The Liberal Democrats have announced their candidate for the Wakefield by-election as Jamie Needle.
Jamie has lived in Yorkshire since moving here in 1999 and is a Director of a small renewable energy company.
Jamie previously stood to be the MP for Wakefield in 2019 and has also stood to be a councillor in Bradford. Jamie is standing to campaign for more action to tackle the cost of living crisis.
The Lib Dems have three Councillors in Knottingley ward on Wakefield Council and are hoping to use the by-election to build up support for the local Lib Dem team on the ground.
Commenting on his selection, Jamie Needle said:
“I’m delighted to be selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for this by-election.
“One thing is clear: the Conservatives have badly let people down in this area and I’m standing for a fair deal.
“The Conservatives have hiked taxes, failed to tackle soaring energy bills and have been wrapped up in sleaze, meanwhile Labour locally just don’t listen to residents’ concerns.
“Liberal Democrats are campaigning to tackle the cost of living crisis, we want to see a VAT cut for families, a windfall tax on oil and gas companies and the National Insurance Tax hike scrapped.”
Residents across Wakefield District are set to be hit hard by the expected rise in energy bills in April, new figures have revealed.
Analysis by the Liberal Democrats shows that the average yearly bill for homeowners in Wakefield District is set to skyrocket by £582 - the equivalent of £48.50 a month - once the new energy price cap comes into effect.
Last year the average homeowner in Wakefield D& the Five Towns paid out £737 for their annual energy bill. Under the new price cap coming into force in April, that figure is set to rise to £1,319.
The energy price cap is expected to be around £1,865, according to energy experts. More misery looms on the horizon for residents in Wakefield unless action is taken to help them with the cost of bills, with the price cap expected to increase to over £2,000 when it is revised again in the Autumn.
Wakefield Liberal Democrats are calling for a one-off ‘Robin Hood’ tax on the super-profits of oil and gas giants, to fund an emergency package of support for local residents facing eye-watering increases to their heating bills.
This would include the doubling and expansion of the Warm Home Discount to those in receipt of Universal Credit or Pension Credit, giving 39,774 households across the District £300 each off their heating bills this year.
The Liberal Democrats are also calling for the doubling of the Winter Fuel Allowance to be doubled, helping 22,190 pensioners in the area keep their homes warm.
Cllr Tom Gordon, Liberal Democrat Group Leader at Wakefield Council said:
“These figures reveal that people across our district are facing eye-watering increases to their energy bills in April, while the Government is just sitting on its hands.
“Many pensioners and other local residents are already deeply worried about their next heating bill landing on their doormats.
“The Liberal Democrats have set out a clear plan to give thousands of people in our area £300 each off their heating bills this year. It’s time Boris Johnson stopped taking our local communities for granted and offered families the support they need to cope with energy price hikes.”
Liberal Democrat Leader and former Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:
“Families are facing an energy bill nightmare, while the Government is asleep at the wheel. They’ve failed to do anything to protect vulnerable people from this cost of living crisis.
“Liberal Democrats are calling for the doubling and expansion of the Warm Home Discount Scheme and the doubling of the Winter Fuel Payments to protect vulnerable people this winter. This would be funded by a one-off ‘Robin Hood Tax’ on the super-profits of gas and oil companies and traders who are raking it in hand over fist.”
Wakefield Liberal Democrats have today written to the Secretary of State for Energy Kwasi Kwarteng demanding that he backs the party’s call for a “Robin Hood” tax on the super-profits of oil and gas firms, to raise money to support local families facing soaring energy costs.
The proposed one-off levy could raise over £5 billion to help support families across the Wakefield Local Authority as their energy bills sky-rocket.
The Liberal Democrats say the money raised through this “one-off” tax could fund a substantial package of emergency support to help thousands of people facing higher bills.
This would include doubling the Warm Homes Discount and extending it to all those receiving Universal Credit or Pension Credit, giving 39,774 households across Wakefield & the Five Towns £300 each off their heating bills this year.
The party is also calling for the winter fuel allowance to be doubled, benefitting 22,190 pensioners in the area and helping them keep their homes warm. On top of this, funding would be spent on helping people insulate their homes to slash heating bills in the long term.
Liberal Democrat Council Group Leader, Cllr Tom Gordon said:
“It can’t be right that a few energy firms are making millions from record gas prices while people can't even afford to heat their homes as the cost of living crisis hits Wakefield & the Five Towns hard.
“A one-off Robin Hood tax on gas and oil bosses would provide vital funding to support families in our area who are facing crippling energy price hikes.
“For years the Conservatives have ignored this problem and failed to take the bold action we need to reduce fuel poverty. The Government cannot look the other way any longer while families struggle to get by.”
