Careers and Apprenticeship Weeks

National Careers Week is a celebration of careers guidance and free resources in education across the UK. The aim is to provide a focus for careers guidance activity at an important stage in the academic calendar to help support young people leaving education. And it was launched in the Houses of Parliament on Monday. It is encouraging to see this being taken seriously at so high a level.

Careers are now included in Ofsted's inspections of schools and all schools are measured against the Gatsby benchmarks for careers provision.

Central to this is giving all our young people impartial access to good quality resources and empowering them to achieve the careers they are interested in.

This might mean academic study and it might mean apprenticeships - so it is no accident that National Apprenticeship Week falls in the same week!

Let's all see how we can encourage and mentor young people into as wide a variety of careers and futures as possible.

Climate Emergency

In a motion, drawn up by former LibDem MP, Tessa Munt, neighbouring local authority, Somerset County Council declared a Climate Emergency this week. Councillors from all parties supported the motion which commits the council to action to address the real risks deriving from climate breakdown.

Tessa Munt said about this success:

"I’m thrilled that so many people in Somerset have supported this change. The time for talking is over. The County Council needs to play its part and must start pursuing an environmentally-friendly approach to all it does. I’m glad that Councillors from all parties supported my motion."

Nick Coates, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate added:

"There is a similar motion going before Bath & North East Somerset Council next month which will commit the Council to become carbon neutral by 2030. I really hope that members from all parties support this motion."


A&E departments still missing targets. Why?

A&E is once again in the headlines for failing to meet the targets set down and implemented by successive Labour and Conservative governments, including at local hospitals the RUH and BRI.

The Kings Fund (an independent charity working to improve health and care in England) has said that there has been a substantial rise in the numbers of individuals attending A&E over time. Although this may not be the main factor affecting performance, it can only be an additional burden for A&E staff when trying to meet Government targets.

Changes to GP’s contracts in 2004, where GPs were able to opt our of their responsibility to deliver out of hours care, has seen A&E under siege from those seeking out-of-hours care. Although a wide range of alternative care services are available, patients remain confused as to who to call and where to go when seeking out-of-hours care and attendance at A&E departments remains high as patients try and get their urgent health needs met.

In addition, emergency admissions themselves are putting A&E departments and staff under the greatest pressure. There is an increase in patients with complex care needs being admitted to A&E and with the lack of available beds this and rising numbers leads to mounting costs, pressure on limited resources and failed targets.

Following one of the worst winters (2018) A&E have remained under pressure and NHS England admit that hospitals are facing unprecedented demand. Is it any wonder that A&E are failing to meet unrealistic Governmental targets?

Nick Coates, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset, says:

"Over last three years the government have taken the eye of the ball as the pressures facing the NHS have grown.

"The LibDems would put 1p on the rate of income tax and prioritise the spending on social care, primary care, mental health and public health. This represents the most efficient and effective way of spending these extra resources – ensuring they will have the greatest impact on the quality of care patients receive.

"This puts money into activities likely to reduce the number of admission to A&E".



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Thousands dying waiting for social care as Govt ignores crisis

Responding to the research by Age UK showing that more than 50,000 older people have now died waiting in vain for care during the 700 days since the Government first said it would publish a Social Care Green Paper, Former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb said:
“These figures are tragic for many families and the stories of some of those who have been impacted should give many in government and across politics pause for thought.

“People are turning for help in their old age and help is not there. Despite the crisis in adult social care the Conservatives are consistently and consciously underfunding these services and the social care green paper promised in March 2017 has now been delayed six times.
“The Conservative Government is incapable of solving this problem themselves. They must now work with other parties to achieve a genuine long term, sustainable settlement for the NHS and social care. 
“Liberal Democrats would put a penny on income tax and directly invest funds in social care. We will also keep making the case for a new, dedicated NHS and care tax to guarantee a modern, effective and efficient NHS and care system which will be there for our loved ones when they need it.”

Nick Coates, who is also a Trustee of a local charitable residential and nursing care home, added:

"Councils do not have enough money to fund social care. So they are squeezing the care home sector who, being committed to good care, are doing their best within limited means, but the system is a breaking point. And Brexit adds a further strain."

Councils still facing £3billion funding gap

Following this week’s publication of the finalised Local Government Finance Settlement, Cllr Howard Sykes, LGA Liberal Democrat Group Leader, said:

“Councils still face a funding gap of more than £3 billion this year. The money councils have to provide local services is running out fast and there is huge uncertainty about how they will pay for them into the next decade and beyond.

