Posts Tagged ‘Liberal Democrats’

I recently visited the CHASE children’s hospice, near Godalming to learn about their work and hear concerns over future funding. I met staff and some of the children. I was deeply impressed by the amazing work they do at CHASE and the obvious dedication that is put into the care and support of the children and their families.

Bridget Turner, CHASE’s Deputy Chief Executive said, “CHASE currently benefits from a government grant. It represents about 10% so we still rely on raising funds from the public for 90% of the income we need. However even this grant is due finish in March 2011. The government expects the local health economy to replace the crucial funds that this grant has provided. We are very worried about this as we know that any extra money allocated to PCTs to do this is not ring fenced so there is no guarantee it will be used for Children’s Palliative Care at all. This is especially concerning in the absence of specific targets for PCTs to improve services for children, teenagers and young people that will have tragically short lives. All this can only increase the vulnerability of sustaining such vital services like those CHASE provides.”

I will do all I can to put pressure on the government to provide at least as much support to CHASE as they have done in the past. The work they do should not depend solely on the generosity of the public through donations. Government has a duty to support the care that CHASE provides. There are few, if any, more worthy recipients of State funding.

Click here for Mike’s main website

Jeremy Hunt tried to claim for a 1p phone call

The Conservative MP for South West Surrey won the award for the most penny-pinching expense claim, as all the national newspapers told us today. Jeremy Hunt, who last summer was estimated by the Spectator Magazine to be worth £4.1 million, tried to claim for a 1p mobile phone call.
And it wasn’t some technical error. The claim was actually hand written!
Like my mother would say, “Look after the pennies ….”

See the actual claim by clicking here

For the Spectator report estimating Jeremy’s wealth click here

Speaking at the hustings in Farnham

Over the last few weeks it seems that the whole country has been consumed with the MPs’ expenses saga. Many people are now growing weary of the whole thing.

There are grave issues raised and the South West Surrey MP has many questions still to answer. In a democracy it is crucial that the opposition challenges and questions vigorously and I will continue to do so.

At the same time we need to present our positive policies for the way forward.

A Positive Way Forward

Our country and indeed the whole world faces very serious matters, including the economic crisis and climate change to name but two.

I would love to see the main political leaders in our country coming together to address some of the more intractable issues, but the nature of our current political system works against such a consensus approach. You might expect me, as a Lib Dem, to say that we need a new voting system, but more and more people of all political parties and of none, are calling for ‘electoral reform’. Click here for the campaign for electoral reform which is gaining such momentum.

The current system of voting is a kind of ‘winner takes all’ system which usually leads to huge majorities in Parliament for one or other of the main parties. If they think the mood is swinging their way then, of course, they don’t want to change the system! Labour obtained a large majority at the last election on the back of just 22% of the electorate voting for them (and only 35% of those who actually voted). That can’t be right.

But it’s not just unfair on the 65% who voted for other parties. It is also bad for our country, because it leads to disenchantment with politics. This is because it appears that the only voters who really matter are those in a handful of marginal constituencies where the election could go either way. “What’s the point in voting. It doesn’t change anything”, many people say across the rest of the country.

I believe the time is ripe for major reform and the core of that reform must be a fairer voting system.

My Reform Agenda

There are some major reforms needed. They include rolling back the ‘Big Brother’ state, stronger privacy laws for ordinary people, scrapping ID cards, enshrining freedom of speech and religion, a fully elected House of Lords, making the government much more accountable, fixed-term Parliaments and dispersing power to the most local possible level. My speech to secure my selection by Lib Dem members in South West Surrey in March was almost entirely focussed on these issues. After the last few weeks I think the case for radical reform has never been stronger in my lifetime. I would love to hear your views on these matters.

Click here for Mike’s main website

Updated 2nd June 2009 10.15 hrs
Last Friday Jeremy Hunt MP held a public meeting to explain himself over his expenses.

In response to my questions Mr Hunt admitted that the Conservative Party Agent for the area has lived rent-free in his taxpayer funded ‘second home’ in Farnham.

Current Parliamentary rules say,

‘Claims cannot relate to party political activity of any sort, nor must any claim provide a benefit to a party political organisation’.

The 2006 rules said,

‘You must ensure that arrangements for your ACA (second home) claims are above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money. You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you are, or someone close to you is obtaining immediate benefit or subsidy from public funds or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation.’

Taxpayers are entitled to ask why we are paying for the Conservative Party’s professional agent to have free accommodation at taxpayers expense in Jeremy Hunt’s second home.

Jeremy Hunt said at the public meeting that he thought this was for just 7 months ‘after the election’ and that he had allowed her to use a room, but after I emailed him to ask him to explain how his agent was on the electoral roll up to September 2008, Mr Hunt changed his account of events.

He now says that she lived there for over 2 years after the election.

In contrast local residents interviewed by a reporter said that they ‘never see’ Jeremy Hunt at the address.

Jeremy Hunt says that his Hammersmith address is his main home. He has owned this property from October 1997.

