On the 26th of October, the Liberal Democrats tried to stop George Osborne's unfair and economically unwise cuts to people's tax credits by voting for an amendment – the so-called "fatal motion" – that would have killed off the cuts altogether.
In Government, Liberal Democrats blocked these cuts and we continue to oppose them now. We said it was not fair to make savings by cutting the support for people on low and middle incomes. In City and East the cuts would have affected 52,000 families and 96,000 children. Instead, we believe that people who earn more should bear a fair share of the cost, and that cutting the money people have to spend on everyday items risks hurting the economy too.
During the election, Danny Alexander warned that the Conservatives were considering the cuts. Prime Minister David Cameron even made a promise that tax credits would not be cut. We think it is only fair that he be held to that promise.
Sadly, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour peers chose not to vote on the Liberal Democrat motion, just like Labour MPs abstained on the welfare bill in the summer.
As Liberal Democrats we would rather see the best result for people, so we supported the weaker amendments even though it means the cuts are only delayed and not stopped, and that they start immediately for new claimants, hurting young people the most.
The Prime Minister and the Chancellor are trying to cover their embarrassment by calling this a "constitutional crisis". But what the Lords did was correct. It was the Government's choice to avoid the scrutiny given to a Parliamentary Bill by sending these measures to the Lords as a ‘Statutory Instrument’, which the Lords can only say yes or no to. Many moderate Conservatives were already calling on Mr Osborne to think again about these cuts, so the Lords have actually done their job of calling on the Government to think again.
The Metropolitan Police could lose as many as 8,000 police officers if the Government’s plans to cut their budget go ahead. This represents cutting nearly a quarter of the police force, in addition to the 5,655 officers already lost since 2010. In Tower Hamlets, that could mean between 150 to 300 police lost, depending on how the cuts are applied.
These cuts to the policing budget are happening while crime is increasing in the capital. Recent stats from the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) show that knife crime with injury is up 14% in the past 12 months, while serious youth violence has increased by 8%, along with a 16.5% increase in the number of firearms discharged. Londoners, including Tower Hamlets residents, are paying the price for this reduced police presence.
A former police sergeant in charge of the gangs unit for the Met has said the police have “lost control” of the streets, with lots of London’s gang territories going ‘unchecked’. Around 50 gangs are said to operate in Tower Hamlets alone.
Since 2010, the Met has seen £600,000 in budget cuts resulting in 244 fewer police officers and PCSOs in Tower Hamlets. The Met is facing another £1,000,000 budget cut this year. At this rate, retired police say that they fear that London will not be able to cope with another city-wide riot like 2011.
The Government is also looking at cutting 1,000 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) who play a key role in helping keep our neighbourhoods safe. These PCSOs are important for creating trust in the community and helping to free up police officers to respond to more serious crime.
If you want to keep our communities safe please help Elaine Bagshaw and the Lib Dems stop the cuts by signing our petition here
“The Prime Minister’s apparent 11th hour conversion to social justice is welcome but it will fool no one.
“If you want to understand this Tory Government you have to look at what they have done and not the promises of a seasoned PR man.
“This, after all, is from a Government that has already scrapped the child poverty target, demonised refugees, cut benefits for asylum seekers and slashed housing benefit for large families.
“It is the most extraordinary chutzpah for Mr Cameron to claim to be a poverty champion at the same time he is picking the pockets of the very poorest workers by slashing their tax credits.
“The Prime Minister might spin a decent line about prison reform too but this is from a party that banned prisoners’ reading books.
“And if he was really concerned about racial discrimination he would publicly denounce his Home Secretary’s shameful attack on immigrants yesterday.
“The Liberal Democrats welcome the Prime Minister’s change of tone but it has to be backed up by actions – not just easy words.”
“At last Cameron has woken up to the crisis under his nose and started talking about the lack of affordable housing.
“Liberal Democrats have long been calling for swift and serious action to tackle the national housing emergency.
“But typically the Conservative focus is on helping the few not the many. They seem only interested in helping better off renters and not the 1.6 million people on waiting lists for a home of any sort.
“Starter homes may sound promising but this announcement will only make a dent in the housing crisis and we must do much more.”
A few weeks ago, I went to Calais. I talked there with about 20 refugees. I heard their stories of harrowing risks, dangers fled, and desperation for their children.
I have to tell you, not a single one of them mentioned benefits.
They wanted to come to Britain to be safe, to work, to contribute.
They see our country as a place of opportunity, a place to make the most of yourself, a place where you can be the best you can be.
Because you don’t risk everything clinging to the bottom of a truck if you’re looking for an easy life.
I met a 14 year-old boy who had broken both of his legs trying to board a lorry, he was in a wheelchair pushed by a boy who was 11. Both had lost their parents, both were alone.
After the second world war, Britain offered homes to up two thousand children whose parents had been murdered in the Holocaust. I know this because around 300 of them came to my constituency to recuperate and became known as the Windermere boys. In all the UK provided homes to 700 such children.
That was all who were left alive to take up our offer.
On Wednesday 26th August the Mayor is making a planning decision as to whether to approve the Enderby Cruise terminal in Greenwich.
Local residents have been fighting against the building of the new terminal, and have continued fighting despite the application being approved by Greenwich Borough Council. As only the Mayor has the power to overturn this decision, Wednesday is the final chance for local residents to be protected from the noise and significant air pollution that would result from the opening of the terminal.
In last week’s budget the government announced that maintenance grants for poorer students would be replaced by loans from 2016/17.
These grants are targeted at families on incomes of less than £25,000 with a decreasing amount available for households on incomes up to £42,620.
Latest figures from the student loans company show that around 4,600 students in Tower Hamlets are benefitting from this grant, worth up to £3,300. A total of around £13 million for the most disadvantaged Tower Hamlets students in the previous academic year.
Local liberal democrats have said that this was a plan their party had to block whilst in coalition.
Sixteen-year-olds in Tower Hamlets could soon vote for their local councillor after the Liberal Democrats embarrassed David Cameron in the House of Lords this week.
Lib Dem peers tabled an amendment to a bill to give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to choose their local councillors.
The amendment was supported by Labour, which meant the Government was defeated yet again in the House of Lords – a major headache for the Conservative Party.
It means unless the Tories can overturn this amendment in the House of Commons, under-18s in Tower Hamlets could be eligible to vote in local elections as early as next year.
The move is part of the Liberal Democrat campaign to allow 16- and 17-and-year olds to vote in the EU Referendum and general elections.
Today’s budget added the removal of housing benefit from under-21s to worrying recent developments in Tory housing policy.
The new ‘Right to Buy’ is already asset-stripping housing association houses without properly providing replacements, entrenching inequality in the housing market even further. The new policy of preventing under-21s from claiming housing benefit is now going to put a home out of reach of thousands of young men and women at a critical time in their lives, and even threatens to put people out of homes they already live in should they have the misfortune to lose a job or an income, however temporarily.