his Tory minister, David Willetts) exercising their right to appoint the person they see most fit for the job. At least two of those committee members - Margot James and Nadhim Zahawi - come from precisely the privately educated, Russell Group University background* that breeds the sort of advantage that Mr Ebdon role seeks to help redress. A group that seem to want to keep the insular cloistered world of the Elite Institutions both insular and cloistered.

I can't pretend to know anything about the merits or otherwise of Mr Ebdon as a candidate, per se, but it does seem from a relatively casual reading of the situation, that Mr Cable has been right in asserting his ministerial power. Judging by the howls of protest from the right, I'm almost certain he is. If so, he has done so at the expense of a conservative/Conservative establishment who seem not to recognise a problem in the system, let alone desire any kind of remedial action.


P.S. Lord Bonkers over at Liberal England has written an interesting piece on current University admission policies and contrasts it with his own experiences in the 1970's.

*In fairness, Simon Kirby, who also voted against Mr Ebdon, did not have a private or "elite" education. I couldn't find any information on Rebecca Harris' background.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

16 Good Things... and counting daily!

It's been a while, but look out for more frequent posts going forward...

This post is to a couple of links which may be of interest... First, with a hat-tip to the great Jennie Rigg upon whose blog I found this link, a blogpost by Andrew Hickey: Sixteen good things the Lib Dems have achieved..

The second link is to Mark Pack's e-mail newsletter's Facebook page where he is posting a daily Lib Dem achievement - you can "like" it here.


P.S. There is still the odd political post over on the widow's world too...