Hands up for Change

Dear Members and Friends,

The nation has been greatly distracted over Brexit. We recognise the 2016 Referendum result, but, and it’s a big but, we believe that people’s understanding of what it really means has increased many times since then, that true democracy is a dialogue, and that a vote on the deal is required and must include the option of remaining in the EU.

It remains of central importance to us as Liberal Democrats to continue to work tirelessly for an Exit from Brexit. Who would have thought that a People’s Vote, so derided initially, is now being called for by parliamentarians across our political parties.

Well done to our Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians on their success in championing this cause, in particular through the Best for Britain Campaign. They may be small in number but they have made their voice loud and clear in seeking to ensure that we, the people, have a say on the nation’s destiny…..especially now we know what the government’s deal looks like and the true cost to our nation of leaving on any terms.

Far from a £350m bonus to the NHS it’s already costing us £500m a week and our economy is 2.5% smaller than it would have been had Remain won the referendum according to the Centre for European Reform. 

This single issue is absorbing most of the energy of our parliament and draining attention from the pressing issues facing our nation.

Fighting for the West Midlands

Circular Economy

Many people feel excluded as ‘trickle down’ economics has failed to deliver a fair distribution of the wealth being created. Too often, those amongst the poorest 40 years ago remain the poorest today, with pockets of severe deprivation scattered across the West Midlands.

By buying locally, recirculating money amongst our small and medium businesses, focussing, whenever possible, on our home grown firms, we can help more people benefit from every pound raised and spent. 

To-date we have traditionally focussed on city growth models – attracting inward investment and too often ignoring the needs for our own home grown businesses. In Preston a model of ultra-localism has been generating results, with public procurement from local firms making the money spent locally work harder for local people drawing on the multiplier impact.  The leadership of their local authority has been key to this approach. With the largest local authority in Europe based in the West Midlands we have a chance to learn from this, collaborate across our local authorities and, drawing on the Combined Authority’s entrepreneurial spirit, create a co-operative West Midlands Model to deliver more homemade success.

Young People

Our young people are struggling – they are not receiving their fair share.

Whilst our employment rate nationally and in the West Midlands is at an all-time high, among 16-24 year olds, those commonly referred to as ‘NEETs’, (not in education, employment or training) unemployment in the West Midlands is 13.1%, well above the average for England at 11.1% and second highest after the North East. Among NEETs the unemployment rate for 16-19 year olds is 28% across the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). The Black Country has a NEET unemployment rate of 34.5%, 23.7% in Coventry and Warwickshire, and 16.5% in Greater Birmingham and Solihull. There is an urgent need to deal with the scourge of hopelessness that confronts those who leave school with no prospects of useful employment in meaningful and fulfilling work. Young people in such situations can easily become part of a ‘lost generation’.  

The impact of government austerity measures has resulted in the West Midlands experiencing some of the steepest cuts in funding for youth work and contributing to the shocking rise of criminality amongst young people. In Wolverhampton, the budget for youth services shrank by 86% between 2014-2017.  The fatal stabbing in Coventry of 16-year-old Jaydon Washington James brought the number of teenagers and younger children killed by knives in the West Midlands police force area to six this year, more per capita than in London and a 40-year high. Linked to “massive” levels of deprivation, minors are frequently attending A&E because of alcohol and drug problems, with mental health issues and self-harming also reportedly increasing at alarming rates.

Amongst 25-34 year olds home ownership levels are at their lowest since 1961, down to 25% from 50% levels in 1990. They are shortly to be denied the freedom of movement that we have taken for granted in freely accessing work and learning opportunities across Europe and in developing international careers and transcultural attainment.

Inheritance is now considered the most crucial factor in determining a person’s overall wealth since Victorian times. If people don’t feel they can earn wealth and gain social mobility based on their own levels of attainment, they will become ‘very ratty indeed’. Surely we have seen some of this with the Brexit vote. All too easy to take a pot shot at Commission bureaucrats, rather than our own in Whitehall and across government who have used Brussels as a convenient whipping boy, whilst too rarely acknowledging the benefits.

Transport and Air Quality

Our roads are congested and poor air quality is affecting too many people’s health with around 3,000 premature deaths each year as a result. As one of the worst hit areas for illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution, many don’t seem to realise they and their children are breathing some of the UK’s most polluted air.

