The Liberal Democrats have called out the Government’s “ill-thought-out” decision to reopen schools amidst the COVID-19 crisis, as new statistics from an NEU survey show that a large proportion of primary schools remain open only to children of key workers.
In Yorkshire and the Humber some 48% of primary schools remain closed to all except the children of key workers, despite the Government’s attempt to reopen schools to more year groups at the start of this week.
The Liberal Democrats are calling on Ministers to ensure that parents, teachers, headteachers and governors are fully prepared for a phased return and have the support they need to reopen safely, taking into account specific school contexts.
To help facilitate social distancing, the Liberal Democrats have put forward plans for the creation of “spare space registers” at a local level, which would open up office space, community halls, sports-grounds and more to allow schools space for social distancing, with the Government stepping in to cover associated costs.
Cllr Tom Gordon Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford parliamentary constituency said:
“It’s no surprise 48% of primary school headteachers and governors in across the Yorkshire & the Humber region have not yet been able to open their doors to more pupils, given confusion around the Government guidelines and the immense challenges social-distancing presents in many school contexts.
“The vast majority of people in our towns want to see pupils back in the classroom, but safety is paramount. Where it's been possible, many teachers, headteachers and governors have bent over backwards to safely reopen to some year groups. However, not all schools have the facilities or means to do so - the Government must recognise that no two schools are alike.
"Ministers must also learn from this that schools must have more time to prepare for future changes. Ministers must ensure all schools have greater support if they choose to move towards the next phase of reopening.”
Lib Dems urge Bauer Radio to rethink Ridings FM shutdown
Liberal Democrat Councillor has criticised Bauer Radio’s decision to close Ridings FM, saying that the move will “erode Wakefield’s regional identity on the airwaves”. In an open letter to Bauer Radio, Councillor Tom Gordon opposes plans to merge Wakefield’s local independent radio station with seven other stations across Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. Ridings FM, which currently serves Wakefield, Pontefract, Castleford, Featherstone, Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, is set to be replaced by the region-wide Greatest Hits Radio, in a move which has been reported will put 80% of presenters’ jobs at risk. Cllr Gordon and the Wakefield Liberal Democrats have started a petition and hope to gather enough signatures to show that enough residents support Ridings FM for it to remain viable.
Commenting, Councillor Tom Gordon said:
“This move by Bauer Radio endangers Wakefield’s regional identity on local independent radio. Local presenters will soon be replaced by national programmes produced in London”.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has proved just how crucial local coverage is, with residents across the district relying on Ridings FM for the latest public health guidelines and news about local businesses, services and transport. Region-wide coverage will not be able to replace this with the level of detail that residents depend on”.
“Radio Today estimates that 80% of presenters will face redundancy because of this rebrand, whilst Bauer Radio has given no assurances over the state of jobs for off-air support staff and producers. As Wakefield recovers economically from the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses should be making attempts to protect jobs, not to cut them”.
Make sure you sign our petition to keep Ridings FM on the airwaves, just click here.
Knottingley’s Lib Dem Councillor is calling on Wakefield Council to recognise a resident who saved a toddlers life after rescuing them from the Knottingley Canal on Sunday.
While walking near the canal Knottingley resident Ryley Ferguson witnessed an unaccompanied toddler fall into the canal from the opposite bank below Foundry Lane. Without hesitation he raced to the scene, stripped off some clothing, dove in and swam across and saved the toddlers life.
Following his lifesaving actions coming to light, local Councillor Tom Gordon has called on the Mayor of Wakefield Council to ensure that he receives recognition for his act of bravery.
Commenting, Cllr Gordon said:
"After hearing about what happened I contacted the Mayor to inform him. I do hope that we can find a fitting way of acknowledging his brave and selfless actions”
“Our town is extremely fortunate to have a lad like Ryley. He’s a hero and he deserves to be recognised as such.”
The Liberal Democrats are calling on Government to pick up the bill for council tax payments in order to ease the financial pressure people are facing as a result of the coronavirus.
According to the Liberal Democrats, their proposals would save residents in Wakefield district an average of £395 over the next three months.
The party's proposals include a complete moratorium on payments for all households in Bands A to E, and a 50% reduction in payments across other bands. The Treasury would make up the shortfall in tax revenue with direct payments to councils.
The Liberal Democrats would like to see these measures implemented for a minimum of three months, with an option to extend the scheme as required.
Liberal Democrat Communities, Housing and Local Government spokesperson Tim Farron said:
"Millions of people are facing financial hardship as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis. More must be done to ease the pressure on families facing financial hardship. Scrapping council tax bills before they kick in again in April is one such step.
"Councils and local authorities provide vital services and, of course, they must be able to continue that work. That's why Liberal Democrats are calling on Government to foot the bill until the current crisis passes and people can start to rebuild.”
Liberal Democrat Councillor Tom Gordon added:
"Many residents have already told me that they struggle to pay ever increasing council tax bills and across our towns people in Bands A-E are being asked to pay an average of £1581 in council tax this year. As the coronavirus crisis escalates, thousands face the prospect of simply not being able to pay, and may fall into arrears if steps are not taken to suspend payments. Rapid action is needed, or many more families will be under unbearable financial pressuring in the coming weeks.
"Councils have been hit hard by government funding cuts over the last five years. Every penny is now vital to ensure Wakefield Council can continue to operate. Under these proposals, councils would receive equivalent funding from central government, to make sure they can continue to provide the services that people rely on."