Top-down government development policies are failing our beautiful place, says Lib Dem PPC

Lib Dem PPC for West Worcestershire, Beverley Nielsen, says that the government’s top-down development policies are failing our beautiful county.

She is calling for greater freedoms to give our local councillors the powers to produce a plan that meets our real household needs and not one that is stacked in favour of developers, every step of the way.

Her proposals would see local authorities having the ability to identify sites more proactively and set in place the conditions to meet our own growth plans through a vision for a smarter, greener, fairer place. This would remove the need to comply with the government’s ‘Standard Methodology’ – the same formula used in calculating the ‘new homes need’ in Westminster as in Malvern Hills – and required to ensure a five-year housing supply as part of our Local Plan.

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Change is the only constant in UK; ‘Brexit Tale of Two Irreconcilable Halves’

Associate Professor Cllr Beverley Nielsen
IDEA Institute, Birmingham City University


In writing this piece today, Sunday 20thOctober, I had hoped greater clarity would be emerging after the ‘Super Saturday’sitting of the House of Commons.

With such a thing not having occurred in 37 years, the scene was set for the government to drive through the PM’s new withdrawal agreement, Saturday being the last opportunity to avoid having to ask for an extension of Article 50 under the European Union (Withdrawal) (No.2) Act 2019, known as the Benn Act.

However, clarity remains as elusive as ever as we battle to comprehend not only where we are, but where we are going.

Action lines have opened up on four fronts – in government, in Parliament, in court, and across the EU, with business doing its best to simply get on with things regardless.

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West Worcestershire Lib-Dem PPC reacts to supreme court ruling


The Liberal Democrat candidate for West Worcestershire has had her say on yesterday’s High Court ruling.

After the Supreme Court ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully in suspending parliament, Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Beverley Nielsen, said: “This is an extraordinary day for democracy. You can’t ride roughshod over the principles which make this country great.

“The ruling that the suspension of parliament by our Prime Minister was unlawful is momentous. He aimed to frustrate Parliament’s core functions in its ability to scrutinise the executive at this crucial time for our country.

“It’s incredible our democracy owes so much to one individual, Gina Miller, in bringing two constitutional cases over the past few months.

“We owe her a great debt as a nation, together with the actions of those who brought the case to the Scottish Court of Sessions.”

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Concerns over quicksand and debris left at cement site near Upton


A COUNCILLOR from Malvern says an industrial site “makes Gullet Quarry look safe”.

District Councillor Paul Bennett visited the Cemex site in Ryall to look at the deterioration of the site and said: “The County Council expected this site to be restored and landscaped on cessation of quarrying work. Does this look landscaped? It makes Gullet Quarry look safe.

“What we have been left with here is a site that’s not been restored as was expected. It’s clear that it’s not being looked after and our environment is the loser.”

“Who would have thought we’d be left with acres of dangerous quicksand in the Malvern Hills area?”

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Malvern's MP and Lib Dem candidate react to this week in parliament

MALVERN’S MP and Lib Dem parliamentary candidate have each reacted to this week's goings on in Parliament.

Beverley Nielsen says Boris Johnson “has little interest in healing the divisions that have riven our country since the referendum” - after the Prime Minister lost his first commons vote by 27 votes.

In the vote, the government was defeated by 328 votes to 301, with 21 Conservative MPs voted to take control of Wednesday’s parliamentary agenda.

Mrs Nielsen said: “Johnson is obsessed with the 17.4 million who voted to Leave. Given this, he’s trying to out-Brexit the Brexit Party in blatantly promoting a no-deal Brexit.

“He’s ignoring the government’s own advice about serious shortages of fuel, food price increases and shortages of vital medicines, with disruption at our ports impacting farmers’ and businesses’ integrated supply chains. "


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'Taking away control' West Worcestershire PPC on Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament

THE Lib-Dem parliamentary candidate for West Worcestershire has slammed Boris Johnson for acting like a “bully” and says he is “taking away control” from the public.

Beverley Nielsen was reacting to the news that Parliament will be suspended, leaving groups opposing a no-deal Brexit with less time to prevent it.