In the interests of genuine ‘transparency’ I call on Jeremy Hunt to explain himself fully. Perhaps he might explain to his electorate why he thought it was OK to have his Political Agent live at his taxpayer-funded ‘second home’. We await with much interest his attempt to justify this sorry state of affairs.

Speaking at the hustings in Farnham

Mike Simpson has called on the Conservative MP for South West Surrey to explain why he has claimed over £37,000 in his first 3 years as an MP for ‘the cost of staying away from his main home’, rather than commute to London from Farnham. Farnham is just 45 miles from Westminster and trains take less than an hour to Waterloo.

Mike Simpson, the new Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate says “If Mr Hunt think he needs a third home he should tell us how he justifies the expense to the taxpayer”.

The figures published for Jeremy Hunt, for the first 3 years he has been an MP, show that he claimed an average of £12,566 per year despite having a home in Farnham and a ‘half-share of a holiday house in Italy’. He is also reported (by the Spectator Magazine) to own a home in Hammersmith. You can read the Spectator report on Jeremy Hunt’s wealth and property by clicking here.

‘Extraordinary’ expense

Mike Simpson said, “If Mr Hunt does not own a home in Hammersmith it begs the question where does he live? He is now claiming ‘SECOND HOME’ expenses for his home in Farnham! It is extraordinary that the Conservative MP claims thousands of pounds every year for accommodation, when so many of his constituents commute into London. There are plenty of late trains or he could drive the 45 miles back to his home in Farnham. He is a wealthy man and I wonder why he thinks the taxpayer should pick up the tab if he chooses to have a third home somewhere else.”

Mike Simpson would commute to Westminster if elected

Mike Simpson has made a commitment that if he is elected he will commute to London and would not be charging the taxpayer for any second home expenses. “As I am not an MP at present, I can’t afford two homes, let alone three and if elected I can say now that I would not claim a penny for a second home. I just can’t see how Jeremy Hunt justifies at least £37,000 in 3 years for an alternative home paid for by the taxpayer. In addition to this money we have still not been told how much he has claimed for 2008/9. Why is he keeping silent on these matters?”

Other amounts claimed by Jeremy Hunt

Mr Hunt also claimed over £54,000 from the ‘The Incidental Expenses Provision’, which can be used ‘to meet the cost of: accommodation for office or surgery use; equipment and supplies for office or surgery; work commissioned or other services; and certain travel and communications’.

He also claimed £10,668 in 2007/8 from the ‘Communications Allowance’, which includes paying for websites and constituency newsletters.

These expenses exclude the substantial sums claimed for staff to support his work.

Mike Simpson Liberal Democrat candidate for South West Surrey in the May 2010 General Election

Who would be an M.P. these days? It’s a hard life for them travelling between multiple residences, having to submit expense claims for every can of cat food or bag of manure, arranging to have one’s swimming pool cleaned on the state… and all for a salary of just £64,000 plus tax free expenses which are embarrassingly splashed across the front pages.

Once upon a time it was an honour to be elected as a Member of Parliament. The scandal that has been rightly exposed over the last week or so is no joke. We need to shake up our whole political system and make politicians much more accountable for their behaviour. Part of the problem is the fact that MPs seem to expect to live a privileged existence at taxpayers’ expense.

There are of course good M.P.s in all Parties, but not enough of them understand ordinary people’s lives and struggles.

When there are such dire economic circumstances and we face so many huge challenges, it is critical that people can trust their elected representatives to act honourably and without duplicity. It is clearly not good enough for M.P.s to say, ‘I kept to the rules’, because they drew up the rules allowing themselves to rip off the taxpayers. It is especially galling when the rest of us have to tighten our belts.

I aspire to be the M.P. for South West Surrey, but the torrent of shocking news about M.P.’s expenses makes me wonder how few people will even turn out to vote at the next General Election. The number of people using the phrase, ‘You’re all as bad as each other’ is likely to rocket and who can blame people for thinking that?

The problem is that the political class don’t want to give up any of their power or the accompanying perks. They have the same attitude as the top bankers who have so comprehensively messed up our economy. We must challenge the politicians and make them genuinely accountable to the public, because they, along with the bankers, have failed us so spectacularly. Challenging those in power, particularly for the sake of the less powerful, is one reason why I am in politics. And I still believe it can be a noble profession.

You can read more about my background and experience by clicking ‘About Mike Simpson’

Mike Simpson has been selected as the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South West Surrey. He secured 80% of the votes of party members.

Mike says, “Now the real work begins – winning the votes of the people of South West Surrey. I don’t underestimate how much hard work I will have to put in to achieve that, but I think increasingly people are having doubts about the desirability of having another Tory government. The Liberal Democrats are certainly coming up in the opinion polls and that’s partly because we have consistently shown wisdom in our economic policies and a strong standing with the public on environmental and civil liberties issues.”

Mike Simpson writes: Ken Clarke, the man the Tories rejected 3 times for leader, set off a round of infighting in the Conservative Party over the weekend. He said that the Tory promise to end inheritance tax for all but millionaires was now only “an aspiration” which the party hoped to get around to “sooner or later”. This immediately started a panic in Tory party headquarters (and no doubt in many local Conservative party branches where the inheritance tax pledge had been welcomed by the right wing of the party).