In 2017-18 we received £412 per head on public transport compared to £1019 per head in London. The West Midlands received just 4.6% of all transport funding, compared to 50.4% for London -- even though one third of all freight traffic moves through our roads and over two thirds of all rail freight.

Last mile transport solutions, including low-cost, ultra-low carbon tram and train options, such as the Stourbridge Shuttle, made in the West Midlands and shuttling 5m passengers over the past 9 years between the Stourbridge bus and mainline stations and funded by private investors, has recorded a 99.7% reliability rate. Why has this not been rolled out for the people of the West Midlands to enjoy and benefit from? Rather than focussing on lower cost last mile integrators our authorities are spending £3.2bn on Spanish built trams and procuring bikes for Birmingham and the West Midlands from Germany.  According to Tussell (2017) the West Midlands has the worst record in awarding public contracts to local firms.  

Over centralisation, Services and Health care

Public services are being closed down, modernisation and innovation are being slowed down as local authorities struggle with their budgets, cut by well over 50% during the past decade of austerity.

In fact, we’ve seen 73% cuts to local authority funding in the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) area since 2010-11. Birmingham City Council has experienced staff reductions from 21,000 in 2010 to around 7,000 by 2018. With devolution on the agenda and our first elected Mayor, far from seeing a move away from centralisation of government service provision, we have seen a shift in public sector jobs to central government with a record high of 3.11 million jobs in June compared to 2.05m in local government. 

Over £1.5bn is being spent on new teams across Whitehall in preparation for Brexit. Just this month, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced he is setting aside a £2bn No Deal Brexit pot with £500m to stop border chaos and £25m for custom checks.

Within the NHS, around 44% of Trusts providing secondary care to patients are in the red in 2017/18. This is more like 65% among Acute Hospital Trusts. Collectively they finished 2017/18 with a deficit of around £960 million. We have seen the loss of 70,000 adult care jobs since 2009. Roughly one in 10 medical and nursing posts are unfilled, with a 15% increase in EU workers leaving the NHS. More recently, NHS hospitals are set to pay for new visas for thousands of EU staff in efforts to retain their services after Brexit

 No one voted for this in the Referendum.

Housing

The West Midlands Combined Authority is targeting for 215,000 homes to be built in the West Midlands by 2030. According to the House Builders Federation, for every £1 spent on construction there is a ‘multiplier’ of £2.84 in the local economy. Investing in local builders and supply chains would deliver a benefit to the region of almost £70bn up to 2030. However, the government increasingly is focussing on modular build with a very high percentage of the content imported from China, Far East, Russia and Scandinavia.

4 Priorities-4-Change

Fair Share

We advocate the allocation of a fair share for the people of the West Midlands, as a matter of course. Open government, as a matter of practice. We need to know where our money is being spent, and our voices should be heard and taken into account when it comes to key decisions.

Our People First

We want to build a diverse, inclusive and sustainable regional economy that reduces the gap between have and have nots.

We want to see our young diverse populations put first, as retaining and developing our talent is key to our future success. We want to ensure we are creating jobs and career opportunities for our young people, linking training and education to local employment opportunities, creating hope and real opportunity. And by doing this ensuring that crime and drugs are not seen as the only routes out of poverty with all the impacts these have on local communities suffering from growing levels of knife crime and youth killings.

We want better integration in health and social care provision – helping vulnerable and elderly people out of hospital and acute care, rehabilitating them properly before their journey back home, whilst also delivering cost savings for our public purse.

Pride of Place

We want to eradicate homelessness, build more affordable homes and establish vibrant local communities people can be proud of.

We want to develop a bank of volunteer supporters to clean up our urban centres and support the charities supporting the homeless and food banks and many others working so hard across the region.

Building our local economy will require more of our public spend to be made with our own home grown firms and in our own place. The circular economy will help to redistribute the money raised from our people and help even out the gap between haves and have nots.

People’s Dividend

We want to see a People’s Dividend as the public sector develops entrepreneurial methods including in procurement, aimed at solving the problems we face – local energy grids, local transport, local housing, local health and social care solutions. Drawing on our local assets, pension funds, local banks we can create world class homemade solutions to meet our needs, the needs of our people.

Don’t blame Europe for our problems. Don’t demand that we take back control from Europe and then leave all the control in the hands of Westminster. We can find and deliver our answers much closer to home. England is not getting a fair settlement and this is particularly felt by the people of the West Midlands.

West Midlands Liberal Democrats – our regional priorities

What are we doing about all this in the West Midlands Liberal Democrats?