She said: “Boris Johnson told us this is all about taking back control, but he’s taking control away from the very people we elected to represent us.

“He said it was about taking back control but he seems to be intent on handing control over to the USA.

“Given that it could take five years to complete a US trade deal and that the EU takes 44 per cent of our goods now with the US taking 19 per cent, we’d need to sell over twice as much to the US in order to make up the difference, something that will certainly take time.


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Beverley meets tech bosses in Malvern for 5G fact-finding mission

LEADING academics and technology figures met in Malvern for discussions and fact-finding opportunities.

Beverley Nielsen, director of the Institute for Design & Economic Acceleration at Birmingham City University welcomed Professor Mak Sharma, professor of Computer Science Education at Birmingham City University, to Malvern Hills Science Park on Monday, August 12.

The visit was part of a fact-finding tour of Malvern Hills for Professor Sharma who is leading activity in Birmingham City University as part of the £50m DCMS funded West Midlands’ 5G project, the UK’s first large-scale test-bed, with the visit having been organised by Beverley Nielsen who is keen to establish stronger links between Birmingham, West Midlands and the Malvern Hills technology cluster.

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Beverley visits Tenbury to promote business


Beverley Nielson, the recently adopted Liberal Democrat candidate for West Worcestershire, which includes Tenbury and the Teme Valley, has been visiting Tenbury ahead of what could be an early general election.

Ms Nielson is the portfolio holder for economic development and tourism on Malvern Hills District Council.

She is also a former West Midlands regional director of the Confederation of British Industry in the West Midlands.

Ms Neilson was also an unsuccessful candidate to be mayor of the West Midlands when she was beaten by the Conservative Andy Street.

Her role has involved meeting leaders of business and plans included coming to Tenbury to talk to business owners including Garry Thompson, who has just opened a chocolate factory behind his shop in the town.

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Boris Johnson as PM - Beverley Debates

Watch Beverley debate on Boris Johnson as PM below.

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Sir Vince Cable Q&A - Life After Lib Dem Leadership

By Beverley Nielsen, Associate Professor at Birmingham City University’s IDEA Institute and Senior Fellow at BCU’s Centre for Brexit Studies, Liberal Democrat Councillor on Malvern Hills District Council and responsible for the Economic Development & Tourism Portfolio

key_vince.jpgHow are you feeling at the end of your term as Leader?

I am not sure what the next stage of my career really is. I’m in California over the summer with my son and I’m looking forward to coming back feeling refreshed. I will of course still be MP for Twickenham.

I’m writing another book looking at the links between politicians and economics and taking a closer view of the figures who have made a big difference through these links including Alexander Hamilton (1) and Deng Xiaoping (2).

[(1) Alexander Hamilton (1755 – 1804), was renowned as one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, leading the way in interpreting and promoting the US Constitution, founding the nation’s financial system, the Federalist Party and the New York Post. As First Secretary of the Treasury, he was promoted the economic policies for George Washington‘s administration, setting up a national bank, enabling funding for state debt, establishing a system of tariffs and  trading relations with Great Britain.

(2) Deng, credited through economic policy reform with lifting more human beings out of poverty than any other human being, drew on a model of ‘state capitalism’ set within the framework of Communist party rule. Deng himself was pragmatic: a gradualist who believed in ‘crossing the river by feeling for the stones’, being interested in results rather than dogma or doctrine.]

What are your proudest achievements?

Most of the achievements I’m proudest of were achieved during the five years I spent serving as a Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in the Coalition government. I was able to promote bank reform, the creation of new British Business Bank and Green Investment Bank as well as the Vickers reforms brought forward by the former Bank of England Chief Economist, Sir John Vickers. The Industrial Strategy was a success, in particular for the vehicle and aircraft sectors, currently being so dramatically undermined by Brexit, and I was proud to launch the Catapult network and I do continue to meet people in the network, in particular the National Automotive Innovation Centre at WMG, University of Warwick, which has achieved a successful funding formula working with business and the better ones like these are doing well.

I was disgusted with the sell-off of the Green Investment Bank. It was a very good institution and having invested £12bn in new green businesses it was sold off to the Australian asset stripper which will likely now disinvest in the UK.

