Teresa May has now committted the irrevocable act of triggering Article 50 , an act which will lead to the UK leaving the EU.

As Liberal Democrats, most of us know that this is an act of unmitigated folly, which we have fought long and hard to prevent. Equally, we have fought a long battle in Parliament, especially in the House of Lords, to lessen the effects of what promises to be a 'hard Brexit.' We are now firmly established in the public mind as the leading pro-EU party, especially given the palpable weakness of the Labour opposition. Tim Farron is himself established as the prominent leader of a party which is 'open, united and tolerant.' We have hugely benefitted from this situation in terms of by- election results - we have won more than thirty of these since the Referendum - as well as seeing a massive rise in our membership.

It is against this background that we approach what will almost certainly be the last ever Dorset County Council elections, before the probable arrival of an Unitary Council in 2019. It is vital that we continue the momentum of good by- election results, and North Dorset Liberal Democrats will have candidates in all divisions, including where we have sitting councillors in Blandford Forum, currently held by our very own Barrie Cooper; Shaftesbury, currently held for us by the venerable and retiring Mervyn Jeffery but which we hope he will bequeath to the inimitable Derek Beer; and Gillingham, which we held until 2013 and which our excellent new candidate Barry Von Clemens, the Mayor of Gillingham, is fighting for us - building on the amazing work over the years of the retiring David Milsted.

Please let me know on hugomieville1@gmail.com or 07815151277 if you can help us in any way with the vital task of winning these seats - by delivering, 'phoning, canvassing, stuffing envelopes or in any other way. We must put down a Liberal Democrat marker in a Conservative council which is viciously cutting public services, including CABs, Youth Centres, register offices, bus services and social care - whilst spending huge sums on refurbishing County Hall. We are also putting up some really good candidates in most of the other, non-target divisions, to keep the Tories busy and keep our Lib Dem yellow flag flying!

Hugo Mieville
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate,
North Dorset


The Budget, the NHS and Brexit

Anyone who uses our NHS knows the story: longer waiting lists, cancelled operations and loved ones stranded in hospital because their local council doesn’t have the resources to provide the care they need; and with the imminent prospect in Dorset of ward closures in community hospitals, and some doctors' surgeries disappearing. This is the NHS under the Conservative government. Liberal Democrats pushed for £4 billion of emergency funding in the budget for health and social care. That would have provided a cash injection of £29 million for local NHS services in Dorset, and £16.95 million for social care across Dorset. The Chancellor refused these proposals, and has put forward a budget that will see the share of our national income spent on the NHS fall in the coming years.
 
This is all being made worse, in the view of the Liberal Democrats, by the Government's Brexit plans - which are set to blow a £100 billion hole in the public finances. This is because the Conservatives are choosing to leave the world's largest Single Market. You can’t have a hard Brexit and a strong NHS at the same time. Our hospitals and schools are facing cuts partly because of the government’s self-imposed Brexit squeeze. The Liberal Democrats will stand up against these reckless plans, and fight to stay in the Single Market. This is the only way to ensure that our vital and much- loved public services are properly funded.

 

Hugo Mieville,

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate,

North Dorset


Child Refugees

Local councils have been subject to stringent cuts in funding from the Conservative government in recent years, and these cuts - in the case of DCC - have been a hugely contributory factor in the dimunition of funding for local services such youth centres, CABs and register offices; and the drastic cuts to support for bus services and social services provision, amongst other things.

Nonetheless since its decision to stop the scheme seems to have been taken without consulting, the Liberal Democrats are calling on local councils such as DCC   to protest against the Government’s decision to walk away from its commitment to take child refugees from Europe, especially many local authorities at all, and is being challenged in the courts by the Refugee  Council. 

Last year, after an outpouring of public support, the Conservative Government was forced to accept an amendment to the Immigration Bill offering sanctuary to vulnerable, lone child refugees trapped in Europe. Less than a year after that decision, only 350 children have been taken in (as against the original 3000 first mentioned) and the scheme is being closed. Local authorities are being blamed for this decision, with the Government pointing to a lack of capacity.

