North Shropshire Lib Dems dismayed as local mp rejects free school meals for hungry children

o child should go hungry

Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson Helen Morgan has expressed disappointment that North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson failed to support proposals for free school meals in the holidays, despite a recent Children’s Society report showing 31% of children in North Shropshire live in poverty.

Helen said:

‘The report by the Children’s Society makes sobering reading – nearly a third of North Shropshire’s children live in poverty. It’s just unacceptable for their own MP to reject measures designed to help them, when they have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

‘These numbers aren’t theoretical. The Oswestry and Borders food bank has reported a 42% increase in the number of people needing help from April to September, showing that more and more local families are struggling to feed their children. It’s outrageous that the Conservatives do not recognise this hardship.

‘That’s why Kirsty Williams, the Lib Dem Education Minister for Wales, has acted to help hungry children in Wales, and why the Liberal Democrats are joining Marcus Rashford in his campaign to ensure that the most vulnerable English children don’t go hungry in the school holidays.’

No child should have to go hungry, on any day of the year

No child should have to go hungry, on any day of the year – add your name to the campaign

Liberal Democrats are calling for:

  • Free school meals to every pupil whose parents or guardians are in receipt of Universal Credit
  • Food vouchers for every one of those pupils in every school holiday and during any period of lockdown
  • Free school meals to pupils from low-income families whose parents or guardians have no recourse to public funds and destitute asylum seekers.

For more information:

The Liberal Democrat campaign for free school meals can be found here

The full report by the Children’s society for North Shropshire can be found here:

The news release by the Oswestry and Borders Foodbank can be found here:

Helen Morgan
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for North Shropshire
07508 550361

Contact us if you would like to join our fight for a better Shropshire

Condolences for a tragic loss

Owen Paterson MP

Our sincere condolences to Owen Paterson, family and friends for their tragic loss. Devastating news 😢
https://news.sky.com/…/wife-of-tory-mp-owen-paterson-found-…

Heartbreaking news. I know from my own experience what how devastating this will be. Heartfelt condolences to Owen Paterson, family and friends

Constituency Chair, David Walker

I was shocked to read this news this afternoon – so sad for Owen Paterson and his family. My sincere condolences to them.

Helen Morgan – Parliamentary spokesperson for North Shropshire Liberal Democrats

DVSA unfairly penalising learner drivers

Clive Geary condemning DVSA unfairness for learner drivers

The DVSA is unfairly penalising learner drivers - Clive GearyNorth Shropshire Driving Instructor and Lib Dem campaigner, Clive Geary today condemned the Driver & Vehicle Licencing Agency’s treatment of learner drivers during the pandemic. Learner drivers are mainly young people.

Mr Geary said: “I cannot express enough how disappointed I am with the way young people are being penalised through no fault of their own by the DVSA’s policy at this moment in time.

“The Driving & Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) appear to be profiteering from the crisis. There are no driving tests and it would appear this will be for at least 3 months. But they will not extend anyone’s theory test certificate.

“The DVSA profess to make it cheaper to learn to drive as substantiated by a reduction in the cost of the theory test in the not too distant past.”

Clive Geary is a driving instructor based in Weston Rhyn, North Shropshire. He is concerned that the DVSA’s inconsistent approach is unfair.

Due to the Coronavirus, the DVSA has extended the validity of MOT certificates by 6 months. An MOT test is a safety check on a vehicle’s roadworthiness. Mr Geary ponders: “Should a vehicle suffer a brake failure and injuries result who might be at fault? This is generous, if risky. With regards to learning to drive, the DVSA has chosen to be less generous.”

Learner drivers who have passed their theory test are given a certificate which is valid for 2 years. Learner drivers have 2 years in which to book and pass a practical driving test.

All theory tests are currently suspended until the 31st May 2020. All practical driving tests are suspended until at least 20th June 2020, unless you are a critical worker.

Clive explained: “Assuming matters get back to a near-normal, you will not be able to book a practical driving test until at least October/November 2020, although you have paid for and passed a theory test you have not actually got a certificate that is valid for 2 years.

“It seems to me that the DVSA are profiteering from the ongoing crisis as they will not extend the validity of theory test pass certificates.”

If you have a similar issue of inequality during lockdown please contact us

Open Letter to Owen Paterson MP for North Shropshire

 

Open letter to Owen Paterson MP for North Shropshire, requesting a response to the Prime Minister’s press conference this evening.

