Our outgoing Chair, Bob Smith, gives his thoughts on a difficult and challenging year, and the whole Sandwell Liberal Democrat team wish all our friends and supporters a happy, and safe, festive season.
Stay safe, and let's look forward to a better 2021.
BOB SMITH AND THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS FIGHT TO GIVE CARERS A VOICE
The Liberal Democrats are asking people across our community who care for relatives to get in touch and share their story – to mark national Carers Rights Day.
Liberal Democrat party leader Ed Davey has said he wants the party wants to be a "strong voice" for the millions across the country – including 29,284 people in Sandwell (Warley and West Bromwich East/West) who care for those who need it.
Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. 2020 has been a dark year for many of us, and Diwali’s message that light will triumph in the end is of comfort for us all. Happy Diwali. Given the recent news about the US election, and encouraging news about a vaccine for Covid-19, it is a particularly timely celebration this year.
We are delighted to announce that on Wednesday 18 November at 7:30 pm, the Sandwell Liberal Democrats will be hosting our Annual General Meeting over Zoom.
After the meeting at 8:30 pm, we’ll also be holding an online quiz - and we’d love it if you can join us.
Sandwell Lib Dem Chair, Bob Smith and the local Liberal Democrats are demanding extra support for children living in poverty. In Sandwell, 12,198 children are at risk of going hungry and eligible for free school meals. Over 7,000 of these are at nursery or primary schools. We have launched a petition to try and persuade the government to make another u-turn on this issue. Extend Free School Meals in the Holiday Season
After a high-profile campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford, the Government provided food vouchers for the poorest families through the summer holidays. But in October, Conservative MPs voted against extending free school meals to future holidays. The Lib Dems are fighting to ensure every child living in poverty has access to free school meals in holidays and periods of lockdown.
The Liberal Democrats have warned malicious calls to the ambulance service are putting lives at risk as they reveal 3140 hoax calls have been made across the West Midlands Ambulance Service over the last three years.
With the UK in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson has warned Ministers must ensure ambulance services have “the resources they need to educate people over the dangers that malicious calls pose.”
Figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats under freedom of information reveal there have been 23,942 hoax calls recorded by nine out of England’s ten ambulance services in the last three years.
Liberal Democrats have warned that the Government’s planning proposals will “disempower” local authorities like Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council and allow developers to “run roughshod” over local communities’ wishes.
Former Councillor Mark Smith and local activist Nigel Fearn recently attended online Planning Committee meetings of the Council. Oldbury activist Ian Walker also plans to attend one if the recent controversial application for the Wolverhampton Road in Oldbury comes before the Committee again. (That application was withdrawn by the applicant prior to the meeting on 5 September) As usual, some of the Councillor contributions were of limited use, but officers are usually helpful and sometimes correct accidental misunderstanding from Councillors or the clerks. But we need to keep an eye on things to ensure developers, and the Council, don’t get away with lax oversight of their plans.
Residents have the right to attend most Council meetings, but need to ask an officer if they want to speak at a meeting. However, you can join meetings anonymously as an observer, as long as you have the link to the meeting. You can see what meetings are scheduled for each month using the Council's Meetings Calendar. (You will need to use Microsoft Teams to join meetings.)
Our Honorary President, and Honorary Alderman, Sadie Smith, was Mayor of Sandwell for 2006 to 2007. She used her time in office to setup a Multi-Faith advisory group, and championed the work of the Royal Osteoporosis Society. She was the first Liberal Democrat mayor of Sandwell, and only the second Mayor not to be a Labour Councillor, following the previous mayor Bill Archer.
Although much of a Mayor’s job is to represent the Borough at various events and functions, they can also use the time to highlight particular issues, and help raise funds for charity. Normally, this honour would have been bestowed on the longest serving Councillor, the late Martyn Smith (Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Sandwell Council), but Martyn declined the offer.
Sadie chose to focus on helping improve community relations during her year by setting up the multi-faith working group that produced a report to the Council with proposals for them to implement. (This report was written by the Chair of the Multi-faith working group, Canon John Barnett, and presented to the Council.) Many of its recommendations were implemented, but the Labour faction in control chose to water-down some of the more fundamental reforms that were required, such as the need to increase the diversity of the Council's officers and workforce.
I could talk about the damage austerity had done to schools, and the way in which Covid-19 highlighted the wider role a school plays in the community, as we have witnessed through the campaign of Marcus Rashford. I could write about the need to have a strong education system in order to allow people to work, or the social aspect of schools that many of our children and young adults have so desperately missed. I could focus on the botched attempts to get pupils back into school, when double the amount of classrooms and teachers would have been needed, but what I would like to focus on is the exams.