Why the Brexit deal is critical and “no deal” is simply not an option

Well, she called this General Election saying that she needed to strengthen her hand in the forthcoming talks.  But at the end of this campaign, who is of the opinion that Theresa May is the best person to conduct these talks, especially if she has an enlarged majority with more ideologues and UKIP-ers in tow?

There is no doubt in my mind that she is not best equipped to represent us in these talks–she flip flops all over the place and demonstrably cannot think on her feet.  And the fact that she talks about “no deal” being an option in two years’ time is quite frankly terrifying.

I refer you to the article that appeared in the Observer on Sunday by Will Hutton.  He paints a very stark picture of the “no deal” scenario:

“…a quarter of British exports with the EU pass through one single port, Calais – £3bn a month – with zero border controls or inspection. Who in Calais is going to inspect these goods to see if they correspond to EU rules if we crash out with no deal? Has France any interest in investing quickly in the customs structure to keep British exports flowing? The M20 and M2 will become gigantic truck parks as drivers wait to be inspected.”

Please do read the article in full–you will be amazed and appalled.  I say amazed because it is when you read this article that it comes into stark light that this woman would rather waste 7 weeks on a General Election campaign rather than begin the vital work of safe extrication from the EU.  This shrieks of having the wrong priorities and being only politically motivated.

Furthermore, the OECD has predicted today that Theresa May will fail to secure a comprehensive free trade agreement with the rest of the EU by 2019, meaning the UK would revert to WTO trading terms.

According to Treasury estimates, which the government has still not repudiated, reverting to WTO rules would mean a long-term loss of £45bn a year to the public purse and a 7.5% hit to GDP.

The OECD is also predicting a sharp slowdown in UK growth to just 1% in 2018 due to uncertainty over the Brexit negotiations.

So as we move into the eve of poll I am asking voters to listen to this warning on the major economic risk posed by Theresa May’s extreme, UKIP-style Brexit.

The hardline approach Theresa May has taken, insisting that no deal is better than a bad deal and planning to take us out of the single market, will seriously damage jobs and the public finances for years to come.

According to the government’s own forecast, reverting to WTO terms would mean a £45bn loss to the public purse, more money than the entire schools budget.

There is another way. The Liberal Democrats will fight to keep Britain in the single market and customs union, and to ensure the people have the final say on the Brexit deal.

So I am asking you to vote Lib Dem tomorrow, wherever you live, and especially in Harrogate & Knaresborough.

Lib Dems announce £17bn fund to fix schools and hospitals

The Liberal Democrats have announced a £17bn infrastructure fund to repair and restore schools and hospitals across England.
Headteachers today are forced to use money that should be dedicated for books, teachers and equipment to fix leaking roofs and crumbling buildings. The new infrastructure fund would give an extra £7bn for schools in England, enough to repair every school to allow them to focus spending on education rather than maintenance.

Another £10bn would be allocated to hospitals over the lifetime of the next parliament, helping address a £5bn delayed backlog in delayed repairs to NHS buildings and infrastructure. This investment would help transform the NHS – repairing run-down hospitals, bringing them up to date with modern technology and building new infrastructure to reduce overcrowding. It would contrast with the £350m for the Conservatives committed to repairs in the NHS in 2015-2016.

The infrastructure fund would be in addition to the extra £7bn the Liberal Democrats have committed to invest in schools over the next parliament; and the £6bn more a year the party would invest in NHS and social care.

Helen Flynn said:

“Under Theresa May’s Conservatives, our children are being taught in crumbling schools and our sick and elderly are being cared for in overcrowded hospitals.

“It doesn’t have to be like this. We will invest an additional £7bn in our schools, enough to repair every school in the country including in Harrogate and Knaresborough.

“This will allow school budgets to be spent on books, teachers and equipment instead of being diverted to fix leaking roofs.

“This week, you can elect Liberal Democrat MPs who will stand up for you on the NHS, schools and Brexit.”

Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary Norman Lamb said:

“We have seen with the recent cyber-attack how inadequate the existing infrastructure is for many hospitals.