The Liberal Democrats call upon local authorities to make representations to Government for more funding to allow them to host more vulnerable refugee children, if they have the capacity to do so.

Dorset County Council, amongst others, must stand up against the Government’s attempt to pass the buck on their failure to support lone child refugees. There is a groundswell of people with decency and humanity in our community which wants to welcome these stricken, impoverished and unaccompanied children who have no other resources -  and the Government should reflect this worthy sentiment by giving local authorities the financial resources needed to enable

 

Hugo Mieville,
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate,
North Dorset


It's been quite a year

Dear Fellow Lib Dems, Well, it has been quite a year, hasn't it?

The vote for Brexit was a real watershed moment in British political life, and it was swiftly followed by the resignation of David Cameron and his replacement by the unelected Theresa May who, for all her fine words about helping the 'Just About Managing,' has continued down the well-worn Tory path of favouring the rich and privileged. JAM tomorrow indeed. And then there was Donald Trump.

At the same time, just to underline the grim nature of 2016, both Councillor Barrie Cooper and myself have been going through the mill somewhat in our personal lives: in his case with a severely ill wife, in mine with a son who was severely injured in a car crash. Both are now progressing well, thankfully, but such experiences do serve to put everything, including politics, into perspective. They also serve to underline what a fantastic national asset we have in the NHS: let the Tories mess with it at their peril!

To be positive, all is far from doom and gloom for the Lib Dems as we look to 2017. Twenty-three council by-election wins since the referendum (and still counting) have been supplemented by that astonishing success in Richmond Park and that 'near thing' in Witney. The public appetite of the public for a unashamedly pro-EU party, which believes in holding the government to parliamentary account over Article 50 and over the final deal, is clear. The support for an internationalist, open, tolerant and democratic party which isn't afraid (unlike the Labour party) to stand up for what it believes in, is also absolutely clear.

We have our own Dorset County Council elections to fight in May, the last such before the inevitable arrival of the unitary authority in 2019. We have our chance to put a marker down in our key target seats in the main towns of Blandford, Gillingham and Shaftesbury - and to that end we have already selected three good candidates: Barrie Cooper in Blandford; Barry von Clemens in Gillingham and Derek Beer in Shaftesbury. They all have a wealth of local government experience to offer. Other people have put themselves forward for some of the other wards: please let me know if you too would be interested in standing, even as a 'paper' candidate. Or please let me (or the candidates) know if you are happy to deliver, phone or fold leaflets....every little really does help!

My annual letter would not be complete without reference to the 'doyen' of the NDLD and of North Dorset and Gillingham politics for so many years, David Milsted. He and his wife Annie are leaving us in March for the sunnier (?) climes of Orkney. Scotland 's gain is very much our loss, and he will be much missed by us all for his wisdom, experience and coruscating wit!

Thank you, David, for all you have done for the NDLD. A very Happy New Year to all: may it be a much better one than 2016!

 

Hugo Mieville,

Parliamentary Spokesperson, NDLD


Local and national changes

Residents of North Dorset will be aware that Dorset County Council (www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk) is currently running an online consultation until 25 October, whereby it is asking residents of the county for  their views on their preferred option, out of three listed, for the shape of a future unitary authority - which would combine the district councils and the county council in some combination.

This change is almost entirely driven by the need to cut the costs of local government, given the continual erosion (and the eventual disappearance) of the Conservative government's financial  support for local authorities. In North Dorset, the net effect of these changes will be to move the centre of local power and democracy away from our North Dorset towns, to Dorchester in the West of the county - whatever the eventual unitary formulation, and despite any attempts to provide local ' hubs.'

At the same time, residents may also be aware that the Boundary Commission (www.bce2018.org.uk) has also consulted the public on the changes which it proposes for the the UK's parliamentary boundaries. Under these proposals, the North Dorset constituency will be savagely deconstructed , with the formation of a new Blandford and Wimborne constituency;  and another cross-border constituency which will link Shaftesbury, Sturminster Newton and Gillingham with....Westbury and Warminster!!.
 
