• Cllr Ann-Marie Barker - Call for Council Finance review
    Article: Aug 3, 2021

    Liberal Democrats' succeeded in securing agreement for a full review of Woking Council finances at last week's Council meeting.

    The first Council business meeting since May's elections gave unanimous support for a review to look at all aspects of Woking's finances.

    "Liberal Democrats made a commitment to a full financial review in our election manifesto. "As a constructive opposition we put forward proposals for a review of council finances and I am delighted that this was supported by Council" said Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Ann-Marie Barker.

  • Surrey Young Care Leavers - Council Tax exemption
    Article: Jul 28, 2021
    By Cllr Will Forster

    The Lib Dems have secured support for measures that will result in all care leavers in Surrey being exempt from paying Council Tax from next April.

    In 2018, the Lib Dems won unanimous backing at Surrey County Council for a motion to exempt care leavers from paying tax until they are 25. Ten of Surrey's eleven Borough and District Councils have also already taken this step, Woking Borough Council was the first - and now Tandridge District Council has finally agreed to move into line with the rest of Surrey.

    Lib Dem Group Leader on Surrey County Council, Will Forster, said:

    "I am delighted that the aim of my motion will finally be realised, and all young care leavers in Surrey will be exempt from paying Council Tax. These young people have often faced significant challenges growing up, yet they leave home earlier and have less support than other young people. Without the family backup most young people receive, care leavers often struggle to juggle their household bills and make ends meet."

    "Although taking care Leavers out of the Council Tax system is no silver bullet, it will be a strong step in the right direction and will help these young people make a successful transition out of care."

  • Lib Dems criticise apt of £53k a year Deputy PCC in Surrey
    Article: Jul 28, 2021
    By Cllr Will Forster

    Lib Dem Councillors on Surrey's Police and Crime Panel have criticised the Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner for appointing a £53,550 a year Deputy against the views of the cross-party Police and Crime Panel.

    The Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner, Lisa Townsend, and her proposed Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Ellie Vesey-Thompson, recently attended a confirmation hearing with the Police and Crime Panel and answered questions from Panel members on her suitability for the role.

    Miss Vesey-Thompson admitted she had limited experience of policing, but that she would build on her experience of working with young people. Asked about her longer-term career plans, Miss Vesey-Thompson said she intended to return to law school after her role ended. However, she would continue to be involved in political campaigning for the Tories during the appointment.

    During the confirmation hearing, the Commissioner told the Panel she had been under no obligation to tell voters of the proposed appointment during the election campaign, despite deciding to appoint Miss Vesey-Thompson at an early stage. She had not undertaken any formal recruitment process, in reliance on the exemption in Government rules for political appointments.

    Following this hearing, the Panel wrote to the Commissioner recommending against the appointment of the proposed Deputy, however she decided to press ahead with the appointment regardless of the Panel's concerns.

    Lib Dem Councillor Will Forster, Woking's representative on the Police and Crime Panel, said:

    "I think the decision to press ahead with appointing a Deputy Commissioner, against the advice of the Panel, is wrong. It creates a further crisis of legitimacy for the Conservatives' deeply flawed and derided PCC model."

    "The new Commissioner failed to tell voters of the proposed appointment during the election campaign and has relied on an exemption in Government rules which means there is no obligation to appoint a Deputy on merit, and no restriction on their continuing political activities."

    "£53,550 is a huge salary for a Tory activist with no senior management or policing experience, which will come out of Surrey's police budget, paid for by council taxpayers. This public money could have been spent on actually policing, but instead it will be used to fund the political career of another Conservative Party politician."

  • Locla MP breaks promise and votes against worlds poorest
    Article: Jul 28, 2021
    By Cllr Will Forster

    Woking's Conservative MP recently voted in the House of Commons to support the Government's cut to foreign aid, breaking a manifesto promise.

    MPs were given the option to vote between restoring the Government's commitment to spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on foreign aid, and a so-called compromise that would see the commitment return only after the arrival of economic conditions that, according to former Prime Minister Theresa May, may not come for years, and, according to the House of Commons library, have only been met once this century.

    Woking's MP, Jonathan Lord, voted for the Government's proposal, risking the cuts to foreign aid becoming permanent, despite standing on a promise to maintain the 0.7% commitment at the last General Election.

    Lib Dem Spokesperson for Woking, Will Forster, said:

    "I am shocked and appalled our Tory MP in Woking voted against the world's poorest, and broke a promise to their constituents as they did so. The Government's cuts to foreign aid will do great harm to those who rely on our support."

