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
Councillor Tom Gordon and the Lib Dems fight to give carers a voice
Wakefield Liberal Democrats are asking people across our community who care for relatives to get in touch and share their story – to mark national Carers Rights Day.
Liberal Democrat party leader Ed Davey has said he wants the party wants to be a "strong voice" for the millions across the country – including over 33,000 people across Wakefield District who care for those who need it.
Ed himself knows the burden put on carers for family members - having been a carer for his mum when growing up and now caring for his disabled son.
Carers can get in touch and share their experiences at www.libdems.org.uk/carerssurvey
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford, Councillor Tom Gordon, has called for action from the Local Authority, Unions, and MP at once as over 200 staff are facing losing their jobs at the Haribo site in Pontefract.
Councillor Gordon said: "Clearly this is a very anxious time for employees and for the economy of Pontefract and across the Five Towns. I’m calling on Wakefield Council, Unions and the MP to do all they can to support Haribo employees and establish a task force to save jobs and safeguard the future of this site."
Haribo informed employees about the expected job losses at a meeting on Friday 4th September. Any changes are expected to take place over the next 18 months and Haribo will be engaging in consultation with those affected and their representatives.
Councillor Gordon added: "I've been in touch with Haribo and the Managing Director has agreed to speak with me next week. Pontefract and the wider area simply cannot afford to lose jobs on this scale. A number of residents have already been in touch and are deeply worried about what this means for them and their families. We need to make sure we do all that we can in these circumstances and try to ensure we reach the best possible outcome for those employees who are facing redundancy in the middle of a global health crisis."
Councillor Gordon told residents affected by this news that they can contact him at [email protected]
Millfields Care Home, in Pontefract, has officially opened its new reminiscence room - which is designed specifically to help those with dementia connect with the past.
The newly fitted out room was designed in collaboration with residents and features a range of period items from the 1950-1970s including a record player with a range of music, a Singer sewing machine, and even a pub bar and bell.
Care Home Manager, Laura Jones, said “We’re really excited to be able to offer something unique to our residents, we know how much of a positive benefit a facility like this can have on health and well-being, especially for those living with dementia. At Millfields our staff are always looking for new and innovative ways to support and engage with residents. It was particularly heart-warming to see how residents got involved & contributed their thoughts on what they wanted this room to be like.”
Activities & Fundraising Co-ordinator, Victoria Jenkins said “It has been hard work getting this up and running especially with the added difficulty of COVID. We’ve spent hours trying to find period items online that would really bring the reminiscence room to life. In the short time we’ve had the room kitted out we’ve already seen how this has made a real difference to the lives of residences”.
Councillor Tom Gordon, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Normanton, Pontefract, & Castleford, was invited to open the room on Thursday 30th July.Due to COVID, the event was a slimmed-down and socially distanced affair, rather than the party that had been originally planned for residents and their loved ones.
Commenting Cllr Gordon said “The staff at Millfields should be super proud of themselves, they are second to none, and residents absolutely thrilled with their latest idea. It’s been lovely speaking with few residents I was able to meet and hearing their stories about our local area – they’ve even taught me a thing or two. I’ve already been invited back for a quiz and to meet with residents properly when it’s safe to do so, and I can’t wait”.
The staff, tireless in their efforts to think of ways to support their residents, are now setting out to fundraise for a minibus in hope that they can take residents away on day trips.
Millfields currently have vacancies for respite care, day care, full-time residential, and enquiries can be made by calling 01977 690 606.
A specially convened meeting of Wakefield Council’s Climate Change & Environmental Scrutiny Committee was called after three committee members, including Lib Dem Councillor Tom Gordon, called in a delegated decision made by Council Leader Denise Jeffery to approve a budget of £300k to commission a consultant for the Council’s land at the City Fields site.
Speaking on the webcast meeting, Cllr Gordon queried the Corporate Director for Regeneration and Economic Growth on the recurrent appointment of expensive and out of the area consultants, and asked whether the Council could build capacity and expertise in house to reduce reliance on outsourcing to consultants, and with a view the council could then tender and bid for external contracts.
On the meeting Council Officers acknowledged that internal staff did in fact have the expertise to deliver this work, contrary to what was noted in the delegated decision notice, and cited a lack of staff capacity as the main barrier.
Commenting Cllr Gordon said “We should be looking to employ local people rather than constantly outsource to expensive consultancies in places as distance as London, and today we heard that this is possible. Wakefield Council should be looking to do this ourselves, it would be a win-win situation and mean we would be employing more people locally, who in return are more likely to spend their money in our area helping our local economy recover from COVID.“
Corporate Director Tom Stannard said he anticipated it would be a similar level of cost to employ additional staff and do the work in house. Councillor Gordon also questioned whether it be feasible for an increased staff team at the Council to also compete for external contracts to which Tom Stannard seemed to suggest was possible.
Commenting Councillor Gordon said “Not only could we complete works in house for roughly the same price, we could be looking at opening up a potential new revenue stream for the Council if we developed our Councils capacity and expertise enabling us to also compete for external contracts too, meaning that residents will see better value for money.”
Local Lib Dem councillor hits out at revelations that the Government are going to end free parking for NHS staff.
During the coronavirus crisis, NHS staff have been able to park at Wakefield's Pinderfield Hospital and other hospitals across the region without having to pay.
The charges were dropped so that nurses, cleaners and other hospital staff could get to work without extra charges or hassle.
But now the Government is set to end the free parking, arguing the coronavirus crisis is easing.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat councillor for Knottingley & Ferrybridge, Tom Gordon, said:
"Our NHS staff and social care workers in Wakefield & across the Five Towns have been putting themselves on the front line every single day to protect us. It is absolutely right that they shouldn't be punished for parking at work, especially when it isn't as safe as usual for them to be using public transport.