“If we truly value our local services then we have to be prepared to pay for them. Fully funding councils rather than smaller “one off” bits of extra funding is the only way they will be able to keep providing the services which make a difference to people’s lives, such as caring for older and disabled people, protecting children, building homes, maintaining our parks, fixing roads and collecting bins.

“Investing in local government services will also help reduce pressure on other parts of the public sector, such as the NHS, and save money for the public purse.”

Bath MP and Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse MP added:

“This settlement does nothing to address the growing inequalities across our country. The highly regressive council tax system means that, as the Conservative Government continue to underfund local government, subsequent council tax rises hit poorer communities the hardest.

“There must be a reform of council tax to prevent the places with the highest demand for services for vulnerable people, struggling the most to fund it."

Nick Coates, parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset, commented:

“Liberal Democrats demand better than the sticking plaster that has been presented. As Government reduces the revenue subsidy for Councils it means 80% of the 2019/20 budget for B&NES will be spent on social care. Central Government appears to be containing its costs and cutting taxes to appeal to voters. But in reality the pain is passed to local authorities and leads to above inflation council tax rises.”

Holocaust Memorial Day Sunday 27 January

Last September I went with my family to visit Prague. One of the most memorable tourist sites we visited was the Jewish Museum - four synagogues, a cemetery and some exhibitions. One of the most moving parts of the tour was exhibited in the Pinkas synagogue in which the names of nearly 80,000 Jewish victims of the Shoah from the Bohemia are listed by village. Real people being stigmatised, separated, persecuted and then killed.

The holocaust (which we remember on Sunday) was the most devastating period for Jewish people but was by no means new in Europe. We went a couple of years earlier to visit the Ghetto in Venice where Jews were forced to live in a segregated area from 1516. And there are records in Prague of Jews having to wear distinctive clothing, such as a yellow ribbon, from as early as the 10th century.

And still the stigmatisation and prejudice continues shamefully into the 21 century. Let’s take some time on Sunday to talk about these events and others like the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur and to remember, and then undertake to work towards understanding, the eradication of prejudice, the bridging of divisions.

More information can be found about this year's theme 'Torn from home' at

What's plan B?

Listening to Chris Grayling last Sunday morning stubbornly – or patiently, depending on your point of view – refusing to elucidate on what a ‘plan B’ might consist of if the vote is defeated on Tuesday, I was inescapably reminded of my mother’s answer to us children when, back in the fifties and early sixties, we asked what was for pudding before we’d even had our dinner. The inevitable response was – wait and see. This summed up for me an essential aspect of the dilemma modern politics finds itself in. People in power – all people exercising any kind of power – have the tendency to treat those within the purview of their power as if they’re children, but they also make the mistake of assuming that means not just not yet understanding what’s what but being in some way incapable of that understanding. Now whilst this is understandable in the case of a harassed parent who is simply moving through her day making the best decisions she can for her children, in a politician it’s lazy and inexcusable and we must always hold them to account.

We live in a time of mass communication, and one of the upshots of this is that the electorate is potentially vastly better informed than at any other time in history. As in the ‘time’s up’ aspect of the women’s movement there is a ‘time’s up’ aspect to politicians being able to hide behind paternalism and not keep the public fully informed as to their thinking and decision making. We are within reach of true democracy, if you like, but politicians have been taken by surprise and many of them have been caught on the back foot and are still there, and these look increasingly foolish to a questioning observer.

To simultaneously say that Brexit is the ‘Will of the People’ and that we would be letting them down if we don’t drive it through, and that those same people are not entitled to know what ‘plan B’ is until our Lords and Masters deign to unveil it, is to keep going along the manipulative path that characterised the whole leaving the EU movement from top to bottom. But more than that, it will misfire, because it’s the politics of patronising people who are just as bright and often more competent than they are themselves. It will backfire on them, on you, Mr Grayling. A massive historical tide is turning in this age.

Whatever anyone says it seems obvious that Brexit is as much about immigration as it is about anything. The shining light of the world this week for me has been the young Saudi woman Rahaf al-Qunun being welcomed into Canada as a citizen. That’s the kind of country we could be.

I know what my plan B would be. Stand up for openness, stand up to xenophobia, stand with our European allies who have not only brought peace to the continent after what’s still one of the most dreadful wars humanity ever fought, but actually won the Nobel Peace Prize for doing so.

Revoke article 50 would be my plan B. Stay in the EU and continue to have the necessary arguments until the end of time if necessary. Jaw jaw not war war.

What would yours be? In the vacuum of this incompetent government it’s up to all of us to think about what would move us forward in the best direction.


Does the Government’s long term plan for the NHS deliver what is promised?