We are working hard to support the local elections coming up this May 2019, especially following some notable successes in 2018 Council elections – most recently with the by-election success with Dominic Skinner winning Stratford North Division on Warwickshire County Council https://rugbylibdems.org.uk/en/article/2018/1285804/lib-dems-win-by-election-in-warwickshire-and-gain-new-county-councillor . Congratulations to all involved in running this campaign and delivering a memorable victory. We look forward to reading more about Dominic Skinner as our Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Stratford Upon Avon constituency.

We have appointed our very successful Training and Development Officer, Jennifer Gray, who has relished the task of providing new training courses for our Local Parties, working her way around the region, meeting our representatives and learning as much as she can about the challenges confronting us. Through her we have made many new friends and our Regional Executive has been rejuvenated with new faces, along with a contingent of loyal supporters who have for so long been the back bone of the party locally.

We are looking to appoint a new Campaign Manager as we set about delivering our Campaign2020 ahead of the Metro Mayoral Campaign and election. This will prompt a coordinated approach across the West Midlands Combined authority area.

In both rural and urban parts of the region we will be working closely with our Party Chairs and Councillors to ensure we have captured key concerns and priorities. Our Regional team have visited all parts of the region through 2018 forging new bonds and friendships, and will continue to do so in 2019.

We have made great strides with our Monthly News update, West Midlands Matters, with thanks are due to our editor, Jordan Quinlan.

We are calling all our Chairs and Councillors (or designated representatives) to join us for a meeting on morning 2nd February 2019 at a central location (to be confirmed) so we can work through our shared priorities with you in person. Our aim will be to champion our joint messages and promote a fairer share for all who live here.

I was pleased to thank our retiring West Midlands Executive at our Annual General Meeting in November. Our newly elected Regional Executive and co-opted members are shortly due to be listed on our West Midlands Liberal Democrat Webpages. Everyone is very welcome and their contributions are greatly valued.

We are working hard to attract more diverse representation and we will shortly be launching a new campaign aimed at promoting the special qualities and contributions made by the vibrant rainbow making up our rich and diverse West Midlands communities.  We are also looking for people to join our newly established policy group led by our new Chair of Policy Dr Yeow Poon.

If you want to put your #Hands-Up-4-Change then do contact us at beverley@beverleynielsen.co.uk. You will be most welcome and we greatly look forward to hearing from you.

 

Beverley Nielsen

Chair, West Midlands Liberal Democrats

 

 

 


Season's Greetings from Beverley

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

As another year draws to a close, I have been spending some time reflecting on the past twelve months and looking ahead to all that awaits us in 2018.

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Welcome Sir Vince!

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In opening the event and welcoming the 150 guests, Liberal Democrat members from across the West Midlands Beverley Nielsen, Chair, West Midlands Liberal Democrats observed some of the aspects about our new leader, Sir Vince Cable, that set him apart from others in the political fray. You can read more about Vince's visit, on the Regional Website.

“Sometimes there is a voice that cuts through. You don’t have to be the most informed person to see it or to hear it. And that’s what we have with Vince. An authentic, sincere, well-meaning voice.

“Because we all know that with Vince it is about our country’s best interests and our people’s best interests. Always speaking with these at the core of his words and actions.

“‘Enigmatic’ is the word the BBC chose in describing Vince…’not given to emotional outbursts or shows of passion.

“A contemporary of the likes of Ken Clarke, Michael Howard and Norman Lamont - some of the Tory "big beasts" of the 1990s - while at Cambridge University.

“In the West Midlands so long overlooked and coping with a growing legacy of inequality and exclusion, we are especially heartened to see your manifesto flag up the ‘fair free and open’ core of the liberal values at the heart of our party.

“Wikipedia says of you – ‘the conflict between big ideas - rather than the day-to-day grind of politics - seems to animate him most’ and your manifesto seems to back this up.  You state:

“The House of Commons is unrepresentative and tribal. The Lords are chosen by patronage, not the people. The party funding system gives wealthy people undue influence. English local government has been nationalised, creating the most centralised system of government in the Western world.” 

Do we take it you don’t think the Mother of Parliaments is working? Or even fit for purpose?

“We agree that the hugely-centralised nature of our political and economic management is damaging. We agree that enlightened entrepreneurship lies at the heart of renewal in our communities, in our public services and education as well as through our economy.

