Tower Hamlets needs action on affordable housing

In Tower Hamlets we are seeing a real class divide as the rich move up into the sky in their luxury high-rise apartments and penthouses literally leaving the poor below them, struggling in inadequate homes on the ground.

Housing, particularly the need for high quality affordable housing for a range of family sizes from one to many, is one of the top issues facing London and the country in the run up to this year's general election.

The Tories' Nineteen Eighties policy of selling off council housing (Right to Buy), which Labour failed to address or reverse in their thirteen years in office has led to chronic shortages of places for people on lower or even middle incomes to live.

A new report from Labour, now that they are no longer in charge, points out that council homes are being sold off faster than they are being replaced.

http://www.eastlondonadvertiser.co.uk/news/politics/tower_hamlets_council_houses_sold_off_to_buy_to_let_private_landlords_1_3949685

Labour's London Assembly Member John Biggs has called for urgent action on housing.

At the same time, controversial Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman has announced the building of 3500 new affordable homes as part of the redevelopment of the Royal London hospital site at Whitechapel, a scheme Labour's Mr Biggs has criticised and which was dubbed "Lutfur's palace" and a "vanity project" in the Evening Standard.

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/tower-hamlets-mayor-spends-9m-turning-old-hospital-into-council-palace-10028492.html

Under the Coalition, Liberal Democrat policies have seen more than 70,000 empty houses brought back into use, and the number of affordable homes nationwide increased by 190,000 (compared to a fall of 421,000 under Labour).

However, record low interest rates and George Osborne's Help to Buy scheme have meant that the better off can buy up the limited supply of homes, which has continued to drive up house prices, and this has forced rents to rise rapidly too.

Liberal Democrats would like to see Councils have the power to suspend Right to Buy in areas like Tower Hamlets where there are acute housing shortages, while in the long term we want to increase the number of new homes being built to 300,000 a year by giving new powers to Local Authorities and creating a national Housing Investment Bank to channel funds into construction, with the added benefit of creating new jobs and apprenticeships.

We would hope that Labour would be more consistent in their approach to creating new affordable homes, and call on all parties to work together to get London's house building back on track.

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Why I'm involved in politics

In 2014, I made the decision to join the Liberal Democrats.

I am only sixteen years old yet I made the choice to join a political party. I was joining the 1% of the population. You may ask, why did I decide to do this? Politics is traditionally seen as dull and uninteresting. To some extent, it can be argued that this is a fair perspective.

However, as Plato said, the price of political apathy is to suffer from the evil. Many people like to complain about the government and their decisions, how their lives are effected. Yet most of these people will never vote. They refuse to get involved, and they allow their lives to be controlled.

The future of our generation starts today, everyday decisions are being made and policies being implemented. All of which will soon effect my life. It is easy to sit and complain about the state, however, it’s easier to stand up and fight for what you believe in. The future of our country lies within our reach, we have the ability to bring the future that we deserve and want in Britain.

By being involved, we can bring the difference and change that we need and want, not what is forced onto us.

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Elaine Bagshaw and Teena Lashmore to fight Poplar & Limehouse and Bethnal Green and Bow for Lib Dems

Elaine Bagshaw and Teena Lashmore won the nominations on Thursday night to be the Liberal Democrat candidates for Poplar & Limehouse and Bethnal Green & Bow at the May 2015 General Election.

Elaine Bagshaw, 29, a project manager at the Financial Conduct Authority, living in Poplar follows in the footsteps of Jonathan Fryer who gained 5,209votes in 2010.

Elaine has worked in the constituency for over six years at the Financial Conduct Authority, and has lived in Poplar for just over two years. She is passionate about increasing the amount of affordable homes in the area, and as the first in her family to go to University is an advocate for the transformative power of education.

Teena Lashmore, from the neighbouring borough of Hackney works in resettling and transforming the lives of those release from prisons and detention centres, follows Ajmal Masroor who gained 10,210 votes in 2010.

Teena works in offices across London, including Tower Hamlets, and is passionate about reforming our criminal justice system. She is currently finishing her PhD, exploring how justice can be managed so that corporations have to do more to invest in crime prevention, rather than constantly taking money out of our communities.

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On Holocaust Memorial Day

We remember the Jewish people.

We remember the Romani people.

We remember the Polish and Ukrainian people.

We remember the disabled people.

We remember the gay people.

We remember the non-conformists, and the communists, and the Jehovah's Witnesses and the people who just said no.

And we remember the Germans.