There is a big claim at the head of the Government's long term plan for the NHS: 500,000 lives saved. I am always dubious about such large, round number claims, after we are all going to die.

I welcome the extra £20bn, over 5 years, the emphasis on preventative care and the additional funds for mental health - all of which the Liberal Democrats have been pressing the government for over recent years.

  • But with a shortage of 42,000 nurses and 11,000 doctors can the NHS deliver all of what is promised? The BBC reported recently that both Bath and Bristol's hospitals missed their A&E targets for patients to be seen within four hours and for planned operations within 18 weeks.
  • The emphasis on improvements in the use of digital solutions is sensible. But what about those who are excluded already because of low digital knowledge? This may put them further down the pile which is unacceptable. How will we reach such people in an affordable way?
  • There will be genetic testing to identify people at risk. This will also alarm some who are suspicious of government and their private contractors collecting sensitive data about them.
  • And still we wait for the government’s proposals for social care - given the council’s lack of money (80% of the budget goes on social care) this requires a solution now.

So, well done Simon Stevens, head of the NHS, but there remain some big question marks over whether the government can make the rest of this happen.


Unlike Brenda from Bristol

Unlike Brenda of Bristol – Not another one! and whilst sympathising with her, I love referenda and elections. For a long moment there is the illusion of a conclusion; numbers and charts and comparisons seem to say, look, we’re here now. The reality of human discourse is that it is endless turbulence and arguing; no two human beings think the same and we have this wonderful, slippery and imprecise tool called language by which we set about trying to explain ourselves to each other, and some of us even expend energy in listening and trying to understand a few other points of view. Then every so often the populace is posed with a question, usually the question of who would you like to see in charge right now but deliciously and rarely something bigger and harder, and the electorate – important to remember who’s excluded from this category - get to answer with their mark and everything’s counted up and we all show more or less of an interest and the results are announced until there’s one, big, overall and overwhelming RESULT!

Unlike my partner, John – and in all likelihood Brenda – who’s happy to sleep as normal and have the changed world revealed over breakfast, I stay up all night for elections, TV on, duvet on the sofa, quite possibly a late night whisky and ginger wine (winter) or gin and tonic (summer) and a three a.m. morale boosting snack. Dozing through some bits, surfing other channels during others, but always returning to the mounting hysteria that is the media’s reporting on the process and the RESULT!

I am in agreement with those who say that another referendum will not put the matter to rest. But my answer to that is; who would expect it to? Is anything ever put to rest? Was it ever at rest before the referendum, with UKIP and Nigel F and the Eurosceptics grumbling away? Of course not. So the fact that a referendum will not put the matter to rest is not an argument against having one. But I tell you this; IF we have another referendum (and I hope – unlike Brenda – that we do) and IF Remain wins it conclusively as I begin to tentatively think we might, I am now old enough and clever enough to think that post-ref, as we re-engage our membership of the EU, whenever I hear those grumbling sceptics I’ll have more understanding and capacity to muster the arguments than I had before June 2016.

If there is a second referendum the country will hold its collective breath; if a general election hoves into view in the next few weeks, hardly less so, although the latter will not settle Brexit, whatever the RESULT.

Right now, if Mr Corbyn could sufficiently gird his loins to table a motion of no confidence in the government, rather than in Mrs May, we might begin to hope for some shift in the log jam, and a referendum or an election soon, before March 29th or with Article 50 put on hold, not too long after.

Which would be preferable? Which would give the greatest chance of my precious EU citizenship not being taken from me? For me, that alone would be a RESULT. Sorry Brenda.

Letter to Jacob Rees-Mogg

Dear Jacob Rees-Mogg

Well you have really shot yourself in the foot now! And continuing the bodily metaphor, you also appear to me to be out on a limb.

You have endeavoured to put the knife in to Mrs May from even before the time, on 15th November, when you threatened her, your own party leader with "As what my right Hon. friend says, and what my right Hon. friend does, no longer match, should I not write to Sir Graham Brady?" Since then the Prime Minister has survived a no-confidence vote from her own MPs with a convincing majority - at least, it is more than 52% so I assume from your perspective it is convincing. Yet you continue to maneouvre to remove her and to increase the chances of the UK leaving the EU with no deal, an outcome which everyone (apart from a small clique of yours called the ERG) realises will be disastrous.

I understand that, at the end of the 1922 committee meeting, you asked if your colleagues had no confidence in you. What followed was a deathly silence.

Certainly the views being expressed at large, including within North East Somerset, suggest that your constituents have no confidence in you. It is time for your confidence to be put to the test - resign from the Conservative party with which you are no longer in tune and let's have a by-election.

yours ready to represent the people of North East Somerset properly,

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