“Under the Conservatives, money that is intended for capital investment is being diverted to plug holes in day-to-day spending. This cannot be allowed to go on.

“We will invest an additional £10bn of capital spending in the NHS to fix our run-down hospitals, reduce overcrowding and build a modernise our health service.

“This is on top of the £6bn a year for the NHS and care we would raise by putting a penny on income tax.


Easing Congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough Means a Mix of Measures

We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place here in Harrogate District, and the Nidd Gorge in particular is spectacular.

That is why it is incomprehensible to me that North Yorks County Council put forward options before the County Council elections this year that include putting a relief road through the Nidd Gorge.

Of course, traffic congestion is a huge issue in Harrogate and Knaresborough, and the Skipton Road is one of the most congested roads in the country.  Something needs to be done.  

But I would argue that a relief road is not the answer.  The answer is to provide a mix of measures including: proper cycling infrastructure, bus park and rides, and electrification of our rail line (which would provide greater frequency of services possible on modern rolling stock).

I led a campaign in 2014/2015 to make Harrogate into a cycle town.  We have one of the lowest rates of children cycling to school in the country and also one of the highest rates of second car ownership.  These two issues, combined with the increase in large housing developments that is happening now, means that the congestion problem we have is only going to get worse, and this was why I embarked on the campaign.  It is a campaign I would love to rekindle in the near future.

The cost of building a relief road would be vast, and given that North Yorks is pressing ahead with prioritising road realignment on the A59 at Kex Gill , as it applies to Government for road funding, I would argue that the chance of another major road project near Harrogate any time soon is vastly unlikely, given Conservative continued planned austerity measures nationally and locally.

So I would expect the relief road/bypass plans, which were handily dusted off to be given an airing for the County Council elections, will happily go back on the shelf at County Hall, before their next airing in 2021.

However, I shall keep a watching brief to ensure that these disastrous plans for relief roads through the Nidd Gorge, do not make an unwelcome re-appearance in the future.

Theresa May and Mental Health: Another U Turn?

The Prime Minister was praised earlier this month for speaking out on the issue of mental health, and the need to do more. But with the Conservative manifesto being released last week, a subtle but very significant withdrawal of one of Theresa May’s promises seems to have gone unnoticed.

On the 7th of May, the Prime Minister pledged to replace the outdated Mental Health Act, introduce mental health into the schools curriculum, and appoint 10,000 more mental health staff to the NHS.

The Conservative manifesto released last week refers to each of these areas, but, crucially, it only promises to recruit “up to” 10,000 mental health staff. A Conservative government could technically appoint just one more mental health professional over the next three years and still fulfil this pledge, something that would be disastrous for a country that has faced increasing pressure on mental health services.

It may seem pedantic, but this rewording makes the recruitment figure an aspiration rather than a promise. The significance of this can be best understood by considering the Conservative party’s recent track record when it comes to delivering on commitments to mental health.

The 2015 Conservative manifesto promised to increase mental health funding, ensure that there are adequate numbers of therapists “in every part of the country”, and “continue to take your mental health as seriously as your physical health”.

According to the King’s Fund, in 2015-2016, 40% of UK mental health trusts saw their budgets cut, and in March of this year, it emerged that £800 million set aside for mental health services was being redirected to other areas of the NHS. A number of clinical commissioning groups also announced cuts in mental health spending in April. Despite Conservative claims that legislation had ensured equal priority between mental and physical health, a report from the independent Mental Health Taskforce last year confirmed that there continues to be a disparity between mental and physical health services, in part due to the absence of maximum waiting times for mental health services.

I am very pleased that the Liberal Democrats are very clear on prioritising mental health and would ensure that waiting times for mental and physical health are the same.  We would also ring fence £1 bn (of the £6 bn to be gained for the NHS by putting a penny on income tax) for mental health.

In contrast, the fact that the Tory 2017 manifesto does not support the recruitment pledge that Theresa May made just a few days before the manifesto was released should be a huge warning sign and a harbinger of another effective u turn.

If we consider her own voting record, Theresa May has a checkered history when it comes to matters of health and welfare. May voted against providing disability and welfare benefits and guaranteed jobs for the unemployed, affecting groups at heightened risk of mental illness.

