Commenting on Philip Hammond’s recent claim that Parliamentary consideration of marriage equality is causing “real anger”, Runnymede & Weybridge Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman Andrew Falconer said:
“Phillip Hammond is right to be angry. Many of us are angry. But my anger focuses on inequality, not internal party squabbling.
Phillip Hammond’s own marriage should not have a higher status than those of his constituents in same sex partnerships, His party leader, the majority of MPs and much of the country recognises that.
Unfortunately I’m no longer sure that Phillip would be on my wedding invitation list….”
Graduates can receive bursaries up to £20,000 to train as teachers. For many years the Government has sought to lure young talent into teaching and nowadays there are several routes for these graduates to take.
A student from France mentioned to me recently that he wants to train as a teacher in the UK. Unfortunately it is not because he particularly admires British teaching methods, our education system or our qualifications. It is because his grades are too low for him to be accepted onto teacher training in France.
The scary thing is that the entry requirements for teaching in the UK are pretty low. A “C” grade at GCSE level in English and Maths. And a degree. As a Careers Consultant I regularly see final year students who have either failed to get into a Graduate Scheme or have never considered their career options. They suddenly have a road to Damascus moment in favour of teaching. Teaching seems to be the default career path for many History, English and Geography students when they cannot think of anything else to do.
I am not saying that these graduates will fail to become great teachers. And I have similarly come across students with a real passion for teaching, but I hate the idea of graduates being trained into a vocation (which teaching tends to be) and quitting after just a few years.
It also seems a little backward when it is relatively easy for a fresh graduate to train as a teacher, but potentially challenging for a career-changer to do so. A mature student I spoke to recently has been rejected from teacher training because they had wanted a minimum of one-day per week classroom experience for over a year before the application. What sort of day job would allow you to undertake that?
So schools are missing out here. They are missing out on the depth and expertise brought by more mature career changers. Such expertise not only adds value to the education but could provide a more critical insight into teacher professionalism, education management and curriculum.
My vision is of a system of bursaries and support sufficient to entice the real talent of fresh graduates into the profession along with the pragmatism and realities of career changers. School pupils may well relate better to a teacher just several years older than they are, but would also benefit greatly from the professional experience of the “real” world in which they will find themselves.
These issues will be discussed at our next Pizza & Politics event. It takes place in Weybridge on Tuesday, April 16 at 7.30pm. RSVP to Louis by email.
Governments don’t do enough for small businesses and entrepreneurs. That is a common claim regardless of which party is in power. Our recent Pizza & Politics event tried to break through the rhetoric and see what small businesses really need.
Our guest speakers, Andy Watson (owner of I drive your car), Richard Forey (Director of Save Light Ltd) and John King (Engentia entrepreneurship education) all have direct experience of starting and developing enterprises across a range of sectors. They provided an invaluable insight into business start-ups and issues they face.
Money isn’t usually the issue that people may think. Even with cuts, there are different funds that can be used to develop and support business start-ups. One of the key messages from our speakers was that such funding can become a real distraction. John King said “It’s better to chase sales than chase free money”. And free money usually comes tied to bureaucratic or social requirements that can further distract from the core business.
Similarly, none of the speakers seemed concerned by red tape – with one suggesting it is more red herring than red tape. They accepted that financial reporting can become challenging but also that such expertise can be out-sourced to accountants. They recongised too that other entrepreneurs and business professionals are often happy to share expertise and ideas.
Given that the Budget will set out support for such businesses, our speakers suggested that it would be more cost effective and efficient to cut start-up funds in favour of two-year tax breaks for small businesses. That would help them to budget, to focus on sales and growth whilst potentially cutting bureaucracy. Other local business owners have called for a flat rate tax system which would also remove the need to complex accounting and the potential for tax avoidance.
Even in the recession we are seeing business start and entrepreneurs putting their ideas and passion into practice. he Government doesn’t need to be spending money on bureacratic start-up funds and programmes, cutting tax would help all small businesses and entrepreneurs directly.
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We have actively campaigned in Runnymede & Weybridge for additional support to help small businesses.
On Tuesday March 12 at 7.30pm our Pizza & Politics event will focus on how we can nurture and encourage small businesses. This is an event where we can be creative to come up with alternative solutions that are practical.
Our guest speaker is an entrepreneur with experience in training and nurturing small business, helping them grow their potential.
The event take place in Egham and costs £4 and includes pizza and refreshments. RSVP by email.
Allegations of bullying by freehold owners suggests now is time to scrap the feudal system of leaseholds. Tenants benefit from a lot of protection but leaseholders can nearly be held for ransom by freeholders.
One of our members was aggressively pursued for payment of Ground Rent owed to a local house-builder. The amount was less than a month overdue and the member had proposed to pay it over four months. Most other debtors, even controversial payday loan companies, agree to payment plans and codes of practice. Our member was sent threatening demands citing court action – despite the Freeholder apparently not complying with the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002.
The reality is that Freehold owners can increase rents and add additional charges as they deem fit. This is on top of the purchase of the lease – something that many hard working local families struggle with. It seems odd that in 2013 families are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds and still not owning the property.
It’s time for a shake-up of the property market and ownership rights in England and Wales. And thankfully the tide is turning. There are over three million residential leaseholds in Britain – mainly in flats and apartments. It is not difficult to see the increase in this type of property in Runnymede & Weybridge over the last twenty years.
Let again England lags behind Scotland on this issue, but at least the Campaign for the Abolition of Residential Leasehold have been actively campaigning for change. They have recently been joined by Liberal Democrat Think Tank Centre Forum who have published a report calling for substantial changes to leasehold arrangements.
CentreForum makes six further recommendations to improve the leasehold system:
1) A regulator should make membership of an ombudsman compulsory for all managing agents. This is similar to current regulations for estate agents, and would give leaseholders a far lower barrier to redress.
2) The leasehold valuation tribunal (LVT) process should be reformed to reduce power and information imbalances. It should ensure that all relevant information is disclosed prior to a case to avoid freeholder brinkmanship and presume use of the legislative provision to prevent freeholders from recouping legal costs through service charges.
3) The threat of forfeiture, which means leaseholders can lose the full value of their property for minor debts, should be removed
4) The power of freeholders and estate management schemes to charge tenants to modify their properties should be amended so that they cannot demand a fee for permission unless they show that planned work would reduce a property’s value.
5) In the longer term CentreForum believes that commonhold should be promoted as an alternative to leasehold.
6) The right to manage, where leaseholders can take control of management in certain circumstances, should be promoted by putting information notes on all service charges.
Commonhold is an alternative means of ownership – it allows freehold ownership of individual flats but common ownership and responsibility for communal areas.
With so many local residents forced into leasehold agreements, it is vital that change takes place to give them the security they deserve. In the meantime, knowing your (few) rights is a start.
“This welcome news also means that Liberal Democrats have lifted 29,640 low-earners in Surrey out of paying Income Tax altogether since the Coalition Government came to power.
“Surrey’s taxpayers will have an extra £282.5 million in their pockets to spend in the Surrey economy. Liberal Democrats are helping the lowest earners to help their local economy by putting money straight into their pockets.
“Liberal Democrats are working for a stronger economy and a fairer society, so that everyone can get on in life. That’s why we are cutting taxes for working people.
“When times are tough, with rising Council Tax and utility bills while wages are not keeping pace with inflation, we want to give people real, practical help.
“Cutting Income Tax will not deal with all of those problems, but it will help.”