"What are you going to do about it?" - Barnstaple councillors confront Devon County Council on infrastructure following floods.

Image of street flooding in BarnstapleIn 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."

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Devon Council Leaders write to the Chancellor seeking further assistance for those on Universal Credit

Chancellor of the exchequer's red boxDavid 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.'

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Liberal Democrats call on Government and MP for furlough extension

Liberal Democrats call on Government and MP for furlough extension as 36% on furlough and 6% claim Universal Credit in North Devon.

Image of 'Sorry We're Closed' shop signIn 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.

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Internal Market Bill

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.

Letter from ~Alex White to MP for North DevonDear 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.


Alex White
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for North Devon

Our New Lib Dem Leader

Ed Davey - new leader of the Lib Dems national partyWe’re so excited to be moving towards a fairer, greener, more caring vision for our society with Ed Davey, new leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Ed Davey will be launching a national listening program so that voters can tell us what matters to you. As Lib Dems, we are going to work across the constituency, travel the country, listen to your concerns and rebuild our connection with you all.
North Devon a strong liberal heritage, hard working locals serving you as a majority council, and members across the district who look like you - teachers, NHS staff, locals farmers, and many more besides. We look forward to offering a Liberal plan for North Devon moving forward.

If you want to be part of rebuilding the Liberal Democrats, please join today and together we can build a powerful, modern, principled party that will change our country for the better.


Screeching U-turn on Grading by the Government

Image of disappointed student now with large tick to show success of campaign.After howls of protests from tens of thousands of students, teachers, and lecturers the government has decided to reverse its policy to determine A Level exam grades using a statistical algorithm rather than by student ability.

We are pleased to hear about this result, which will support young people in North Devon - especially those at Petroc who were disproportionately impacted.

This U-turn is a victory for common sense and rightly answers calls from Liberal Democrats and others, but it should never have gone this far. There is still a long way to go to clean up this mess. Government must provide the clarity young people need, including supporting and resourcing universities to ensure all provisional offers are honoured.

We’ve always called for placing trust in North Devon’s teachers, not some suit in Westminster.

Right of Free Appeal - Update

A Level appeal fees update

GRaphic of student disappointed with results, over laid with Update messageWe are thrilled to have received the news that neither schools/colleges nor students will have to pay for appeals.

The Liberal Democrats called for this and we are pleased to see the right decision for students after such enormous failure from the Government and from Gavin Williamson.

Pressure was increasing on the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson while the Liberal Democrats called for his resignation.

Successful appeals are already free, but the Department for Education will also cover the costs of unsuccessful ones

A spokesperson for North Devon Liberal Democrats said:

"This is the right decision for young people in North Devon who had a kick in the teeth form the Government after a tough year. We're also pleased for teachers and school leaders who should have been trusted with their predictions and assessments from the outset. This is proof again that loud voices on the ground - students, teachers, parents and activists - they can and will be heard. It's now important that the process is efficient, effective, and stress-free to support students in what's next - especially those relying on these grades for their next steps."

Right of Free Appeal

Graphic showing student with disappointing exam resultsThird of students grades downgraded - they must have a free right to appeal.

More than a third of results in England (35.6%) were downgraded in at least one A Level grade yesterday, following the handling of results by the Government which has come under much criticism. North Devon students can appeal to receive their mock results, but at a cost to schools, colleges and in many instances - families.

Grades have been badly received following news that they were amended based on historic results for schools. Costs for appeals are as much as £120 depending on exam board and the reason for appeal. The cost is incurred should the grade not go up. Schools and colleges are the recipients of the fee, but with many establishments passing these to students as procedure.

The Liberal Democrats are demanding pupils have the chance to appeal their grades directly at no cost. This would involve them presenting evidence that best reflects their performance and progress.

Will Topps, North Devon Councillor for Bickington and an English teacher at Pilton Community College, said: 

"It is hugely unfair that students from state schools and colleges have been more heavily downgraded than their peers at private schools, and even more unfair that they are being priced out of appealing these results. Over the years I've taught many students who have surprised their teachers and achieved better grades than expected - this year those students haven't been given the chance and are being limited by the Tory government. 

"I and my colleagues spent hours agonising over the awarding of Centre Assessed Grades for students and so did lecturers and teachers at A-level. It makes me angry that the government has seemingly ignored this hard work. It's just another example of this government ignoring expert advice and simply doing as it pleases."

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Strengthen Test & Trace

Covid-19 Test & Trace graphic showing network of peopleGovt must act to strengthen NHS Test and Trace ahead of new school year, else ND kids will be left behind.

Scientists have warned that current Covid-19 contact track and trace is inadequate when schools in the UK reopen next month.

After six months of being cooped up at home, millions of children are looking forward to getting back to school in September, but safety must remain the top priority. The Government needs to be honest about the very real risk that if they do not get the NHS Test and Trace system in order - or in the event that we see a sharp rise in infections - children may have to go back to learning from home.

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Lib Dem Council delivers affordable homes for villages

North Devon Lib Dem parliamentary spokesperson Alex White discussing housing needs with local developers.North Devon Council has heard how it has helped develop plans for 57 new homes for families in villages throughout North Devon. Lib Dem Housing Spokesperson Nicola Topham says:

Cllr NIcola Topham”It is sometimes really difficult for local families to afford to live in the village where they grew up and where they may work, support the local school or look after relatives. Through our support for the Community Land Trusts, we are helping to ensure that our villages don’t lose their young people and that they remain as vibrant, sustainable communities"

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