"Even if this Covid-19 crisis was close to being over, scrapping free parking for NHS staff shows that the Government have learned nothing. We have been clapping for carers over the past few months - but we must match that with real action to improve things for NHS and care workers.
"That's why extortionate parking charges for NHS staff should be axed, and why health and social care workers deserve a decent pay rise. Sadly, it doesn't look like the Government will give them either."
Over 8800 pupils could benefit from Summer Learning Fund under Lib Dem plans
The Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to commit to a Summer Learning Fund that would support over 8800 disadvantaged children across Wakefield District to get ready for returning to school.
Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran, who welcomed the Government’s u-turn on free school meals, warned further action was needed to “ensure no child is left behind.”
The intervention comes after official figures published last week reveal 1,440,777 pupils across England could benefit from free school meals this summer, following a campaign by Liberal Democrats and others.
The Liberal Democrats have now set out a package of measures to support children and open schools safely. The Party is urging Ministers to create a Summer Learning Fund, which would give every child on free school meals free places at summer learning camps in their community.
The scheme would help Wakefield Council run such groups to help pupils learn and prepare them for returning to school.
Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:
"The Government’s plan would have left many vulnerable children to fall through the cracks at a time when people are really struggling.
“I am grateful to Marcus Rashford and all those campaigners who have helped force the Prime Minister to rediscover his conscience, but it should never have been needed.
"The Government must now work cross-party and with parents, teachers and local governments to do more. We must ensure no child is left behind.”
Liberal Democrat Councillor Tom Gordon added:
“Parents and teachers locally are concerned that pupils, especially the most disadvantaged, are not getting the education and care they need to get on in life.
“That is why the Liberal Democrats are urging the Government to do more by combining the free school meals voucher scheme with an emergency uplift in child benefit during the crisis and a Summer Learning Fund that supports the most disadvantaged children.”
The Liberal Democrats are calling for greater powers for Wakefield Council to take action on carbon emissions as figures show progress to cut emissions across the UK has stalled since 2016.
In Wakefield emissions have fallen from 2115.1 to 2072.5 (kt CO2) - not fast enough to achieve Net Zero Emissions by 2050.
Highlighting the need for “action now, not promises”, the Liberal Democrats are calling for more powers for those who are “best-placed to tackle the climate emergency in their areas”: local authorities.
Tom Gordon, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Knottingley & Ferrybridge said:
“The Liberal Democrats are fighting to tackle the climate emergency, and that includes here at Wakefield Council. We have a plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2045, but - as things stand - we’ll struggle to even meet the 2050 deadline.
“Local authorities are best placed to tackle the climate emergency in their area. We are calling for the Government to give local authorities more powers to take action on carbon emissions. This means powers to tackle congestion, invest in public transport, insulate our homes, and create new green jobs."
Say NO to Labour's Expensive West Yorkshire Mayoral Stitch Up
Wakefield Liberal Democrats are urging local residents to reject plans for a Leeds City Region Mayor. A consultation is presently underway on introducing a Metro Mayor in time for next year’s Local Elections.
Lib Dems Councillor Tom Gordon said: “In these difficult times local people don’t want to be forking out extra Council Tax for a Mayor nobody wants. Many people are really struggling and this extra bill will be a real hardship.”
Plans for the new Leeds City Mayor were signed off in March between the five Labour Council Leaders of West Yorkshire and the Government. There is now a consultation ongoing and the Lib Dems are urging local people to make sure their voices are heard.
Lib Dem Councillor Tom Gordon said “This is a bad deal and is just another Labour stitch-up. Residents in our area rejected the idea of an elected Mayor, in a referendum back in 2012, yet somehow now we are likely to have one imposed upon us. This isn’t meaningful devolution, it’s an undemocratic stitch-up with the five Labour Authority Council Leaders having the power to veto and amend the Mayor’s budget. SO even a non-Labour Mayor will have to fall in line.”
Concerns have also been raised about the possible replacement of the elected Police and Crime Commissioner with what would presumably be a party political appointed by the Mayor.
Councillor Gordon added: “I don’t see why Yorkshire can’t have a proper devolution deal like Scotland and Wales. We want Yorkshire to have proper power, not this shabby Labour stitch-up. I’m therefore asking people to oppose the deal in the consultation.
The consultation can be completed online at:
Liberal Democrat Councillor calls on MPs to back a motion to ban LGBTQ+ conversion therapy.
In an letter Councillor Tom Gordon has urged Yvette Cooper, Member of Parliament for Normanton, Pontefract, and Castleford, to back a motion Layla Moran's Early Day Motion, which would make LGBTQ+ conversion therapy illegal.
Over two years ago, then Prime Minister Theresa May said that the Government would bring forward legislation to ban the practice but the Government has yet to act. Over 100,000 people have signed an online petition calling for conversion therapy - aimed at changing a person's sexuality - to be made illegal.
Councillor Gordon said:
“All major UK therapy professional bodies, charities, and even our NHS being in total agreement, that there simply is no moral or scientific basis to allow the continuation of this barbaric practice.”
“Every single day that goes by is another in which individuals can legally be subjected to this harmful ordeal. I am sure that equality and mutual respect is a goal that we share and one which we must be willing to fight for. I hope that you choose to back this motion and support the members of the LGBTQ+ community across Normanton, Pontefract, Castleford, Knottingley & Ferrybridge, as well as the rest of the United Kingdom”
Councillor Gordon has also called on his fellow Wakefield Council colleagues to lobby their respective MPs to support this motion.
Full text of the letter can be found below: