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For our communities, for our city, for our future

NEWCASTLE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT GROUP LEADER'S STATEMENT

LOCAL ELECTION 2022

Vision statement

Newcastle's Liberal Democrat councillors will put local communities at the centre of everything that we do. We will ensure that the Council serves everyone and builds partnerships with people and organisations who can help make our city a better place.

OUR ASPIRATONS AND PROGRAMME FOR NEWCASTLE

Cllr Nick Cott

By Cllr Dr Nick Cott

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group and Leader of the Opposition, Newcastle City Council

As Liberal Democrats we recently published our manifesto for the city entitled 'For our communities, for our city, for our future', which sets out a vision and priorities for the future. I wanted to build on that in my Leader's statement to show you what a difference a Liberal Democrat council would make for the city. Liberal Democrats in Newcastle ran the Council from 2004 to 2011, and we maintain a strong Group of 20 members, representing communities across the city. We are the main opposition to Labour and the only alternative administration, with no Conservative or Green councillors in the city.

Liberal Democrats in Newcastle have a programme for the city which sets out our ambition to put communities at the centre of everything we do, working in partnership with local people and organisations.

In recent years, the Council has become too detached from residents, who rightly want to see the Council do much better in delivering basic services, such as fixing roads and pavements, clearing litter and graffiti and investing in community spaces like parks and play areas. They want better connectivity for public transport, cycling and safer streets. Residents want better value from their Council tax and expect the Council to keep you better informed and give you more say in local decisions. We agree with all this, and pledge to do much better with a proper review of how the Council operates and its finances.

In Newcastle, we need to deal with the biggest challenges facing by our city for many years and we need an administration which takes responsibility for addressing the issues, and not one that blames the government for everything. Infighting in the Labour administration means Labour councillors are divided, and their new leader will not easily be able to resolve the problems at a time when the council needs to be united. Liberal Democrats, by contrast, are united and ready to face the issues in the city head-on.

The pandemic crisis has already meant that there are a lot of problems that the Council needs to address, and now we have a cost-of-living crisis, caused by higher energy costs and inflation. These crises are exacerbating health and social problems and we need to work ever more closely with our partner organisations in the city to address the issues and we want to see the Council give more money to community organisations to work closely with people in the community who are affected. Support from local organisations, who know their communities, are trusted by local people, and make real difference to people's lives.

A particular issue is the growth of child poverty; it is a scandal that over 40 per cent of children in the city are living in child poverty, and we must prioritise support to our children and young people and their families.

We need to rebuild the local economy and we need to encourage new business investment, such as from the green and digital economy, and we need to invest resources in small and new businesses to help them to thrive in local high streets and in the city centre. We would support creative ideas and innovation and we would lobby hard to get more resources for training and skills and this will help to address access to jobs with decent pay. And we would support our cultural and hospitality sectors, which are essential parts of our service economy.

The Council has responsibilities for the wellbeing of the city into the future. We want a better mix of housing, and we want to improve access of local communities to green space (which needs more protection), transport and services.

We have a central commitment in the city to tackling climate change and become carbon neutral. This includes reducing the Council's carbon print with commitments to reducing energy costs. We have ambitious plans to decarbonise our transport systems, for cycling, and for a massive scheme for tree planting. The current plans of the Labour administration are high on rhetoric and low on delivery; we can do so much better.

In recent months Labour has continued to politicise the Council's budget position, spinning the problems, as ever, in a way to extricate the Council from responsibilities to manage its own services by expecting the government to pay for all the cost pressures. The obsession with its vanity projects in the city centre, is not a good sign of the direction of travel. This is not a serious administration and change is needed. Please vote for our Liberal Democrat team on 5 May.

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