Reacting to the Health Secretary's announcement this morning that the Government are abandoning the vaccine passport scheme, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs Alistair Carmichael MP said:
A massive thank you to our members, supporters, and people across North Devon who helped us to raise a whopping one thousand pounds for North Devon Food Bank during half term.
Liberal Democrats campaigned hard here, and in parliament, to get the Government to make yet another U-turn on Free School Meals, and are so glad that the community voices have been heard. But we at North Devon Liberal Democrats felt very strongly that we needed to do something in addition to help those across North Devon who need a helping hand over the coming months.
We know North Devon is in even greater need due to COVID - with our research in August showing unemployment has rocketed in the last year here - an increase of 241%, with 14,400 on furlough.
The funds raised have been split between Barnstaple & Ilfracombe, areas of above average levels of childhood poverty, and will be used to purchase food for those families who are struggling to make ends meet over the festive period and school holidays.
Once again, a huge thank you to all who donated for their kind generosity.
(Pictured: Cllr Julie Hunt, Cllr Caroline Leaver at Barnstaple Food Bank)
The change.org petition started by Braunton local Paul Trueman on Saturday 24th October, which calls for the North Devon MP to resign after mocking local businesses providing free school meals, has seen more than 6,000 signatures.
The petition started following the new MPs tirade on social media, in which she said:
"I am delighted our local businesses have bounced back so much after lockdown they are able to give away food for free, and very much hope they will not be seeking further government support".
On Saturday, the office of Conservative MP Selaine Saxby released a statement which said:
"The portrayal of my recent comments on social media, out of context, does not accurately convey my views. I, of course, deeply regret any offence which may have been caused".
Many have since argued that this is an expression of regret, and not an apology.
The call follows the Tory MP for North Devon failing to apologise for her remarks on Friday (23 Oct) evening. The MP had taken to Facebook to comment on generous local businesses providing free school meals. She said "I am delighted that our local businesses have bounced back so much after lockdown they are able to give away food for free, and very much hope they will not be seeking any further government support".
In a social media poll, almost two and a half thousand people have indicated the MP should resign, with hundreds more across other petitions. Specifically, over 2,000 people have put their name to a change.org petition calling for the MP to step down. The Liberal Democrats have been calling for an apology from the recently elected MP, but locals have expressed that sorry isn't good enough. Now, the Lib Dems call for her resignation. Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for North Devon, Alex White, says "Saxby must go". Further, North Devon Liberal Democrats understand the MP's team have been in touch with local news groups. Statements from the groups allude to them being asked not to allow posts about her recent blunder, which was deleted around ten minutes after being posted from her personal account onto local Facebook group 'North Devon News'. Comments on the stifling of the story has seen some locals saying they are being "silenced", with others calling it "censorship".
I am delighted businesses have bounced back so much after lockdown they are able to give food away for free" spouts a sarcastic Selaine Saxby MP. Lib Dem Alex White says she MUST apologise.
In a rant on North Devon News Facebook Group, Saxby used her personal account to express her frustration that her voting against free school meal provision hasn't stopped some heroic eateries in the area from stepping up. "I hope they [hospitality businesses] will not be seeking any further government support." "I am delighted business have bounced back so much after lockdown they are able to give away food for free", she said. The post was later deleted, but the Tory MP for North Devon followed up with an email to the admin of the site, further extending her tirade.
The comments came after the Tory MP for North Devon voted against providing free school meals to the most vulnerable children in North Devon, over the holidays. Speaking on twitter, she referred to the opposition bill that sought to prevent children from going hungry as 'Punch and Judy Politics'. The Liberal Democrats say it is shameful and disgusting to vote against it. 1 in 6 children in Devon live in Poverty, rising to 1 in 3 in parts of North Devon specifically.
In a letter to the Conservative County Council, 14 town and district councillors of different party colours (13 Lib Dem, 1 Conservative) have asked Devon County council to urgently review their road gully maintenance strategy, following a summer of floods throughout the town.
Responses received by the Conservative County Council put the issues down to "tough choices". Well, nobody in Barnstaple made the “choice” of having their homes flooded and their lives ruined by overflowing drains.