Theresa May’s refusal to rule out cuts to disability benefits, and controversy and u turns over social care manifesto promises, do nothing to suggest that she has great concern for segments of society especially affected by poor mental health.


The Tories’ heartless approach to social care

The water between the Conservative social care policy for social care, and our own approach–which would cap social care costs and put a penny on income tax to help pay for the NHS and social care–could not be more clear or more blue.

Perhaps the most surprising feature is the Tories’ complete abandonment of their flagship policy commitment since 2013 to implement a cap on lifetime care costs. (Yet another policy commitment added to all those 2015 manifesto pledges that have similarly been binned.  To think that people call the Conservatives competent is quite frankly a joke.)

The Conservative policy needs to be stopped before it is given any oxygen to thrive.  So I am pleased that Tim Farron is calling on everyone, regardless of political affiliation, to stop it.  You can read the text of his letter below, and I urge you to take action to stop this ill-advised policy that could harm so many people as soon as possible.

Strong and stable?  More like mean and heartless.  I am afraid that the Conservatives are taking the British public for granted, so sure are they of a landslide on 8th June.

Writing to the leaders of leading health and older peoples’ charities, Tim Farron said:

The Conservatives’ plan to fund social care which will force the sale of many more family homes when people die is heartless and punishes the frail and elderly, especially those with long-term degenerative illnesses such dementia, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.

This plan is a choice. It is the wrong choice. It was devised without input from experts. It ignores advice from charities and care providers such as the organisation you lead. It flies in the face of the Sir Andrew Dilnot’s independent review of social care just a couple of years ago.

The measure of a Government is how they treat the most vulnerable in our society. I don’t think that the Conservatives are unaware of the impact of their plans but they chose to ignore it.

Every elderly person that needs care should receive it in the best place for them and not be fearful of mounting, limitless costs. I am determined that we ensure that Theresa May drops the so-called ‘dementia tax’ and implements a cap on the cost of social care.

Caring for our elderly must be above party politics and that is why I want to see anyone who opposes the Conservatives’ plans to come together to stop it.

We must resist this plan, challenge would-be Conservative MPs to reject and stop it.

As a first step, I am urging people to dementiatax.org.uk to sign up to help. I hope you will urge the supporters of your organisation to do the same. Together we can stop the so-called ‘dementia’ tax. 

Conservative plans will take lunches away from 15,282 children in North Yorkshire


15,282 schoolchildren in North Yorkshire will lose out on free lunches, under plans announced in the Conservative manifesto.

Free school lunches for pupils from reception to Year 2 were introduced by the Liberal Democrats in government, but Theresa May now plans to scrap them. The changes would cost families an average extra £480 a year for every child.

The Conservatives are also proposing to make older people pay for social care costs from the value of their own homes when they die. This means on average, families in Harrogate district would expect to see 62.5% of the value of their home spent on care costs.

Helen Flynn, Parliamentary Candidate for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Lib Dem) commented:  “This Conservative manifesto shows the nasty party is back.  Margaret Thatcher was known as the milk snatcher, it seems Theresa May will go down as the lunch snatcher.

“She is cynically snatching meals away from thousands of children in North Yorkshire, while the elderly receiving care in their own home will face a ‘Personal Death Tax’ charged against their home.

“Andrew Jones, the incumbent MP in our area, must now come clean over whether he will vote to take away free lunches from the children of hard-pressed families.  As he votes 100% with the Conservative party and is a member of the Government, I can only assume that he will.

“The Liberal Democrats will offer a brighter future by extending free school meals to all primary schools.

“We will stand up to Theresa May’s cold, mean-spirited Britain, protecting those that need the most help and fighting for more funding for our schools and hospitals.”



Figures on the number of children per school and local authority benefiting from universal infant free school meals can be found here. Universal free school meals for infant pupils (up to Year 2) were introduced by the Liberal Democrats in coalition government. Currently the government subsidises lunches for infants by £2.30 – these changes will mean removing £480 subsidy per child, per year.

