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Stepping up to the challenge - our policy commitments at the City Council elections 6 May 2021

Cllr Nick Cott

On Thursday 6th May, I'm asking you to back the Newcastle Liberal Democrats' Steps to Recovery.

The pandemic has devastated lives, livelihoods and our City.

Labour has had ten years to make good on their promises, but time and again they've shown they're not up to the task.

Whether it's massive Council Tax rises, cuts to support for people with disabilities, or simply not listening to local residents, Newcastle is crying out for a new direction.

The Liberal Democrats have a compelling vision for a new Newcastle, fit for the 21st Century.

We would be honoured to have your support.

Cllr Nick Cott, Leader of the Newcastle Liberal Democrats

These would be our early steps on the road to recovery

LibbyReset the Relationship between the Council and its Citizens

We believe in delivery from the bottom up, starting with residents' needs rather than the Civic Centre's priorities.We will improve the Council's approach to consultation, so that residents feel genuinely heard, and ensure that decision making is transparent and accountable, inside and outside the Council chamber.

LibbyFocus on the Local

We will give funding back to ward committees, to support community projects and initiatives. We will expand the Communities Team, to empower local groups to tackle the issues that matter to them. We would reverse the cuts to the teams that tackle dog fouling, littering and graffiti.

LibbyRenew the City

We will tackle Labour's ballooning £184m pothole deficit, fix our pavements, and invest in local High Streets, so that residents can be rightly proud of the condition of their local communities. We will prioritise restoration of our beloved Tyne Bridge, which has been neglected for too long.

LibbyRestore our Environment and Tackle Climate Change

We will drive a bold ambition on tree planting, pledging to ensure there is a tree for every citizen in the City. We will start a drive towards electrifying the City's bus routes, and join up cycling schemes so that everyone get around, no matter where they want to go.

LibbyRebuild our Economy for the Challenges of Tomorrow

We will support local businesses, the Community and Voluntary Sector, and our local high streets as the foundations of a broad based economic recovery for everyone, tackling inequalities and supporting all of our communities. We will invest in a City Centre fit for the 21st Century, not based on a model designed before COVID-19.

These headlines are explored more fully below


Vision statement

Newcastle Liberal Democrats 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.

'Stepping up to the challenge.'

Our six-step programme for the city 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. Residents want better value from their Council tax, and expect the Council to keep you better informed and involved 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 in many years and we need an administration which takes responsibility for addressing the issues. In so doing, we would like to thank all the key workers, community groups and residents who have helped get us through so far. The pandemic crisis will, however, will lead to a lot of problems that the Council needs to address, some of which are already becoming very clear.

The crisis has exacerbated health and social problems and we need to work with our partners 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.

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 our neighbourhoods and in the city centre. We would set up a fund to help support creative ideas and innovation and we would lobby hard to get more resources for training and skills and this will help to address growing unemployment. 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 that we want to improve access of local communities to green space (which needs more protection), transport and services.

We have a central commitment into the city to tackling climate change and becoming a carbon neutral city. 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.

Our council group of 20-strong Liberal Democrat councillors is ready to make a real difference. We hope that you will see that we are stepping up to the challenge, that we are making a real difference to the lives of people in the city, and that you will vote for us on 6 May in the local election.

Best wishes,

Cllr Nick Cott

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Newcastle City Council


Step 1: 'Repairing trust in the Council and improving how it is run.'

People are losing faith in the current direction of the City Council and believe that it has become disconnected from the communities it serves. Whether on Council tax, customer service, transport, or delivery of everyday neighbourhood services, residents do not have confidence that the Council puts their interests first.

Liberal Democrats will address this:

  • We would reform the culture of the Council to make it more focused on serving local priorities and needs.
  • We would seek to fix basic services that have been neglected in the last few years.
  • We believe that Council tax rises should be kept as low as possible and would ensure that what residents pay demonstrates value for money.

Step 2: 'Focusing on the local.'

People are increasingly frustrated that the City Council has run down local community services, like fixing roads and pavements, dealing with litter and graffiti. The Council complains it can do nothing due to government cuts, but other local councils are able to do much better with their existing resources.

Liberal Democrats will address this:

  • We would make as a priority the need to invest in repairing our crumbling roads and pavements. We would re-prioritise existing Council resources to make a start and would look for external sources of funding.
  • We would give funding back to ward committees, so that ward councillors can work with local residents to tackle immediate priorities, such litter, potholes and graffiti and fixing play areas.
  • We would re-establish 'quality neighbourhood standards' so that the delivery of services can be properly scrutinised and managed.

Step 3: 'Helping and empowering our local communities and giving them more say.'

Centralisation of City Council decisions has been to the detriment of the vulnerable and disadvantaged. The Council's policies have left under-provision of leisure provision locally. We also know that residents are frustrated, and they want more say over what happens with decisions about their communities.

Liberal Democrats will address this:

  • We have argued for year-on-year additional funding for the community and voluntary sector to deliver community services, particularly to help the vulnerable, disadvantaged and other people who need our help.
  • We will ensure that the Council partners with local voluntary organisations to ensure that there is a wide variety of activities such as youth activities, and access to leisure and sport provision.
  • We need to find new ways to ensure that local people's views contribute to decisions and we will consult with residents about neighbourhood planning and devolving decision-making power to them.

Step 4: 'Improving the environment and tackling climate change.'

The City Council has been slow in implementing targets around the environment and climate change and zero carbon emissions. The Council has become obsessed with ill-judged traffic schemes which will not deliver the step change on air quality and sustainable transport.

Liberal Democrats will address this:

  • We will significantly up our game in tree planting. We have proposed that 1 tree for every citizen should be planted.
  • We will massively extend the city's electric bus routes and we will make it easier to cycle across the city, with better and safer cycle routes.
  • We will improve the rates of recycling by introducing a proper plan, with targets, to make recycling easier.

Step 5: 'Sustainable housing and local infrastructure.'

Housing need continues to be an issue in the city, but pressure for development of thousands of properties sees insufficient consideration of the mix of housing type and connections to local infrastructure. Too much housing is being developed in green open space.

Liberal Democrats will address this:

  • We would lobby to ensure the availability of more affordable housing in all housing developments, with adequate access to shops, services and transport connections.
  • We would support additional availability of lifetime homes and specialist housing with adaptions so that people can stay independent in their own homes as long as possible.
  • We would resist plans for further greenfield development, especially in the north west of the city.

Step 6: 'Meeting the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.'

The pandemic has had a massive impact on the city's economy with plans for growth and investment before the crisis now having to be rethought. There is more unemployment and the need for new training opportunities and jobs. There is increased poverty and demand on services such as mental health.

Liberal Democrats will address this:

  • Work with representatives of business in the city to come up with a plan for jobs and growth, in particular targeting investment from growth industries such as the green and digital sectors.
  • We will work up plans for regenerating the city centre and local neighbourhoods as hubs for creative industries and small business growth. We will look at how vacant premises can be utilised for new business start-ups.
  • We will work with partner organisations to ensure we have sufficient capacity to tackle growing social inequalities and higher demand for care services. We will refocus Council funding to support additional need in tackling issues such as child poverty and mental health.

For more details of specific policy issues see the enxt section - Policies and manifestos