The announcement today that there will be inquiries into historic child abuse allegations is a huge step forward for this country. It is a real indication that child abuse needs to finally be brought out of the shadows and something we need to listen to, stop hiding, stop being silent about and start challenging.
Lib Dem MP Tess Munt was magnificent on BBC Radio 4′s PM programme this afternoon – standing up for children and being open with her own experiences of abuse. I heard it on the way to canvassing this evening and I was humbled by what I heard and felt immensely proud that Tessa is a Lib Dem MP, standing up for victims, standing up for the forgotten, standing up for those that need our help.
As an adoptive parent and as someone who is deeply aware of the impact of child abuse; whether it be physical, mental or sexual, today’s developments are highly welcome. It feels as if we have opened a new chapter in bringing justice to the victims of decades of abuse.
If the legacy of the catastrophes of the behaviour of Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris, Stuart Hall, Cyril Smith and others is a sea change in our attitudes to child abuse and our willingness to discuss it openly, challenge it as unacceptable and also brings forward justice, support and resolution for victims
The wide ranging needs to have no limitations and investigate what was known and covered up by Government departments, by the BBC, by institutions and by the Catholic Church. No stone should be left uncovered, no voice unheard.
We need to transform our culture where too many people cannot cope with hearing about child abuse, refuse to believe what they hear or see and are too willing to remain silent.
I highly welcome today’s developments and as an MP would fight to ensure that the inquiry meets the needs of victims who at all times should remain the primary focus.
The Low Pay Commission’s proposal announced today encouraging the government to pay the living wage to direct employees and encouraging businesses to adopt the living wage is something we can all get behind.
I fully suppor this proposal. I think encouraging companies to pay the living wage is a sensible option, and perhaps could even be encouraged through corporation tax credits. Concerns over employment were unfounded with the introduction of the minimum wage, and I believe, as the Low Pay Commission does, that these concerns are unfounded for the living wage.
There will inevitably be some companies that the impact on costs will require an increase in prices to remain profitable. Whilst we should be aware of the impact on consumers and inflation, we should consider that we increasingly feel uncomfortable about cheap products being produced by cheap labour in the Far East. We should feel no differently about
Paying a living wage up front makes more sense to me than topping up income through Working Tax Credits, or benefits. There is also a huge psychological benefit of giving workers a sense that they are being valued for the work they do and that they are not dependent on welfare. This is particular the case in an age when Labour and the Tories are hell bent on demonising anyone on welfare, even if they are in work, disabled or elderly.
One issue discussed which is of concerns is whether there will be a ratchet effect to maintain pay differences between pay grades in an organisation. For example, a supervisor will get paid more than one of their staff, but if the staff get a rise to the living wage, the supervisor may not be earning significantly more and there will be a pressure to increase their wages as well. This may then cascade up the management chain.
There needs to be some in depth analysis to understand whether this will be an issue, and the Low Pay Commission seems to have concluded that it will not.
Where I do have a concern is the caveats for some industries, where it is felt that the living wage will have a significant impact on profitability, and hence the recommendation that the Living Wage be advisory, not mandated for private companies. I worry that this will mean that the targetted 1 million to move onto the Living Wage will be the low hanging fruit – those that are earning above the minimum wage, but below the living wage and who will not need much of a rise to bring them on the living wage.
There is a risk that those who are struggling the most on the minimum wage will be left without a rise and a gap develops between them and those on the living wage. Our focus should always be on those that are least well off.
That is why I am delighted that the Lib Dems have delivered those on the minimum wage a £800 tax cut and why we are committed to ensuring that they pay no income tax at all. What is deeply disappointing is the welfare cuts that the Tories have imposed on the least well off who are not bearing a greater share of the burden of recovery than most other groups except the very wealthy.
The news that Angus Council are applying for a £12m grant from the Scottish Government for flood defences in Brechin is highly welcome. However the SNP Government needs to change the funding formula for flood defences and Angus Council need to reconsider their recent decision to cut funding for flood defences for Edzell.
Responding to the decision, Lib Dem Cllr David May commented,
“This is a positive move by Angus Council and there should be cross party support for the application for funding from the Scottish Government. As a member of the Angus Council administration in 2009, I called for financial aid from the SNP Government for the Brechin Flood defence scheme five years ago. It is welcome that a formal application has now been made.”
“Having visited the site of flooding in Brechin in 2009, I expressed my frustration at the time about the SNP Government’s funding formula that left Angus at a severe disadvantage. At the moment the Scottish Government uses a crude formula based on population, that boosts funding for big cities at the expense of rural communities such as Angus.”
“Angus Council should also work with the River South Esk Catchment Partnership to ensure that the flood defence schemes are sustainable and do not simply transfer the problem from Brechin to Montrose.”
From my perspective, this news is very welcome. However I do wonder whether it would have been necessary to apply for such a large grant, if the SNP Government had not changed the way flood defence funding is distributed in Scotland in 2009.
Had the SNP Government responded to our calls to change the funding formula, Angus Council may have had substantially more funds to deal with flooding in Brechin and elsewhere in Angus quite some time ago.
We now have detailed maps of the whole of Scotland showing where risks of flooding are the greatest. It will come as no surprise that rural communities in Angus are some of the most at risk. We therefore repeat our call on the Scottish Government to change the flood defence funding formula to be based on need not just a crude headcount.
Both Cllr David May and I have also called on Angus Council to reconsider their decision to cut funding for a flood defence scheme in Edzell.
Cllr David May said,
“Flooding in December 2012 left well over £1m of damage to homes and property in Edzell. I voted against the decision to cut the £600,000 scheme that would have prevented this from happening in Edzell again.”
Across Angus, in Brechin, Montrose, Arbroath and elsewhere, flooding has had a devastating, expensive impact. The SNP administrations on Angus Council and in the Scottish Government should be working together to ensure that Angus receives the funding it needs to address funding across the whole of Angus, as well as Brechin.
The following article in the Guardian showcases the tragedy of flooding. Having spoken to victims of flooding in Stonehaven, it is clearly absolutely devastating. There is irreparable damage to much of your possessions and possibly the fabric of your home or business, cleaning up the mess can take months and dealing with insurance companies can dominate your life for a year or more.
With climate change, extreme weather and flooding are predicted to be more common. It is critical that there are resilience plans in places at all levels of government and the local community. It is positive that Councils in Tayside have worked to ensure community resilience plans are in place.
Angus and Mearns Lib Dems, specifically Councillors and representatives from Stonehaven, introduced a motion at Lib Dem conference, that was passed and adopted as policy, calling for agreement between the Scottish Government and the insurance industry to ensure that victims of flooding are treated fairly and not hit with punitive premium rises.
I was delighted to support this motion and reassured that it was adopted as Lib Dem policy.
There is still an issue with regard to the Scottish Government formula for funding flood defences. The current formula is based on a simplistic per-capita basis.
The Scottish Government provided funding for an early warning system for flooding, which is now available by clicking here for Floodline.
There is therefore the information available needed to target flood defence funding where it is most needed. Therefore it is sensible that the Scottish Government modify there formula for providing flood defence funding to be based on where it is most needed rather than a simplistic per-capita basis. We made that call back in 2010, and the suggestion is still valid to ensure flood defence funding is targeted where it is most needed.
I take it all back, the NSA clearly have our best interests at heart. It seems so obvious now that they have identified it. How could we have been so stupid? Terrorists are so obviously using Angry Birds as a training tool for attacks on our critical agricultural infrastructure and using it as a inspiration for a vicious plot. How did we not see this before?