Dear Mr Paterson,

This evening I have watched the Downing Street press conference. As you can imagine I am angered and frankly frightened about the damage the Prime Minister has inflicted on the country in such a short time.

He has effectively endorsed breaking the law, avoided legitimate questions about his own knowledge of Mr Cummings’ trips, and lied outright, not least by asserting that Mr Cummings was in need of childcare when it is known that this was not the case.

It is deeply insulting to those of us who have endured the lockdown for the greater good. Loved ones have died and been buried alone. Fathers have been unable to attend the births of their babies. Elderly relatives have been isolated from their adult children and their grandchildren.

More worryingly, it shows that Mr Johnson does not value the rule of law. He has lied to the nation in a live public broadcast, without conscience. Trust in the government will be undermined after this shameful display, and meaningful enforcement of public health measures could be very difficult. It is my belief that continued support from our MP is untenable.

I would be grateful if you could address the most concerning elements:

Number 10 Downing Street issued a statement which accused Durham Police of lying about speaking to Mr Cummings’ family. However Durham Police have confirmed that they indeed spoke to Mr Cummings’ family.  At a time when public trust in the Government guidance is critical to save lives, are you comfortable with the Prime Minister’s office issuing statements that are apparently false?

In Saturday’s evening press conference, the Transport Secretary suggested that the guidance had always been open to personal interpretation. However, experience shows the vast majority of the British public, and evidently Durham Police, felt that the guidance, ‘if you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus, do not leave your home for any reason’ was unequivocal. Are you comfortable with the guidance being retrospectively twisted to save the career of an unelected bureaucrat, unaccountable to the British people?

In light of the immense community efforts taking place across the country, it is simply not credible that Mr Cummings’ family could not find the support that they needed in London. In the unlikely event that they are friendless, have no family in the area, and were unable to find paid support, there are community groups who would have helped them with their food shopping during the period.

In backing Mr Cummings, Mr Johnson has undermined public trust to an extraordinary degree, and now threatens the public health initiative.  The country desperately needs this to be effective, so that life can return to normal as soon as possible.

Democracy ends with ‘one rule for the people and another for the elite’ and the public will rightly not accept it. I am extremely concerned that social distancing, already fraying, will now become unenforceable, risking a very damaging second wave of the virus. There is a risk that thousands of people will lose their lives, and many thousands more will lose their jobs and businesses. This issue could not be more serious.

Mr Johnson has shown breath-taking arrogance and contempt for the public sacrifice made over recent weeks. You have made no public comment regarding the matter. Your constituents deserve to know whether you will be continuing to support him in light of the weekend’s dramatic developments.

I look forward to the publication of your response.

Yours sincerely,

Helen Morgan

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for North Shropshire
07508 550361
CC: North Shropshire Liberal Democrats, Shropshire Star, Oswestry and Border Counties Advertiser, Whitchurch Herald, BBC Shropshire, ITV Central News, Oswestry Chronicle

Angry response as Owen Paterson voted against protecting British Farmers

Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn't voted to support British Farmers. Helen is pictured supporting Helen supporting rare-breed farming in 2019

Today Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson voted in parliament to undermine hard-working farmers in North Shropshire. Yesterday, local MP Owen Paterson voted against an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that would have prevented trade deals which undermine current UK food and farming standards.

Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn't voted to support British Farmers. Helen is pictured supporting Helen supporting rare-breed farming in 2019
Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn’t voted to support British Farmers.

Helen (Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for North Shropshire) said: “I’m so angry that our MP ignores the needs of the local economy. In voting against the amendment he has effectively told farmers ‘we’ll sell you out to get our US trade deal, complete with hormone-fed beef and chlorinated chicken’. It’s outrageous.

“This amendment would have protected our farmers by preventing trade deals which allow the import of goods with lower production, animal welfare, environmental and labour standards.

“Along with the looming ‘no deal’ Brexit at the end of the year, our farmers are looking at tariffs on their exports and critical imports (such as machinery and fertiliser) and no protection from substandard food imports in any future trade deals.

“Agriculture and the food industries are our major employer here in North Shropshire, but our MP is more interested in an ideologically pure Brexit than protecting our jobs. North Shropshire deserves better”.

Neil Parish, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, had called on MPs to back his amendment providing protection of our current production standards in law, saying:

“There is no point having world-leading standards in the UK if we do not expect trade partners to reciprocate. Allowing preferential access to food imports produced to lower standards will put many of our farmers at a competitive disadvantage and out of business.