Whilst my main achievements were during the Coalition, I’ve also been a turnaround specialist for the Liberal Democrats. I took over in 2007 on a temporary basis when the Party was at a low ebb and it was in much better shape when Nick Clegg took over. In these last few years the Party has also revived. We are now in much better position as Jo Swinson takes on the role of leadership. She is putting forward a fresh new face and getting good coverage as we fight to Stop Brexit.

What do you consider the most important thing for the Liberal Democrats to achieve at present outside of stopping Brexit?

We must now consolidate our position as one of big players politically. YouGov polls today (24thJuly) put us second only to the Tories and ahead of Labour, with the Brexit Party falling back to fourth place. We seem to have settled into a stable position as one of four main parties. The big task is to build on that and to go into any future General Election as a major party in our own right.

What lessons do you take from the Coalition years?

Being in a coalition under present voting system is bad for any party and I don’t see any appetite for this without electoral reform. There isn’t any appetite for this in the country either, in spite of the widespread consciousness of the failings of government. It is a complete and utter mess at present with a minority ruling for the majority. But we still must continue to make the case for reform.

Is another storm brewing for the UK and for us globally?

Yes, I think another storm is brewing. I noted the comment by Andrew Neil that the US is embarking on massive deficit financing at the peak of a boom, a bit like Peron did in Argentina. We are looking at a likely crash landing. There are plenty of signals with the trade war and our own economy in decline. We have had two and maybe three quarters of falling output. But it’s a strange recession with full employment. Wages have been flexible, too flexible most likely, and people have kept their jobs.

As Boris Johnson becomes PM could you have foreseen politics where it is today from 2009 after the Global Financial Crisis?

Boris has different personalities and we have to see what he does. We need to look to see what route he will follow. The Tories have to neutralise the Brexit Party as the right wing vote is split if not. If they do get together with them then it’s good news for the Liberal Democrats. I’d be very surprised in Nigel Farage becomes US ambassador for example, despite having been mentioned in a recent speech by Sajid Javid. I think it will be more of a passive understanding in doing the Brexit Party’s dirty work so there’s no need for them to continue. The intention will be to do to the Brexit Party what they did to UKIP.

There is a bigger danger for the Tories in the Shire seats that even if they get together with the Brexit Party then they lose the support of the moderate Tories. I think this will happen all over the country.

The pollster, Prof Sir John Curtice, says the UK population divides roughly into the social liberals and social conservatives – do you agree with these two broad splits in our population and are they linked to our views on Brexit?

Yes, broadly I agree with Prof Curtice. I think the point he’s trying to make is that we now have the politics of identity rather than a straight left- right split.

What do you say to young people who voted by over 70% to Remain in the EU?

They have been betrayed by the Labour Party, that much is very clear. The Brexit Party vote is heavily driven by age and the left-behind as well, but the biggest determinant is age. The older generation have shafted the young. Now we are getting an angry younger generation, betrayed on Brexit, let down on housing and let down on environmental issues and Labour Party is no longer of any value to them.

The Greens are still in single figures in the polls. If they look at the potential for winning seats in Parliament, it’s hard to see where the Greens go, whereas we have the potential to win large numbers of MPs in any future general election and of making a real difference.

What message of hope could we give to young people now?

You have been betrayed over Brexit and should get behind the one party which is fully committed to remaining in the EU and fully alert to your concerns about the environment and housing.

This is the time for councils to be building truly affordable housing.  There are a lot of councils building houses and even this wretched government is giving them the freedom to borrow. Councils like Liberal controlled Eastleigh and others of all parties are building where there is land. South Shropshire has done quite a bit of social housing. As far as private housing is concerned why don’t councils CPO some land to take this agenda forward.

As a Party we’ve got the basic elements in place. The fact that Jo Swinson has been elected as a young woman with young children is plainly something relevant that she’s bringing, together with her experience, to this role and to the image of the Party. It’s the right image for this generation.

What do you think about the tuition fee situation now?

I have been promoting the idea of Lifetime Learning Accounts as a personal proposal and there is a Lifetime Learning Commission looking to explain how this could work on a more modest scale.