Under Conservative proposals, for the first time, many people who receive care at home will have their home taken into account, to meet the costs when they die. This will apply to the almost half a million people who receive domiciliary care in the UK. Figures on the share of the average family home expected to be spent on social care costs can be found here, based on calculations provided by Royal London



Where is the Conservative Manifesto?

With the postal vote due to be despatched on Monday 22nd May, I am calling on the Conservatives nationally to stop delaying the publication of their manifesto.  Phillip Hammond was on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning evading the question several times about the actual publication date, saying it would be out “very soon”.
It seems totally unfair to me that the Conservatives are not coming clean on what the headlines of their manifesto will be.  Postal voters need some time to assess manifestos side by side to compare and contrast what the major parties are promising.  Having sprung a snap election on the public, they are now playing for time before they make clear what their policies and priorities are.  That seems like having your cake and eating it and treating the voting public with disrespect.
The Liberal Democrat manifesto will be announced today at 6 pm, but several headline policies have already been announced. These include: putting a penny on income tax to ensure that the NHS is properly funded; providing £7 bn to schools to prevent the planned Tory cuts to school budgets; and creating a discounted bus pass for 16-21year olds, amongst many other policies.
The Conservatives reneged on many of their 2015 manifesto promises such as: electrification of the Midland mainline and Trans-Pennine routes; producing a budget surplus by 2020; and outspending Labour on the NHS.
There were so many broken promises from their 2015 manifesto, maybe that is why they are delaying the publication of their 2017 manifesto, because they know they can’t deliver policies to create the ’strong and stable’ government that Theresa May likes to advertise.
It seems there may be large sections which are unpalatable to the public, with a commitment to leaving the European Single Market being widely expected.  That would be disastrous for our country.  Really they must publish their manifesto this week.  Anything other than that time frame is completely unacceptable.


Green Party generously steps down in Harrogate & Knaresborough for the General Election

The political system urgently needs to modernise and ensure it represents everyone.  Otherwise people will continue to feel alienated from the political classes and the political system in general, as in many seats throughout the country their vote simply does not count.  Indeed one of the reasons why the EU Referendum attracted such a high turn-out was that for once everyone’s vote actually counted.

In addition, it is often the case nowadays that parties that have more in common end up in a situation where a different party is elected whose aims diverge significantly.

So I am grateful to the Green Party here in Harrogate & Knaresborough for standing down at this snap election.  Ukip had already stood down to give the Conservatives here a clearer run, forming a version of a ‘regressive alliance’.  So this is a very welcome move and is in tune with other ‘progressive alliances’ that have been announced throughout the country.

This snap General Election may just prove to be the beginning of a movement towards the over-due, desperately needed reform of the British political system if these short term alliances bear fruit.

Please find the joint press release below:


12 MAY 2017

Green Party generously stands down in Harrogate & Knaresborough to give Liberal Democrats a stronger challenge against the Conservatives at the General Election on 8th June

The UK voting system of “first past the post” (FPTP) was designed for a two-party system.  As the political landscape has changed over time, and more parties have emerged, the FPTP system has meant that more and more people are becoming disillusioned with politics, as their vote often does not count. At every General Election since 1931, the FPTP system has delivered a Government chosen by less than 50% of voters.   This is at odds with a truly democratic system.  If the UK had a fairer voting system, such as proportional representation (PR), like most European countries, everyone’s vote would count.   The Conservative Party wants to keep FPTP, as it benefits only them.

Over recent years, as the disillusion with politics has set in, more and more people are asking why the ‘progressive’ parties, who have many areas of common interest, continue to fight against each other.  In this way, they split the progressive vote, and allow ‘regressive’ parties such as the Conservatives and Ukip to gain more influence.

Already at this snap General Election, Ukip has stood down in favour of Conservative candidates in scores of seats, as part of a “regressive alliance”, to give the Conservatives a greater chance of winning.  Ukip has also stood down here in Harrogate & Knaresborough.  So now a ‘progressive alliance’ between Liberal Democrats and Greens will offer voters a simpler choice if they are worried about a Conservative Government with an enlarged majority pursuing a Hard Brexit that would damage our economy.