“Not only will this export jobs in farming and food production, it will export the impact of this production, turning a blind eye to poor animal welfare standards abroad and encouraging environmental degradation there. We will be exporting control, not taking it back.”

Helen said: “Mr Paterson has notoriously travelled to the US to listen to the concerns of lobbyists there. But to safeguard jobs in North Shropshire he should be supporting British farmers and food producers. Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for our local industry and local jobs in North Shropshire”.

The NFU had been calling for greater protection for British Farms in the Agricultural Bill
The NFU had been calling for greater protection for British Farms in the Agricultural Bill


Yesterday MPs voted on a series of amendments to the Agricultural Bill

All MPs were sent a letter urging them to back British Farming
The letter said:
“As representatives of farming, consumer, environmental and animal welfare
organisations across the UK, we are urging you to take this last proper
opportunity to ensure that the Bill secures vital safeguards for the high
standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection that
the public value so highly. At this time of crisis, you have the opportunity to
ensure that British farmers can produce the sustainable, healthy food we
need knowing that they will not be undercut by low standards imports as a
result of future trade policy, while meeting the public’s strong expectation
that food standards will be maintained. ”

The letter was co-signed by:

  • Minette Batters – President, National Farmers Union
  • Beccy Speight – Chief Executive, RSPB
  • Chris Sherwood – Chief Executive, RSPCA
  • Miriam Turner and Hugh Knowles – Co-Chief Executives, Friends of the Earth
  • Mark Bridgeman – President, CLA
  • Hilary McGrady – Director-General, National Trust
  • Helen Browning – Chief Executive, Soil Association
  • Sue Davies – Head of Consumer Protection and Food Policy, Which?
  • Patrick Holden – Chief Executive, Sustainable Food Trust
  • Shaun Spiers – Chair, Greener UK & Executive Director, Green Alliance
  • Craig Bennett – Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts
  • Richard Benwell – Chief Executive, Wildlife and Countryside Link
  • Kath Dalmeny – Chief Executive, Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming
  • John Davies – President, NFU Cymru
  • Caroline Drummond – Chief Executive, LEAF
  • George Dunn – Chief Executive, Tenant Farmers Association
  • Ivor Ferguson – President, Ulster Farmers Union
  • Jyoti Fernandes MBE – Chair, Landworkers Alliance
  • Martin Lines – UK Chair, Nature-Friendly Farming Network
  • Andrew McCornick – President, NFU Scotland
  • Darren Moorcroft – Chief Executive, Woodland Trust
  • Kate Norgrove – Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, WWF-UK
  • Doug Parr – Chief Scientist, Greenpeace
  • James Thornton – Chief Executive, ClientEarth
  • James Robinson – Conservation Director, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
  • Sarah-Jane Laing – Chief Executive, Scottish Land & Estates.

Owen Paterson voted against British farmers

Owen Patterson MP for North Shropshire voted against the amendments that the NFU and the other signatories were calling for.  Clause 2 proposed by Neil Parish, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee would have safeguarded British Farms from inferior quality cheap imports and protected the animal welfare and food standards the public expects.

Owen Paterson failed to vote to support British Farmers
Owen Paterson was surprising satisfied that he had hadn’t voted to support British Farmers

Owen Paterson failed to vote to support British Farmers
Owen Paterson failed to vote to support British Farmers on the crucial amendments the NFU and others were calling for.

North Shropshire Lib Dems had previously backed the NFU’s calls to back British farmers. Before the coronavirus lockdown, we had launched a Farming and Food Standards petition to that effect urging Owen Paterson to:

  • Oppose any deals allowing imports of food that would fail to meet our current world-leading standards of hygiene and animal welfare.
  • Add concrete legal protections into the Agriculture Bill to keep current protections for food standards, hygiene and animal welfare, in time for the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020.

Report stage of the Agricultural Bill

13 May 2020
Division 42
Ayes: 277 Noes: 328 (Owen Paterson voted  No)
13 May 2020
Division 43
Ayes: 221 Noes: 352 (Owen Paterson voted  No)
13 May 2020
Division 44
Ayes: 56 Noes: 362 (Owen Paterson voted  No)

Third reading of the Agricultural Bill

13 May 2020
Division 45
Ayes: 360 Noes: 211 (Owen Paterson voted  Yes)
Indeed all of Shropshire’s Conservative MPs failed to back British Farming despite pledging to do so in their manifesto

Reaction to the votes on the Agricultural Bill yesterday

“Despite frequent warm words, it is disappointing the government did not take the opportunity to legislate that they will not allow the imports of food that would be illegal to produce here.” NFU Brexit director Nick von Westenholz‘s response to the Agriculture Bill report stage.

