Nationally, Boris Johnson and his Government have been elected to ‘Get Brexit done’. Will they? Possibly. Will they deliver on all of the promises made, while maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom? I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Locally, Tunbridge Wells residents are angry that £10.8m of their money has been spent over the past few years on Calverley Square, a project which never saw the light of day. They have questions about how this could happen, and they are entitled to answers.
To prevent similar mistakes from happening again, an independent audit of the project should be carried out. However Conservative-run Tunbridge Wells Council intend for Conservative-run Mid-Kent services to carry the audit out. The Liberal Democrats have a number of problems with this.
Firstly, our local leadership were determined to plough on, spending millions of taxpayers’ money on a project they knew was unpopular. This suggests systemic problems in consultation and decision making, which needs proper investigation by a truly independent body.
The Conservative-run council will only admit to costs of £10.8m. We believe there are millions missing from this figure. Therefore to know the true cost, the audit must be conducted by a competent body wholly independent of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. Residents - who are paying for this failed project - deserve to know the real cost to the tax payer.
More widely, we must increase the transparency around decision-making. Our council must treat members of the public who elect us as equals who can guide our decisions, rather than passive customers. A truly independent inquiry can help us learn lessons and avoid making similar mistakes in future.
Likewise, the recent defection of Councillor Christian Atwood from the Tunbridge Wells Alliance (TWA) to the Conservatives does little to foster the faith voters place in us. TWA was set up specifically to challenge the Conservatives’ Calverley Square project, and he was voted in by residents of Park ward with the project at the forefront of their minds – after all, Calverley Grounds, the intended site of the new complex, sits within Park ward. For him to move camp so soon after his election will feel like a betrayal to the hundreds of people who voted for him last May. And worth bearing in mind that he is joining a Conservative council group who are trying to get away with marking their own homework.
To end with a quote from Walter Anderson: “Trust is like a vase; once it’s broken, though you can fix it, the vase will never be same again”.
Lib Dems set out timetable to elect next leader
The Liberal Democrats have today agreed the timetable to elect the next leader of the Liberal Democrats.
At a meeting today of the party’s Federal Board in London, the party agreed to open nominations for candidates on the 11th of May and close them on the 28th of May.
The ballot will then open on the 18th of June and close on the 15th of July, after which the party will announce the next leader.
In the meantime, Ed Davey MP and Party President Mark Pack will continue as joint acting leaders of the Liberal Democrats.
Speaking after the meeting, Liberal Democrat Party President Mark Pack said:
“I want first to thank Jo Swinson for her determined leadership of the Liberal Democrats.
"The Liberal Democrats are the home for everyone who shares our vision of an outward-looking, caring country that celebrates diversity and benefits from high-quality public services.
“With our party membership at record levels, I urge everyone else who shares our values to join us in the coming days and vote in the leadership election.”
Thanks to everybody who voted Liberal Democrat in the General Election. While we came second, we were heartened by the response in Tunbridge Wells. We hope that we will continue to be able to ensure that liberal voices are heard in Tunbridge Wells and beyond.
A big thank you to our candidate, Ben Chapelard, who took unpaid leave from his work as an Assistant Headteacher to work as our parliamentary candidate. He received a positive welcome on many doorsteps and in schools, charities, businesses Tu and community groups throughout the consistituency.
Have a very happy Channukah, Festivus, Christmas, Kawanzaa and New Year (or whatever else you would like to celebrate)!
Tunbridge Wells Lib Dems welcome Unite to Remain agreement
Local Lib Dems have welcomed the decision of the Green Party to stand aside at this election.
Local Lib Dem candidate Ben Chapelard said “We thank the Green Party for this brave decision. Brexit is a national crisis. This groundbreaking agreement, facilitated by the Unite to Remain campaign group, will help to secure more Remain supporting MPs in the next Parliament. We also thank all the candidates who have generously agreed to stand aside in other seats affected by the Unite to Remain arrangements.”
“It is deeply disappointing that Labour Remainers would not step up too, but they failed the test on backing a People’s Vote and they failed the test to build a new Remain Parliament. They are still the Brexit party.”
“The people of Tunbridge Wells deserve a strong voice in Parliament, to stop Brexit and fight for a brighter future for Britain. The Liberal Democrats are the only Party who can deliver that brighter future for our area at this election.”
Jo Swinson has today launched the Liberal Democrats’ Plan for a Brighter Future. Jo will start her nationwide tour today and details of the plan will be delivered to millions of people across the UK by mail and online.
The plan outlines the party’s key priority – to Stop Brexit – and sets out a bold vision on how to build a fairer, brighter future for the country. It is a plan to tackle inequalities, confront the climate emergency and give everyone the opportunities they need to succeed.
The old politics has failed. For too many people, working hard and playing by the rules is not enough to guarantee a happy, fulfilling and secure life for them and their children.
A Liberal Democrat government will create a shared vision for the country we want to be, where every single person and community is valued, empowered and cared for, and where we protect our planet for future generations.
A Liberal Democrat government will revoke Article 50 on day one, work to keep our family of nations together and build a brighter future.
The Liberal Democrat Plan for a Brighter Future
1. Stop Brexit and invest the £50 billion Remain Bonus in public services and tackling inequality.
2. Tackle the climate emergency by generating 80% of our electricity from renewables by 2030 and insulating all low-income homes by 2025.
3. Give every child the best start in life by recruiting 20,000 more teachers as part of an extra £10 billion a year for schools.
4. Build a fairer economy by providing free childcare from 9 months and giving every adult £10,000 to spend on skills and training throughout their lives.
5. Transform our mental health services by treating mental health with the same urgency as physical health.
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said:
“Today I am proud to set out the Liberal Democrats’ bold and ambitious plan to build a brighter future.
“Too many people – people who work hard and play by the rules – are struggling just to get by. Our country is crying out for a new kind of leadership and the Liberal Democrats are rising to this challenge.
“Our plan to build a brighter future starts with stopping Brexit, generating a £50 billion Remain Bonus that will benefit every part of the United Kingdom, but it doesn’t stop there.
“It is a plan to transform the mental health services that are so integral to our wellbeing. It is a plan to give every child the best start in life, providing the resources to recruit thousands more teachers and funding free childcare from nine months. It is a plan that will tackle the climate emergency, to make sure the planet we live on is protected for future generations.
“This is a plan to stop Brexit and build a brighter future. As leader of the Liberal Democrats, I am thrilled to be sharing our vision with people living and working right across our family of nations.”
Hard-working and well-respected local Liberal Democrat Councillor, Ben Chapelard, is standing to become the new MP for Tunbridge Wells.
Councillor Chapelard is a true local champion whose motivation for entering politics is simple: To serve the community he loves. First elected to Tunbridge Wells Council in 2010, Ben has led countless local campaigns to improve our area -- from convincing the Council to introduce doorstep glass recycling -- to leading efforts to stop a Tory plan to spend more than £100 million on a new town hall and theatre complex.
Now Ben is taking the fight for Tunbridge Wells to the next level by fighting to stop Brexit and put the interests of Tunbridge Wells first. Ben said, "Brexit will be an absolute disaster for local people and businesses. I am committed to stopping it.
Please support Ben and your local Liberal Democrats by voting for him or by donating your time or money during the election.