Since 2012, the County Councils budget for Highways Maintenance has dropped by a whopping 40%. But that hasn’t stopped Devon County Councillors giving themselves a huge 15% pay rise. The letter from local councillors say it is "an absolute disgrace that the Tory County Councillors awarded themselves such a massive pay increase when they can’t finance the basics, like decent roads and drains."
David Worden, Liberal Democrat Leader of North Devon Council has joined with Lib Dem Leaders of Torbay and Teignbridge councils to collectively urge the Chancellor to make the temporary £20/week increase to the standard allowance of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit permanent from April, as well as extend the same uplift to Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support and Job Seeker's Allowance.
The letter comes after research by North Devon Liberal Democrats earlier this month, which showed 6% of the North Devon population is currently relying on Universal Credit and that the number of claimants had increased by 185% in the last year alone. In the letter, the three council leaders 'urge the Government to keep doing the right thing, keep families afloat and keep the lifeline.'
Liberal Democrats call on Government and MP for furlough extension as 36% on furlough and 6% claim Universal Credit in North Devon.
In the wake of continued job losses across the country, and the latest restrictions, the Liberal Democrats are calling for an extension of the Government’s furlough scheme until the jobs market is “ready to bounce back” as the South West sees 32% of its population on the job retention scheme for September - the second highest in the country - with North Devon one of the areas relying on it most.
With 5.9% of people now relying on Universal Credit in North Devon, the Party claims that extending furlough would help “stop this crisis getting even worse” and protect jobs for the future.
What's more, figures show that 14,400 people are currently furloughed in North Devon. Despite the Chancellor promising last month to do “whatever it takes” to support households and businesses through the coronavirus outbreak, the Government so far has not come forward with a plan beyond 31 October, when the current scheme ends.
In total, 3,275 people in North Devon are now unemployed (as of August 2020) - a 241% increase on this time last year. Government figures show 14,400 people in North Devon remain furloughed.
The Liberal Democrats have also warned some of the worst hit are the country's self-employed workers, three million of which are still not covered by support. The Party has called for support to be extended and urges the public to join its campaign to protect jobs. They are particularly concerned about the tourism, hospitality and leisure industries.
Alex White has written to the Tory MP for North Devon on the Internal Market bill, which seeks to break International Law, ahead of voting next week. He urges her to put her career progression aside, think of her constituents and be on the right side of this vote.
Dear Ms Saxby,
At the count following the General Election last year, I told you I'd be holding you to account and continuing to stand up for the interests of the people of North Devon. Whilst I sincerely hoped you'd seek to be the voice of North Devon in Westminster I've made it clear that I think you've proved yourself to be Westminster's delegate in North Devon.
So, I write to you to ask you to do the right thing, to find a voice for your constituents on the Internal Market Bill.
That bill gave ministers the power to override commitments made in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. Your Tory Government has now stated, inexplicably, that the bill will break International Law.
I and many across North Devon are appalled to think that your party would take such an attitude to the rule of law - placing our nation's credibility in question, jeopardising the EU Trade Negotiations and the Northern Ireland agreement, and potentially scuppering future trade deals. Why should any nation trust a country that breaks international law?
The United Kingdom is a proud country. In your short time here, I hope you've seen that Devon is a proud county and North Devon especially so. A place built on community and trust.
As former Prime Minister and a fellow member of your party, John Major said: "If we lose our reputation for honouring the promises we make, we will have lost something beyond price that may never be regained". I ask you to read that quote, think of the direct link this vote will have on future trade deals, and consider the farmers of this constituency whom you have voted against before. I urge you to think of your constituents here.
Tonight (Friday 11th September) the Prime Minister invited Tory MPs to join a call where he begged you to vote to break that international law and, in the view of the European Union, plunge us into a No Deal Brexit. Clearly, this isn't about Brexit, it is about morality and legality. Will you, Ms Saxby, follow the whip as you always have, or put your career progression aside and be the local MP North Devon deserves?
I urge you to urgently set out your position on this issue and assure your constituents you won't back the Government in this damaging move.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for North Devon