West cumbria liberal democrats news and information from the copeland and workington lib dem focus team eseva electricity bill payment


The immediate crisis is Brexit. We cannot recall any national issue which has so divided both people and politicians. We are entering the final stages of this long debate about our relationship with our European neighbours and our ability to retain a key role in international affairs. Fortunately, as Parliament faces its most important decisions since 1940, it remains possible that our country can save itself from deep, self-inflicted injury.

A ‘people’s vote’ will give an opportunity for the whole electorate, including the new generation reaching 18 who will live longest with this decision, to make their final choice. gas constant for helium Their decision may not only maintain the huge advantages of membership of the EU, but also ensure the very survival of the UK. Liberal Democrats, committed internationalists, have consistently been in favour of such a vote.

There are solutions, such as major investment in renewables, but this short-sighted government is withdrawing subsidies for solar panels and windpower. Previous governments have proposed a carbon ration to keep the CO2 emissions within safe limits. This could be a really effective measure which would affect the lifestyle of the rich but not touch those suffering from the financial austerity of this government.

I make no apology for returning to the continuing saga of the Brexit process of leaving the European Union. Although this may seem distant and irrelevant to us in West Cumbria, this is not the case. Brexit will have a major impact locally, as well as on the UK as a whole and indeed on the EU itself. What becomes increasingly clear is that leaving the EU is a more complex matter than most of us anticipated.

Astonishingly, two years after the referendum, little progress has been made to finalise the terms of withdrawal and to create new arrangements for working and trading with Europe for the future. We have not finally agreed a fair system for Europeans working here or an effective way to ensure an open border on the island of Ireland when single market arrangements end. The Bank of England estimates that incomes are already around £900 per household lower than forecast in May 2016. The substantial fall in the value of the pound has led to price-increases across the board.

We can now begin to appreciate what will happen when we pull out. Since the referendum, our economy has slowed almost to zero and industrial production has actually fallen in the last 3 months. Productivity has stagnated through lack of investment. We have gone from being the fastest growing economy in Western Europe to the slowest. Recently the President of the CBI, the major body representing British industry, warned that the present situation is intolerable, the level of uncertainty crippling.

The inevitable effects are becoming clear. electricity flow diagram Major companies are safeguarding their future by planning to move abroad. Airbus has just announced that it may cease production in UK. Many car companies, including BMW, are looking to relocate into the European single market to avoid complex tariff charges. Jaguar Land Rover intend to shift some production to Europe as a hedge against current uncertainty. Banks and pharmaceutical firms are planning similar moves. The massive knock-on effects on jobs and prosperity, even here in the north-west, are obvious.

The longer-term political effects of leaving the EU are just as alarming. Scotland voted to remain in the EU, and simply ignoring their wish to influence the Brexit decisions is a gift to the independence movement. Creating a hard customs border in Ireland will clearly endanger the still-fragile peace process there. gas pain The very survival of the EU, which has helped maintain peace in Europe for 70 years, will be at risk if the UK, a bastion of liberal democratic values, withdraws.

Some argue that the will of the people as expressed in 2016 cannot be questioned. However at that time, when just 37% of the electorate voted to leave, the full implications were then not clear. Constitutionally, parliament will make the final decision, but Liberal Democrats believe there should be a “peoples’ referendum” before that, making a judgement on the deal reached by government, and including the option to remain within the EU, which remains the most remarkable example of international co-operation in peacetime in our increasingly divided and dangerous world.

Firstly, the NHS and all other public services already face a worsening financial crisis. The ‘leaked’ government figures, produced in January (‘EU Exit Analysis – Cross-Whitehall briefing’), predict a further substantial fall in UK economic performance following BREXIT, with an inevitable knock-on effect on funding for the NHS. The “no deal” BREXIT scenario, under which the UK reverts to World Trade Organization rules, would reduce UK growth by 8%. Indeed, the North-West is predicted to be 12% worse off, the third worst region in the UK. electricity labs for middle school These calculations do not take into account other hits to the economy from BREXIT, such as the cost of adjusting to new customs arrangements.

There is no prospect of Boris Johnson’s predicted £350 million a week BREXIT saving reaching the NHS, as he now admits. Instead, on top of the further funding cuts being imposed on all local authorities responsible for care services (including Cumbria County Council) we are certain to see reductions in central NHS funding as economic performance suffers and the tax take falls.

Second, we note that it is proposed to remove the UK from the current Euratom arrangements. The Euratom treaty allows for closer EU scientific and medical co-operation and the rapid transfer between EU members of vital medical radio-isotopes used in NHS cancer treatments. Why spend years negotiating a less beneficial replacement treaty when we already have an effective system in place?

Third, consider the implications for NHS staffing. Around 10,000 EU nationals have quit the NHS and social care services since the EU referendum, including almost 4,000 nurses and 1,800 doctors. Many more are planning to leave. We can recognise the effects already; simply listen to the views of the professional organisations involved. One dire effect of these staffing shortages will be to make the future of our West Cumberland Hospital even more uncertain.

Mr Fisher asks for our Plan B. In fact the country faces a simple decision; Remain in the EU; or Leave. electricity khan academy That is still the fundamental choice ahead, as most now recognise. As the damaging implications of Leave become ever more obvious, it would be prudent to re-examine the 2016 BREXIT decision, both at public and at parliamentary level. The patriotic choice is to remain and to play our full part in the European project, instead of staying on the sidelines with minimum influence. Future generations will not thank us if we get this wrong.