Councillor Tom Gordon, Leader of the Wakefield Liberal Democrat Council Group
Read the letter to the Secretary of State in full below:
Small businesses in Wakefield & the Five Towns to be hit with £9.5 million tax bombshell after Conservative broken promise
Small and medium-sized businesses, from tech start-ups to hairdressers and cafes, across Wakefield and the Five Towns will pay an extra £9.5 million a year due to the rise in national insurance, research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has found.
Boris Johnson broke his 2019 manifesto promise by raising employer National Insurance Contributions by 1.25%, impacting small businesses in our local area and across the country. House of Commons Library research has detailed the impact of the tax rises, and it is estimated that the average micro-business employing up to nine people will pay more than £1,000 extra a year as a result of the tax hike.
In Wakefield and the Five Towns, small businesses face an extra £9.5 million national insurance rise per year once the tax hikes come into place next year.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for small businesses to be offered a lifeline by slashing their employer’s national insurance contributions instead of raising them.
Under the party’s proposals, the Employment Allowance would be quadrupled from £4,000 to £16,000 for at least two years, meaning taxes on small businesses would be slashed by £5.5 billion across the country next year.
Councillor Tom Gordon, Liberal Democrat Group Leader at Wakefield Council, said:
“The Government's broken manifesto promise will create a £9.5 million tax bombshell for small businesses in our local community.
“Small businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic and our high streets have been struggling for years. The last thing businesses in Wakefield and across the Five Towns need right now are damaging tax rises.
Wakefield Liberal Democrats are calling for a tax cut for local entrepreneurs and business owners, to help them create jobs and drive our economic recovery.”
Christine Jardine MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the Treasury, commented on the findings:
“We have already lost far too many treasured shops from our high streets, and too many businesses are drowning in tax rises and red tape.
“Rishi Sunak must give small businesses the chance to grow again instead of clobbering them with a crippling tax rise.
“The Chancellor is out of touch with small businesses and if he truly cared about their survival, he would cancel this tax hike immediately.”
Wakefield Liberal Democrats have slammed the Labour Council Administration for granting exemption on the decision of allocating £1.3million for the Hepworth Gallery.
The £1.3mil is to be used on replacing the heating, ventilation, air condition plant at the Hepworth Gallery. This comes despite the gallery only opening 10 years ago, and the replacement is much earlier than anticipated.
Commenting Liberal Democrat Councillor Tom Gordon said:
“There are a number of questions that need to be answered including:
why was the HVAC life span so much shorter than expected and industry averages?
what will the impact be on other projects and buildings maintenance given these repairs are going ahead earlier than planned?
The excuse given for granting the decision exemption from scrutiny call in is due to the time scale to install a new HVAC unit. A lack of planning and foresight is not something that should be used to stop Councillors and the public being able to ask questions about Council expenditure.
This entire saga was completely preventable if the Labour Council had done its homework on time.
The fact that the Leadership in Wakefield County Hall can pluck £1.3mil out of thin air for an art gallery in Wakefield will be understandably galling to residents elsewhere in the District, like my hometown of Knottingley - where Labour refuse to give us any local leisure facilities.
It's down to priorities and Labour's are just all wrong for many residents across the Five Towns”
Wakefield Lib Dems: Invest £2,262,120 to double Warm Home Discount and prevent over 8000 pensioners across the Local Authority going cold this winter
Wakefield Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to double the Warm Home Discount for existing recipients and make it available to 1468 extra pensioners across Wakefield Council. The measure would prevent pensioners being forced to “choose between eating and heating this winter”, say the Lib Dems.
The call comes amid fears that local residents, particularly 8079 pensioners on low incomes, could be at risk from the energy crisis this winter.
The Warm Home Discount, funded by energy firms, is due to give people £140 off their electricity bill this winter. It is available to those who receive the ‘Guarantee Credit’ element of pension credit as well as some people on low incomes, with around two million receiving it each year across the UK.
The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to take on the cost of the Warm Home Discount and immediately double its value to £280, helping pensioners cope with soaring bills this winter.
Currently £925,540 is spent on the Warm Home Discount across Wakefield District. Under Liberal Democrat plans this funding would rise to £2,262,120.
Commenting on the new scheme, Liberal Democrat Councillor Tom Gordon said:
“The Conservatives are pushing the most vulnerable pensioners and families into a cost of living crisis. We are seeing a double whammy of rising bills and the slashing of vital support.
“Residents in across our district should not have to choose between heating and eating this winter. We simply cannot allow those who are already struggling to bear the brunt of this government’s terrible mistakes.
“Liberal Democrats are calling for a £2,262,120 investment to help people cope with soaring bills this winter.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP added:
“If Boris Johnson has any interest in offering the most vulnerable in society a fair deal, he will listen to this Liberal Democrat proposal to double and extend the Warm Home Discount to the people who really need help.”
