Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Two good decisions from Lib Dem conference

The Liberal Democrats conference is unique among the big three in that ordinary members are actually allowed to speak and vote on policy issues. Two that have special relevance for us in Cornwall relate to regional pay and the proposed planning changes.

On regional pay, a motion put forward both by Lib Dems in Wales and in South East Cornwall opposed any proposal for regional pay. Among the speakers was my colleague Edwina Hannaford who reiterated the case we made in proposing a similar motion to Cornwall Council. She said that it would lead to less experienced public sector staff and a pay cut for those we keep. Public sector staff help to keep local businesses going outside the tourist season and, whilst some aspects of living costs are lower here, many - including housing and transport costs - are much higher.

I'm delighted that the motion opposing regional and local pay was overwhelmingly carried.

Today, the Party has been debating a motion opposed to the Government's proposed relaxation of planning law. The issue that has dominated the coverage so far is all about allowing people to build bigger extensions and conservatories without planning permission. But what matters most to me is that the Government is also seeking to relax the requirement for developers to provide affordable housing and community contributions known as section 106. In Cornwall we have more than 25,000 families on the housing waiting list. They need more affordable homes to be built and if the government lessens the obligations on developers then these people will not get the homes they need for a much longer period.

Sadly, conference votes are not binding on the Government, but I hope they provide a much stronger hand for Lib Dem ministers to play when negotiating with their Conservative colleagues.

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