“We need in our region, a long-term cross-party approach.
We are proud of your achievements in government on our behalf – when as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, following the financial crisis from which we still struggle to recover, you “reformed the banks and created the world’s first Green Investment Bank and the British Business Bank.” And much more besides.

“If ever we needed our voice to cut through it is now. We need and want to secure electoral success at all levels of government – especially in the West Midlands where we have no MPs and a big challenge to re-establish ourselves where we once had.

“We want to recruit more members, run campaigns to make our country more liberal and more democratic. Your concerns speak to us, to our hearts as we sit here in the heart of our great country.

“We look to you for the answers to help us rebuild and renew and we can assure you that you have our full support, our energy and enthusiasm. We want to fight for our future. We want to fight for our children’s future. And fight to remain at the heart of Europe.

“Show us the steps Vince – as you did not so long ago on Strictly(!) and we will do our very best to follow. But above all, let’s start winning, focussing on winning and helping all in our winning team.


A Thank You From Beverley

key_beverley_thankyou.jpgDear Supporter,

Following the West Midlands Mayoral Election results last Friday I was keen to extend my very sincere thanks to everyone who supported my campaign over the past 8 months.  

During this period I have spoken at over 40 Hustings and 60 speeches along with numerous media interviews on national television - BBC1, BBC2 (incl Newsnight), C4, ITV, R4 Today Programme, Sky TV (including singing on Carpool Mayors!), along with many regional and international channels representing our multi-cultural communities.

Whilst I was clearly disappointed that the result did not go our way, coming third in our strongly pro-Brexit West Midlands was an outcome worth noting and certainly beating UKIP into fourth place was noteworthy.

The results show that in our stronger areas of Birmingham - Yardley, Selly Oak, Perry Barr and Hall Green, Edgbaston, as well as Solihull there is still everything to play for and we have some strong areas of rising support including Coventry and parts of the Black Country, including Walsall.

I know that our attention is now firmly focused on the General Election and for all those concerned about the hard Brexit being foisted on the West Midlands and its impact on our manufacturing heartland I urge you to continue to support West Midlands Lib Dems and the strong candidates we are fielding.

Please support us as we work for an open, tolerant, welcoming West Midlands, built on the diversity we are known for and celebrate.

Please support us as we promote our pro-small home grown business and home grown talent as well as the greatest access to the EU Single Market.

With best wishes,

Beverley Nielsen

West Midlands Mayoral Election Lib Dem Votes and Vote Share

Yardley 2519 (14.3% vote share)

Selly Oak 1639 (9.3% vote share)
Perry Barr 1740 (8.8% vote share)
Hall Green 2202 (8% vote share)
Edgbaston 1494 (7% vote share)
Solihull 3578 (6.8% vote share)

Say goodbye to Groundhog Day politics says Nielsen

The Lib Dem candidate in the West Midlands Mayoral election has climaxed her campaign by issuing a plea to urge voters to back “consensus not confrontation”.

Beverley Nielsen said traditional two-party politics had failed to deliver transformational change for either the region's urban areas, or its rural districts, for decades.

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Nielsen: Time for innovative thinking by our public sector

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Local authorities and higher education (HE) institutions across the West Midlands must become much better at working together to roll back the impact of austerity, says Beverley Nielsen, the LibDem candidate in the region's Mayoral race.

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Nielsen endorses Lib Dems pledge to end rough sleeping

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The Liberal Democrats have become the first major party to commit to ending the "national scandal" of rough sleeping across Britain, which is a huge problem in the West Midlands.  This national policy has been welcomed by Beverley Nielsen, Lib Dem Candidate in the West Midlands Mayoral election which is just days away on 4 May.

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Digital sector must integrate into the business world

The Lib Dem candidate in the West Midlands Mayoral campaign has issued a passionate plea for the region's creative digital sector to embrace the wider business community. Beverley Nielsen has spent the last decade at Birmingham City University (BCU), acting as a catalyst for numerous productive partnerships between employers and the education sector.

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New housing benefit rules are 'callous', says Nielsen

The Tories have been accused of cynically targeting vulnerable young people to slash government spending by Beverley Nielsen, the Lib Dem candidate in the West Midland Mayoral campaign.

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Put youngsters in the front-line to stop littering, says Nielsen

Beverley Nielsen, the Lib Dem candidate for West Midlands Mayor, wants to clean up our streets by enforcing a zero-tolerance approach to littering.

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