Lib Dems slam Wakefield Council for wasting thousands on unnecessary & unused Zoom licenses
Lib Dem Councillors have uncovered that almost £20,000 was spent on Zoom licenses, almost half of which were either not activated or used.
Despite purchasing the Zoom licenses, Wakefield's inbuilt Skype for Business was used to conduct virtual Council meetings through the pandemic, with Microsoft Teams being used for COVID Recovery Board meetings.
Councillor Gordon said: "It is unclear exactly why Wakefield Council felt the need for a third video conferencing platform, and one which was then never used for Council business.
Wakefield Council purchased 125 licenses between September and November in 2020 at a cost of £17,146.60. Almost half of which were either not activated or unused.
The Zoom licenses were purchased for 12 months in advance meaning a number of licences were purchased for Councillors who then only months later retired or lost their seats.
Cllr Tom Gordon added: "I've spoken to Local Government colleagues elsewhere and no other Council seems to have taken this approach.
"It beggars belief that at at time when many are struggled financially, due to a inflation, stagnant wages, and COVID, that Wakefield Council think they can just waste residents' money".
Lib Dem Councillors are now calling on Wakefield Council to provide alternative pool time to school kids who are now seeing their school sessions cancelled due to horse racing at neighbouring Pontefract Race Course.
Last month it was revealed that there are over 2300 children on waiting lists for swimming lessons across Wakefield Council pools - meaning school lessons are the only many are able to received.
Residents from a local school contacted Councillors after they were notified earlier this week that swimming lessons for 16th & 23rd November were axed due to clashes with race day.
Councillor Gordon said: "Not only can residents not get their children into swimming lessons due to massive backlogs, but now some even face their kids missing out on school lessons due to the shortsighted approach in shutting down local pools and consolidating the service next the race course. Swimming is an important life skill and one our children should have access to but are being denied.
"I spoke with one headteacher who said the school were not told that they would see multiple swimming sessions lost due to clashes with horse racing. Labour-run Wakefield Council must make additional pool time available so that no school kids miss out, and I have written to the relevant Cabinet Member calling for this.
The new Aspire @ the Park facility in Pontefract was plagued with delays after the building site was flooded, and ended up costing more than the original £20million planned.
Cllr Tom Gordon added: "We've already seen residents turned away and inflatable sessions cancelled due to capacity issues at Pontefract Park pool. This is just the latest failing on the Labour Council administration's part."
Wakefield Lib Dem Deputy Group Leader and spokesperson for Culture Leisure & Sport, Cllr Adele Hayes, has called for urgent investment in Council leisure services as shocking figures show over 2300+ children are on swimming lesson waiting lists across out district.
Figures from Wakefield Council revealed that 2370 children are currently on waiting lists for swimming lessons at Council run facilities. This includes over 1100 children waiting for lessons at the new Aspire @ the Park in Pontefract, and over 640 for Sun Lane.
Councillor Hayes, who was elected to represent Knottingley & Ferrybridge earlier this year, said: "In recent weeks I've had more and more parents getting in touch who are growing increasingly angry and concerned about months long waiting lists to get swimming lessons for their children.
"We knew there was a backlog and issues with the availability of lessons, I can't get my 10 year old daughter lessons anywhere, but I am shocked at the size of the backlog and it seems the problem is bigger than anyone thought.
"It's obviously really frustrating for residents in places like Castleford & Knottingley, where the Council chose demolish and centralise services rather than keep them local in communities. We have many parents who simply can't afford the bus fare or travel and it's clear now that the Council's decision awhile back has made swimming and an important life skill inaccessible to many."
Councillors Tom Gordon & Adele Hayes at the site of the former Knottingley Swimming Pool
Wakefild Lib Dem Council Group Leader, Tom Gordon, has slapped down revived Government plans for COVID passports as 'unworkable and illiberal'.
Councillor Gordon, who has been vaccinating the public as a volunteer, has voiced concern and branded the direction "dangerous".
Councillor Gordon, a Biochemistry and Public Health graduate, said: "I think I've demonstrated, & made it explicitly clear, that I am 100% that I am in favour of getting people vaccinated.
"However, I completely oppose the introduction of divisive & discriminatory domestic ‘vaccine passports’ which are both unworkable & illiberal.
"These plans could not only deny individuals access to pubs/restaurants, but also vital services and even jobs.
"The proposed vaccine passports would create a two-tier society, restricting the freedoms of young people who haven't had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, and those who it is recommended do not received the vaccine
"The successful vaccination roll out should mean we start getting our freedoms back. Vaccine passports - essentially COVID ID cards - take us in the other direction"