On Monday a series of leading Tories sought to clarify the position. They say they will cut inheritance tax if elected, no matter what other pressures there are on the government’s finances. Ken was forced to back down. The true nature of Tory economic policy has been exposed. With the government massively in debt, the Tory priority, if they were elected, would be to cut taxes for the better off. With falling house prices it is a very small group who would benefit from their proposals, given that the Labour Government have already changed the inheritance tax threshold (for married couples there is no inheritance tax on estates left of up to £600,000).

You might think that in the current economic climate a pledge to help the well-off would be a low priority given that there are already 2 million out of work and millions more deeply in debt. By the time of the General Election (probably in a year from now) there are likely to be 3 million out of work and many people having their homes repossessed. I remember how brutal the economic policy of the Conservatives was in past recessions, so their current policy is no surprise to me. In the 80’s and 90’s there were savage cuts in public services and yet the rich were gifted huge tax cuts. It is right to say that now there should be higher priorities than further cuts to inheritance tax, but the Tory party has not really changed. Their instinct is to slash services for the vulnerable whilst reducing taxes for the better-off. So much for the new caring image of the party!

As we approach the next election I predict that the focus of political debate will increasingly be on what is to be done in respect of the deplorable state of the government’s finances. Liberal Democrats must continue to fight for a fair tax system and for heavy government funding in several key areas including education, the NHS, support for the elderly and vulnerable and for our green agenda (which by the way will create new jobs). We cannot spare resources for more tax cuts for the well-off at a time of such economic pain for ordinary people.

Tory Failure in Surrey

Mike Simpson says, “Today Lord Laming presented his review of child protection services. The Tories said it was an ‘indictment of the state of child protection’ in England. I say that is hypocritical given the scandalous state of child protection services in Tory-controlled Surrey, a wealthy County with services rated as low as Haringey, infamous for the Baby P scandal.

Tory-run Surrey is one of only four Council’s to be awarded just one star by the Audit Commission for its performance in 2008.

This came after Ofsted’s Joint Area Review (JAR), published in July, found the Tory run County Council was failing vulnerable children.

The Audit Commission’s summary of Surrey County Council said: “Services for vulnerable children and young people do not meet minimum requirements and safeguarding is inadequate.”

Shockingly the JAR had revealed that council workers in contact with vulnerable youngsters had not even undergone Criminal Records Bureau Checks (CRB).

Disabled children were also found to be staying at home because there was not enough care for them at school and teenage abortion rates were among the highest in the UK.

I have managed services for vulnerable young people for many years and I know how tough it can be to deliver the highest standards but the response of the Tories in Surrey is truly shocking. Astonishingly, instead of accepting the need to improve services, the Tory controlled Council has applied to the High Court for a review of Ofsted’s assessment of its children’s services. The Tory leader of Surrey said the appeal to the High Court was necessary because a one-star rating would lead to increased inspections for the council, which would cost more money!

Lord Laming said that child protection issues in England had not been given “the priority they deserved” and that a lack of funding had made child protection a “Cinderella service”.

That has certainly been the case in Tory-controlled Surrey.

It is nothing short of a disgrace. I am sorry to say that this fits the pattern of the Conservative approach to services for the vulnerable and it is one more reason why we cannot afford to have a return to Conservative government in our country.

View Lord Laming’s full report here.

Read more about Mike Simpson

Mike Simpson says, “I met a small-businessman in Haslemere recently. He was agonising about how to respond to falling orders. He was considering cutting his Directors’ salaries in half or laying off staff or probably having to do both.

That is the kind of human cost faced every day by businesses. The Conservatives have nothing to offer.

Complete the poll at the bottom of this message to tell me what you think are the big political issues.

The Liberal Democrats are making the running on responding to the financial crisis, not least because of our superb Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable.

Many people remember only too well the last time the Tories were running our economy and how little they helped ordinary people suffering through hard economic times, including mass unemployment. The instincts of the Conservative Party are the same today – let the market rule – and look where the unregulated free-market has got us!

In fact it was Margaret Thatcher who started the process of financial de-regulation that led to unsustainable bank lending.

Many ordinary people have been saying for years that the credit boom was bound to end in tears. In the 1990s I managed housing for young people with high support needs. Many had been homeless or had drug problems. Most were unemployed. My staff and I were regularly shocked by the mail that residents received – offers of credit cards for 18 to 25 year olds with barely two pence to rub together! I personally worked with several who had built up thousands of pounds of debt.

As an Economics Graduate I have always been a supporter of John Maynard Keynes’ economic policy ideas, but he was out of fashion in the Tory years. Instead the ideas of Milton Friedman were allowed full reign. And that is the beginning of the story of this current financial crisis…

One thing’s for sure – the Tory concept of unregulated banking has been an unmitigated disaster. It was also heartless in its application across the world. Now new solutions are needed for these uncertain times. Read about our Liberal Democrat prescription by clicking here: ‘Cable rebukes ‘zombie government’ for betraying taxpayers’

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