The people of Germany in the Nineteen-Thirties were not uniquely evil. They were, in fact, all too similar to us.

We know that anti-semitism is on the rise. Following the Paris attacks, police patrols have been increased in areas of London where the Jewish community live. In Newham, posters for Holocaust Memorial Day have been defaced.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-30862274

People are afraid.

And we see today people and political parties preying on the disillusionment with democracy that compromise and austerity can bring; seeking to capitalise on the fear that an uncertain economy causes; offering simplistic solutions: pull up the drawbridge, put the blame on "the other", the immigrants, the foreigners.

The Liberal Democrats have always been a party of diversity and always opposed to extremism, whether from left or right. We believe that freedom to be individuals strengthens society. We believe in people with all their differences standing together equally.

We believe that only by working and living together we can defeat fear.

We remember the Holocaust so that we do not make the same mistakes here and now that led to the rise of fascism there and then.


Universal Credit coming to Tower Hamlets

The government has announced that Poplar Jobcentre Plus will be in the first wave of the national rollout of the Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is a new way to support people who are in work or looking for work.

Liberal Democrats have worked in government to try to reform a benefits system that is too complicated and often penalises you if you try to work more.

Universal Credit is designed to be a single benefit, merging several existing ones, that is simpler to claim and which provides better support with no limit to the hours that you can work and by withdrawing the benefit more gradually as you earn more.

Liberal Democrats recognise that most people want to work, and that a decent job for a decent wage is the best way to improve opportunities for everyone. That is why we have delivered a tax cut for everyone paying the basic rate of tax as well as investing in education and apprenticeships to give people the best start at finding jobs. And that is why we welcome the news of record levels of employment, as a sign that the economy is getting stronger.

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LIBERAL DEMOCRATS DEMAND ANSWERS ON IRAQ

Almost twelve years after the Labour government followed American President George Bush to war in Iraq, and more than five years after the inquiry was set up into how it happened, what went wrong and what lessons we need to learn, we are still waiting to hear the official report.

Today we learn that the outcome of the Chilcot inquiry is to be delayed yet again, with no prospect of publication before the General Election in May.

The illegal invasion of Iraq was based on false claims of weapons of mass destruction – the infamous 'sexed up' dossier – and led to the deaths of many thousands of people, unleashing chaos, suffering and abuse across the region. And we are still reaping the consequences today, with the rise of fanatical terrorists in Iraq and attacks in Paris only this month.

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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has today written to Sir John Chilcot calling for a firm date for publication, and warning that the public will assume the report is being 'sexed down'.

The first step to healing has got to be admitting when we were wrong. We cannot afford to avoid accountability for what this country did, or allow those responsible to duck the blame.

The Liberal Democrats stood up to say "No!" to the illegal invasion of Iraq then, and we stand up again now to say the British people need to hear some answers.

If you agree, please sign our petition:

http://change.libdems.org.uk/chilcot


MILLIONS STAND UP FOR FREE SPEECH

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg has spoken of the "striking dignity" of millions of people standing together in France and around the World in support of Free Speech and against terrorism.

The Deputy Prime Minister and his wife Miriam González Durántez joined the French Ambassador Sylvie Bermann for the vigil in Trafalgar Square.

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(Picture via the @nick_clegg Twitter account: https://twitter.com/nick_clegg/status/554358389938331648/photo/1)

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Liberal Democrats are the party of putting national interests first

Following his first press conference of the year, Nick Clegg has today (January 5) recorded this message stating that Liberal Democrats will put national interests first in a way that is fair for all.

You can watch Nick's message below.

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Statement on commissioners at Tower Hamlets Council

We hope that the arrival of Sir Ken Knight and Max Caller at Tower Hamlets Council will bring transparency for local residents. As famously said "Sunlight is the best disinfectant".

For too long the reasons behind some of the decisions made by the Mayor and his Cabinet have been shrouded in secrecy. We look forward to seeing changes made to how the Council currently works so that a culture of clarity and accountability can be built and become the norm at Tower Hamlets, after multiple failures by successive administrations.

We’re disappointed that bringing commissioners into the local council has become necessary, and that this cost will be passed onto local residents. We hope that the Mayor and his Cabinet will work with the Commissioners so that they are able to work quickly and reduce the cost to local residents.

We’re optimistic that the Commissioners will make necessary changes to the Council that will benefit local residents and ensure we all get value for money from the decisions made by the Mayor and Council.


AGM news

This year's AGM opened with talks from two speakers, Marisha Ray and Austin Rathe, and also saw the Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrat Executive for 2015 elected.

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