In terms of Further and Higher Education (HE) we tried to narrow the disparity in funding between the two when I was in government and the mechanism we came up with was tuition fees. We tried to promote fees for Further Education (FE), but it did not work. There is a disparity in the funding which needs tackling (3). The Augur report, which acknowledged this, made a commitment to narrow the gap. Apprenticeships were doing well, we were getting them up and running but the government screwed up really badly with the Apprenticeship Levy with apprenticeships down by a quarter in 2017/18 to just over 375k, with an annual target for 3m apprenticeships having been set by government by 2020. Whilst 25% of big firms are able to fund apprenticeships in their supply chain and SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) pay only 5% towards these with government paying the rest, the accreditation of tailored courses has been taking too long.  There is also no real organisational capacity to organise the supply chain and SME activity. People are now getting used to it but there has been a lot of wasted time.

[(3)around £7bn per annum in FE to cover 4m students and over £8bn a year government funding in HE to cover over 2m students]

Does a fairer UK means greater devolved powers to the region?

Yes it does, but we need to be careful. I am a big supporter of Heseltine’s review (‘No Stone Unturned’). I have concerns about turning over Further Education and Apprenticeships to a devolved system as you may well end up with different standards all over the country. With transport it makes sense to have regional transport plans. But fragmentation of training is a danger. With health there is a familiar dilemma – we do tend to have more initiatives but there is the danger of postcodes lotteries. Overall I am in favour of devolution but it can lead to many different outcomes.

Does a No-Deal Brexit mean breaking up the UK?

Not immediately.  It will certainly bring more and more pressures to bear on Northern Ireland.  The Nationalists majority and sympathetic Unionists may go for a united Ireland. When the Scots see the mess Brexit will make as Britain breaks away from Europe, they will probably think again about breaking away from the UK.

What would the impact of a No-Deal Brexit be on manufacturing and regions like the Midlands as the home of UK automotive and an aerospace cluster of global significance?

It would be disastrous for the West Midlands but I think a No-Deal Brexit is still very unlikely. A lot of this is hot air to cover the extreme wing of the Tory Party. Brexit itself will be very damaging.

What is the likelihood of a general election this Autumn?

I don’t see the chances of an Autumn election much above 30%. I think Spring is much more likely if Boris Johnson keeps control; if he loses control we may have election forced on us.

After the Storm – do you think we have dealt with fundamentals of capitalism and will the Industrial Strategy sort out our productivity shortcomings in the UK?

There are still a lot of problems. The banking system is a lot more stable. But there are still a lot of issues that we need to address regarding capitalism and corporate governance.  The environmental agenda needs to be less about talk and more about action. But we still do not have many alternative models that work.

How best to decarbonise capitalism and does this lead to more ethical capitalism?

Yes, decarbonising capitalism can be stimulated but we do need to be a bit careful and wary of moving too far ahead of the public. The kind of thing governments can do is to implement Carbon Taxes and tougher regulations. A segment of the public is ahead of the politicians, but this has not so far a big driver.

Looking internationally and the rise in international migrants from 170m in 2000 to 260m worldwide in 2019, are our global institutions working?

Key bodies like the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank have lost authority but it is essential that this is rebuilt and retained otherwise our global rules-based order disintegrates. This is one of the reasons why remaining in EU is so important and we have to show this can work and to stay in it. Managing globalisation, having rules and showing they can be enforced for the benefit of large numbers of countries is vital.  But we shouldn’t get too despondent as in most parts of Europe the nationalists have not made too much progress and are in a minority. There has been damage in the UK and US, but we are not yet back to the situation of the 1930s.

Do you have any thoughts for us in Malvern Hills where we are promoting ourselves for our trailblazer 5G testbed (the first in the country), our sensors and cyber security leadership?

In terms of the smart economy, I am not a technologist so I won’t try to make observations, but what you are describing is precisely what the Catapult network was trying to do. I think we may well need a Catapult to deal with 5G technologies. If that were to be agreed with the resources required, it would help to bridge the gap from testbed to commercial viability and I could see this being a potential for a place like Malvern located between GCHQ and Birmingham.

Reprinted with permission - Centre for Brexit Studies

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