    "The UK has a reputation as a country that does its bit to help others, but that reputation is now in jeopardy as we turn our back on the world's poorest and most vulnerable. These cuts are short-sighted and wrong - from tackling climate change and terrorism to preventing future pandemics, the damage of these cuts will be felt here in the UK and across the world."

    "At the last General Election, both Jonathan Lord and I stood on manifesto promises to support the UK's commitment to the world's poorest, and I am proud that my Lib Dem colleagues in Parliament stood by that promise. I know many Woking residents will now rightly question whether the Conservatives can be trusted to do as they say."

  • Woking MP - Pet Theft
    Article: Jul 12, 2021

    The Conservative MP for Woking, Jonathan Lord, is under fire for voting against a new law to tackle pet theft.

    In a vote on Monday 5th July, Woking's MP was among 354 Tories who blocked efforts to make pet theft a crime in its own right, with stiffer penalties for offenders.

    Under the current law, pets are treated as property, with no distinction between a family's beloved dog and a stolen bike. Meanwhile, pet theft is up 250% in the past year as the value of pets has soared during lockdown.

  • Cllr Ann-Marie Barker - Call for Council Finance review
    Article: Jul 8, 2021

    Over the last few years, under Conservative Leadership, Woking Borough Council has been on a massive spending spree. According to the last set of accounts the Council has long term loans totalling £1.5 Billion and is committed to £3.8 Billion in loan repayments and interest over the next 50 years.

    In the last year we have seen councils such as Croydon, which has a similar level of borrowing being forced into Special Measures because it could not meet its payment commitments. Slough Council recently declared itself bankrupt when an over estimation of income from a joint venture was revealed.

    Dr Gifty Edila, in reviewing the proposed Westfield development in Woking, highlighted that Woking Council had been secretive about the extent of contractual commitments.

    "We believe that local people deserve the complete picture on Council finances," said Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr Ann-Marie Barker. "Liberal Democrats made a commitment to a full financial review in our election manifesto. Despite not running the Council, we are putting forward proposals for a review of council finances."

    At the next Council meeting Liberal Democrats will call for an independent auditor to produce a Statement of Affairs. This should cover all Council activities, including those of all companies in which the Council has an interest. It should show all the liabilities, net realisable value of all the assets and the contractual commitments the Council has made which will affect the Council's finances in the future.

    "If the Statement of Affairs shows that the Council can meet its financial commitments it will be great to have that assurance" points out Cllr Barker. "If there is uncertainty, we need to know that too. There must be a proactive plan to manage any risks and the Liberal Democrats want to contribute constructively and put the Council in the best long-term and sustainable position to meet the challenges ahead" said Cllr Barker.

  • Elderly lady
    Article: Jul 5, 2021

    The local Lib Dems have called on Surrey County Council to stand up to the Government over its failure to deliver the previously promised reform of the social care system.

    Lib Dem Councillors have tabled a motion to the County Council's next meeting on 13th July demanding that the Council continues to put pressure on the Government and Surrey's MPs to honour their pledge to tackle the crisis in social care.

  • Will Forster
    Article: Jun 19, 2021

    The Lib Dems shock triumph in the Chesham and Amersham by-election would see some 154 seats across the country flip to the party after they sent shockwaves through the Tory blue wall.

    The Lib Dems gained a 25% swing in Chesham and Amersham electing their 12th MP Sarah Green.

    Woking would be one of 154 constituencies that would turn Lib Dem at an election. The 25% swing in Chesham and Amersham has put blue wall seats like Woking "on notice" with Lib Dems locally being the leading opposition to the Conservatives.

  • School children
    Article: Jun 9, 2021

    Schools across Surrey are set to lose £1.1 million in funding for the most disadvantaged pupils in the county following the Government's decision to alter the method of calculating pupil premium funding.

    The pupil premium, which aims to close the attainment gap by providing extra money to pupils eligible for free school meals, was a flagship reform introduced by the Lib Dems in Government in 2011.

  • Hand holding by various people
    Article: Jun 9, 2021

    This Carers Week, the Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to provide emergency funding to give carers a break from dramatically increased caring responsibilities during the Covid pandemic.
    More than 108,400 people in Surrey are looking after elderly, disabled or vulnerable people. Data from Carers UK shows 64% of carers have not been able to take any sort of a break during the pandemic.

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