A Conservative Government with an enlarged majority is not good for the country.  Their proposed cuts to the NHS, schools and welfare budgets would be disastrous for many families at a time when there is great uncertainty over the economy, given the Hard Brexit that the Conservatives are determined to pursue.  An effective, progressive opposition needs to be in place to hold such a Government to account.

Here, the current Conservative MP has voted 100% of the time with Government since his re-election in 2015, and he is demonstrably not standing up for the people he is supposed to represent.  It is obvious that his loyalties firmly lie with his party.  The shared hope of both the Liberal Democrats and Greens here in Harrogate & Knaresborough is that a Liberal Democrat MP can be elected to enter Parliament to represent constituents well and be an effective voice in opposition

This is not a coalition between Lib Dems and the Greens.  The two parties retain their own underlying philosophies, identities and policies.  However, their shared aims mean that at this General Election, a shake-up of the political system is needed to ensure that a progressive voice is heard more loudly.  Their shared aims as follows:

  • fight for a softer approach to Brexit which would mean the UK retaining access to the European Single Market
  • move to a more representative voting system where everybody’s vote counts
  • guarantee investment in vital public services and infrastructure
  • focus on green issues to ensure we have a sustainable energy system, both to combat climate change and to transition to an economy based on new technologies



Lib Dems announce extra £5 mn of funding for mental health in Harrogate District


Last weekend, Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron and Shadow Health Secretary Norman Lamb unveiled a Five Point NHS and Care Recovery Plan to increase funding for health and social care services, including a penny on income tax to provide a £6 billion funding boost.  Approximately £20 mn of this total extra spending on the NHS would be spent in Harrogate District.

Today the Liberal Democrats announced that approximately £5 mn of this extra money would be ring-fenced as dedicated funding for mental health services in Harrogate District.

This would help to deliver on 12 key priorities, including improving waiting time standards for mental health care on the NHS and providing support for pregnant women and young people suffering from mental health problems.

The Liberal Democrats will also set out to end the inappropriate use of force against people with mental ill health, end out of area placements for mental health patients and prioritise national action to reduce the number of suicides.

The Liberal Democrats  pledge to spend £5 mn in Harrogate District on mental health is important as it demonstrates our commitment to ending the historic injustice against people with mental ill health.

Health, particularly mental health is a key issue on the doorstep. People want action, not just words and neither Labour nor the Conservatives have outlined how they will fund mental health services. .

We will invest in improving waiting time standards for mental health care in Harrogate district, end the scandalous use of force against people with mental ill health and prioritise national action to dramatically reduce the number of people who take their own lives.

The Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to the Conservatives, and the only party fighting for genuine equality for those who suffer from mental ill health.



Lib Dems announce £640million to protect school funding in Yorkshire

The Liberal Democrats have announced they would invest £640m more in schools and colleges in Yorkshire over the next parliament. The funding would include over £34m for North Yorkshire schools.

Schools across Yorkshire could lose more than £312m from their budgets under government funding reforms, according to the National Union of Teachers.

I am proud that the Liberal Democrats would reverse cuts to frontline school and college budgets, protect per pupil funding in real terms and ensure no school loses out from changes to funding arrangements.  This to me is really important, as it was education that brought me into politics and I believe that every child should have the best start in life.  Cutting school funding as the Conservatives would is simply not right.

Some £49m of the total funding pot would be spent in Yorkshire on protecting the Pupil Premium, introduced by the Liberal Democrats to help the most disadvantaged children.

It would amount to around £750,000 extra per school, enough to employ an estimated 2,500 teachers across the region.

Children across Yorkshire are being taught in overcrowded classes by overworked teachers – but the Tories are failing to act.

Under the Conservatives, funding per pupil is set to see the biggest cuts in a generation, while billions of pounds are being spent on divisive plans to expand grammars and free schools.

This extra £640m of funding would ensure no school and no child loses out.  The full costings for this policy will be in our manifesto–due out shortly.

We will reverse crippling Conservative cuts to school budgets and invest to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.

Only the Liberal Democrats can provide the strong opposition Britain needs to stand up for communities across Yorkshire.