I would respectfully suggest  that neither Wimborne nor Warminster is a natural pole of attraction for the people of North Dorset. So while our local government perspective shifts westwards to Dorchester, our national perspective shifts northwards or eastwards. There is a distinct lack of joined-up thinking here - and a very clear democratic deficit for the residents of North Dorset. Over to them to make their feelings clear through the consultations...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hugo Mieville,
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate,

 

North Dorset

 

 


The NHS under pressure

I have had prolonged, recent experience of our wonderful NHS in relation to the care of a very close relative, and I am in profound awe of its professionalism and humanity. Recent national headlines have implied that the health service is facing an unprecedented funding crisis, despite the Conservative government's promise at the last election to provide the necessary extra funding year- on- year to keep pace with our national ageing population and its increased longevity.

This promise was never properly costed, unlike the one produced by the Lib Dems during the election, which showed exactly how the extra £8bn per year needed would be paid for.

Echoes of this crisis can be seen in Dorset, with the publication of the Dorset Sustainability and Transformation Plan, which honestly admits that its rationale is:
'...delivering improvements to our health and care system at a time of increased demand but with a lower growth of resources'.  In other words, doing more for less money!
It is this plan which has suggested a sharp reduction in the number of GP surgeries (a serious step in a very rural area) ; a redefinition of the services offered by our three main hospitals, and the virtual disappearance of three community hospitals - including the Westminster Hospital in Shaftesbury. 
I would urge local campaigners to fight hard to preserve their services. Once lost they will never be replaced, and our county has a more ageing population than most others, in an extremely widely-dispersed area. One thing is for sure: campaigners had better not waste any time waiting for the supposed £350m per week windfall for the NHS from leaving the EU: this figure was always completely inaccurate and wildly exaggerated  - and now even the Leave campaigners themselves have given up pretending that the money will ever help our beleaguered health services. 
Hugo Mieville

Responsibility of a local candidate

In response to some letters in the Blackmore Vale Magazine I recently commented  that an opposition parliamentary candidate's job is not only to proclaim the policies and principles of his or her own party (although that is of course important) but also to hold the government  (and ruling local party) to account for the decisions which they make.

That I will continue to do until the next election - whenever that might be! 

I also pointed out that it is a long time since our local MP was a local person. I have now lived and worked in North Dorset for 31 years. I don't know whether many would  count me as being ' local', but I hope that he would accept that I am more local than the current MP  who - as is well known by now - arrived here in 2015 from David Cameron's constituency in Oxfordshire.
I didn't make a big fuss over that fact last year during the campaign, since I thought it better to concentrate on our Lib Dem policies and principles.

Council hypocrisy

It is easy to imagine the astonishment of the voters of Dorset when
faced with the hypocrisy of the Conservative-led Dorset County Council
which - whilst carrying out savage spending cuts to vital services
such as youth centres, bus services, libraries and (more recently)
register offices - have nevertheless found the cash to increase the
salary of its 15 senior officers by as much as £17,000.

The pay band for a head of service at Dorset County Council, for example, will rise
from £63,348-£79,714 to £80,500-£91,000. To add insult to injury, DCC
workers on lower grades will have their pay rises restricted to a
mere 1%.

It is accepted that the cuts in spending are partly dictated by the
continued massive cuts to the Conservative government grant given to
local authorities (although 'austerity' seems to taking a back seat in
government thinking since the referendum!) However, the judgements
about which services and which budgets to cut are down to each local
authority - and an authority which cuts essential spending, whilst
increasing the salaries of an exclusive few, can accept a harsh
verdict from the voters whom it supposedly exists to serve.

Hugo Mieville,
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate,
North Dorset


We need a General Election


Migrant attacks

In this febrile post-referendum atmosphere - in which immigration was a recurrent theme -  I am sure that voters from both sides, and of all parties and none, would wish to join me in deploring the recent alleged verbal and physical assault on a 'Big Issue' seller in Blandford Forum, and another allegedly similar incident elsewhere in Dorset.

Whatever our differences following this contentious event, we all believe in democracy, and are all members of the same society. In these difficult days, we need to live together in mutual respect and civility, and to be on our guard against those who seek to fracture and divide our fundamentally decent rural community.