We can find many examples in our daily lives where we are responsible for enabling services to work more effectively. Take recycling of rubbish. The council asks us to separate out rubbish that can be re-used, so we have a paper bin and we put plastic, metals and glass ready to be separated and reused. Only with our help can these services be effective, and pollution of our rivers and seas be avoided.

Can we by responsible action save costs in other services as well? The service that is struggling to meet the growing needs of the community, after 75 years from the original 1942 report by the Liberal economist William Beveridge, is our much respected NHS. igas energy shares Almost every day we hear of funding difficulties somewhere in the country but we should recognise that much of the NHS budget is spent treating conditions caused by our lifestyle choices.

The cost of treating diabetes each year is £12.5bn, a tenth of the total NHS budget. Treating liver diseases costs £3.5bn and smoking, despite the huge drop in the number of smokers is still costing more than £5bn to treat the diseases it causes. The NHS will always treat disease wherever it occurs and whatever the cause, but we can all help to reduce the pressure on the service by choosing a better diet and lifestyle, whilst at the same time enjoying our lives more.

What we really need is help and information from Public Health services but don’t expect much as Public Health has recently been given back to under-funded local councils but without provision of any additional funds. So can we within the community in our own lives each make the changes that will help the NHS and make living more enjoyable?

In May I was elected as a Liberal Democrat County Councillor and I joined the Health Scrutiny Committee – giving me the opportunity to cross-examine health bosses. I recently used this position to have it publicly confirmed that the Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will still make the decision on whether or not to end consultant-led maternity care in Whitehaven without taking fully into account the risks that ending this service will create.

Consultant-led care will end if safe medical staffing in Whitehaven is not deliverable and sustainable. This is madness. Clearly there are risks associated with having fragile staffing in Whitehaven, but these are risks we have been living with for years already, and they are small compared with the risks arising when large numbers of women have to travel long distances to give birth. The newly established Independent Review Group has been requested to assess the risks associated with women having to travel to Carlisle or Barrow, but as I understand it there is then no route by which any comments they make can influence whether or not consultant-led care ends in Whitehaven.

In March the Health Scrutiny Committee referred the decision on maternity care to the Secretary of State for Health (Jeremy Hunt). We are now expecting Hunt’s decision any day. Before he took office in 2013, proposals to close maternity services where significant numbers of women would have to travel over 20 miles were refused by the Secretary of State on safety grounds. However, since 2013 all referrals on the closure of services have been rejected without the cases associated with them being heard.

Jeremy Hunt could act to ensure that there is a mechanism by which the closure of consultant-led maternity care in Whitehaven can be prevented if this is found by the Independent Review Group to be much more risky than keeping services open. If he fails to do this it is essential that our local action groups work quickly to challenge his decision in the courts and I would strongly encourage everyone to support and encourage them.

At the Working Together Group last Thursday it was suggested that the CCG could intervene to establish that the decision about whether or not to close consultant-led care will be made on the basis of which option presents the least risk to mothers. If Jeremy Hunt refuses to address this issue it is essential that the CCG does so rapidly and publicly if they want to demonstrate that they are serious about acting in the public interest. gas vs electric stove top They could, in doing so, prevent a high-profile legal battle which will further damage public trust.

We have still to agree on the rights Europeans in Britain and British residents in Europe should retain. The future of the border on the island of Ireland is deeply contentious. The size of the so-called UK ‘exit bill’, the amount the UK should pay for commitments already entered into, is highly controversial – not helped by juvenile comments from our Foreign Secretary, about ‘having our cake and eating it’ or suggesting the EU ‘go whistle’ for its money. Indeed, the ill-judged approach adopted by our ministerial negotiating team has been superficial and confrontational rather than seeking sensible compromise.

The true cost of leaving Europe becomes steadily clearer. electricity grid australia The awesome complexity of ending a 44 year economic and political union, compounded by our serious lack of civil service and negotiating resources, will dominate parliamentary activity, at the cost of other much-needed legislation. The recent EU Withdrawal Bill will be followed by seven other major BREXIT bills in this parliament, covering immigration, agriculture, trade and customs.

The cost of separating from our EU trading partners, currently taking 44% of our exports, is now emerging. Such is the present level of uncertainty, economic growth is slowing dramatically whilst inflation erodes incomes; business and economic confidence and investment are suffering; the pound continues to fall against other currencies; major banks are already setting up alternative office hubs in other European capitals; NHS recruitment is falling dramatically; agriculture is deeply concerned about loss of seasonal European workers and loss of subsidy.

There are also 35 European regulatory bodies needing replacement. New UK bodies, covering medicines, aviation safety and financial services for example, will still need to replicate EU rules to maintain cross-border equivalence. A special issue here in Cumbria is the related decision to pull out of the Euratom treaty, which established the European Atomic Energy Commission. Wisely, the House of Commons Energy select committee is urging the Government to re-examine this, as it would entail disruption of supplies of reactor materials, nuclear fuel and medical isotopes vital for the treatment of cancer. Liberal Democrats are committed to remain within the Euratom Treaty.

These complex issues appear to have been ignored by too many ministers, blithely marching us toward consequences that they appear not to recognise. At the very least, we will require an extended transitional period to sort them all out, as now seems to be accepted by government. This period, in the view of the Liberal Democrats, should include a further public consultation and a comprehensive parliamentary debate including the option to remain within a reformed EU, rather than persisting with this deeply damaging BREXIT process, based on the ‘leave’ vote of just 37% of the electorate.