Soil Association reaction: Liz Bowles, Assoc. Director of Food and Farming at the Soil Association said: “As a farmer, and a member of society, I was disappointed in yesterday’s outcome.”
Liz manages one of the largest pedigree flocks of Shropshire sheep in the UK and combines this with being a Council Member of the Breed Society.

Demand Better for farming and food industries
Demand Better for farming and food industries

Public Accounts Committee Press Release

David Walker in West Felton

David Walker, campaigner in Whittington Division, issued a Press Release ahead of the Public Accounts Committee inquiry into local councils buying commercial property that starts on Monday. The Shropshire Star has used some of it here: https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/business/2020/05/08/council-questioned-over-shopping-centres/

My Press Release: Public Accounts Committee inquiry into council commercial spending

07 May 2020

Embargo: none

Commenting on the news that The Public Accounts Committee will look at Shropshire Council’s £52m shopping centre purchase as part of their inquiry into local authority commercial investment, David Walker said: “The purchase of these shopping centres represents a huge risk to Shropshire Council’s finances. Senior administration members seem to have forgotten it isn’t monopoly money they are playing with. Or indeed their own money. They are risking public money!”

The inquiry will be looking to see if the Government Department has effective oversight of the risks to the financial sustainability of local authorities investing in commercial property. The Public Accounts Committee will look at these purchases on the 11th of May.

David Walker is a Civil Engineering Surveyor who has worked in the property and construction industry for over 30 years…

Read more here: https://cllrdavidwalker.org/52m-shopping-centre-purchase-inquiry/

£52m shopping centre purchase inquiry

David Walker in West Felton

It is welcome news that a parliamentary watchdog is to examine Shropshire Council’s £52m shopping centre purchase. This is part of a wider look at local council involvement in purchasing commercial property. The Public Accounts Committee will look at these purchases in May.

The purchase of these shopping centres represents a huge risk to Shropshire Council’s finances. Senior administration members seem to have forgotten it isn’t monopoly money they are playing with. Or indeed their own money. They are risking public money! The risks in the investment clearly outweighed the potential gain. More so when you consider the perilous state of their finances. More so given that more prudent investment strategies would give a better return.

Read more: https://cllrdavidwalker.org/52m-shopping-centre-purchase-inquiry/

Shropshire in the Broadband slow lane

David Walker in West Felton

15 years ago I was campaigning to get Broadband into Bridgnorth. I was concerned then about slow speeds were putting us at an economic disadvantage compared to other areas locally and globally. Fast forward 15 years and we still find Shropshire in the Broadband slow lane! This is despite all of the bluster from Shropshire Council about increasing investment. With the Coronavirus lockdown, more people than ever need good access and fast reliable speeds.

People at home using the internet for work, entertainment or to stay in touch with friends and family is increasing demand on the internet. YouTube, Microsoft, NetFlix and a pile of online content providers throttled their services to help lighten the load. Coronavirus is going to bring about a huge shift in people’s habits. Many of which will become permanent in quite a big paradigm shift. After this is done many people will still want to work at home and enjoy their newfound work/life balance. Many more people will be ordering online. Will they all revert to shopping in town centres? Many more people are downloading films. Will they all revert to going to the cinema? Some will but many won’t. Many businesses were already shifting to online service provision and delivery. They are hardly likely to shift back to a more expensive and less effective model of service delivery. All of these shifts are bad news for the digital divide and those with poor or now access.

Until Shropshire Council pull their finger out, invest our money wisely and apply real pressure on providers and BT then Shropshire is destined to fall further behind the rest of the UK….

Read more: https://cllrdavidwalker.org/shropshire-in-the-broadband-slow-lane/

Shropshire Council Lib Dems call for Highways Cabinet Member to resign

Conservative-run Shropshire Council isn't working as it should

Shropshire Councillors are calling for the resignation of Cllr Steve Davenport who is the Cabinet Member responsible for a failing Highways Department unable to deal with the County’s growing pothole problem.

Councillors from the Opposition Liberal Democrat Group on Shropshire Council will submit a question to the next Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 12th February demanding that Councillor Steve Davenport resign.

“We’ve had enough,” said Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Roger Evans. “Councillors in my Group have raised issues at many meetings but the assurances they are given rarely result in any improvements. Someone has to take responsibility for this failure.”

“During the whole of 2019 Liberal Democrat Councillors were raising issues about the growing number of potholes and the general failure of Shropshire Highways and its contractors Kier and WSP to deal with the problem. Despite these assurances, many from Cllr Davenport himself, the Council felt the need to appoint a consultant to tell them what was going wrong. Clearly whatever action Cllr Davenport had taken over the past year was not working. He should resign.”

When asked at last year’s July Council Meeting for an update by Cllr Chris Mellings, Cllr Davenport said that “the performance of both Kier and WSP is actively managed by officers and that I take a personal interest in that process.” He said that there had been challenges but Cllr Davenport concluded that “meaningful progress is being made and our focus is on providing as good a service as is possible across the whole of Shropshire.”

In September 2019, Cllr David Vasmer put a motion to a full Council meeting demanding that Shropshire review its £21m contract with Kier – it does most of Shropshire Highways work on the ground.

In October a whistle-blower contacted Cllr David Vasmer accusing Shropshire of not authorising payments to Kier properly. At a meeting of Place Overview in November, Cllr Vasmer and Cllr Roger Evans asked a series of questions but received assurances that there was nothing to worry about.

At the December Council Meeting Cllr Davenport finally acknowledged that there had been problems with the Kier contract which he said were being tackled. He said “we do have concerns over the quality of some work undertaken by Kier and we are working with them to address this”

“Cllr Davenport at this stage was still unaware of the level of dissatisfaction with the Highways Department,” commented Councillor Vasmer. “It was only the Chief Executive’s intervention in the New Year that resulted in any real action being taken, despite repeated assurances

“In a recent email to all Councillors, this is what Cllr Davenport admitted ‘We/I had to make drastic changes to improve….this service, I totally support Clive’s ( the Chief Executive’s) intervention here as he (is) leading from the front, I have no power as a cabinet member to make changes that had to be made.’ By his own admission his interventions have failed, he is powerless and should resign.”

 

2019 General Election Results for North Shropshire

2019 General Election Results for North Shropshire - biggest share growth of any party

Thank you to everybody who voted for Helen Morgan on the 12th of December in the 2019 General Election.

Locally we outperformed the national result, the West Midlands regional result and the result in strongly Leave seats.  Helen’s vote went up by 4.7% – the largest increase in vote share compared to 2017 for any party in North Shropshire.  This was our biggest campaign in a long time. Whilst, the national picture wasn’t great for us – 3 weeks before polling day we were looking at a much better result and aiming to take second place – we held our own and made solid progress in target areas. Owen Paterson’s vote share rose modestly whilst Labour’s collapsed.

We have plenty to build upon as we turn our eyes to the County Elections in 2021. For those elections, the Liberal Democrats are currently the largest opposition group and we expect to make gains in North Shropshire. If you are interested in being a Councillor and standing those elections please get in touch.

Nationally the party saw a disappointing result despite seeing a 4.2% increase in vote share and gaining an extra 1.3 million votes compared to 2017. The Conservatives gained 0.3 million votes and Labour lost 2.6 million votes. Yet in seat terms, the Liberal Democrats lost 1 seat, the Conservatives gained 47 seats and Labour lost 59 seats. Turnout was 67.3%, slightly lower than the last election in 2017. The shows clearly the distortion in seats that First Past the post produces. Under a fair voting system, the Liberal Democrats would have gained upwards of 70 seats. Just one of many reasons why the Liberal Democrats have consistently campaigned for electoral reform over the decades. https://www.libdems.org.uk/lder

Regional breakdown the the 2019 Generela Election: BBC
Lib Dems advanced in every region of the UK. In North Shropshire the Lib Dems grew by 4.7% – more than the national and regional amounts except for London, the South East and East. Labour went down everywhere

Labour lost votes in Leave & Remain areas. The Lib Dems gained in both. As a leave area North Shropshire saw and above par rise for the Lib Dems - rising 2.1% more than Leave areas
Labour lost votes in Leave & Remain areas. The Lib Dems gained in both. As a leave area North Shropshire saw and above par rise for the Lib Dems – rising 2.1% more than Leave areas