Tag Archives: Nick Clegg

Lib Dem council defy coalition in opposition to tuition fee rises

Nick Clegg yesterday faced a backlash in his Sheffield constituency, as the Lib Dem leader of the city council publicly opposed increases in tuition fees.

Cllr Paul Scriven, leader of the council, said “Sheffield is home to thousands of students and families who might be thinking of sending their children to university in the future. I’ve made my position clear; I don’t want to see students saddled with unbearable levels of debt. Therefore we oppose any increase to tuition fees.

“We may be in coalition in Westminster but we’re not in coalition in Sheffield and as Liberal Democrats we will continue to voice our opposition to measures with which we disagree.”

Cllr Scriven also ruled out Labour’s favoured policy of a graduate tax, calling it “unfair”.

A government review, led by former BP chief executive Lord Browne, recommended removing the cap on student fees, allowing universities to set their own rates.

But Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and MP for Sheffield Hallam, said earlier this week that the coalition were considering keeping an increased cap. “I am uneasy about the idea that you, in theory, have unlimited fees,” he said. “So we are looking at something which would be more restrained.”

Business secretary Vince Cable said last week that he was considering a cap of around £7,000 per year. Currently undergraduate students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland pay a maximum of £3,290 per year.

Cllr Scriven will put forward a motion opposing the proposed rise at next week’s meeting of the full council.

Both Clegg and Cable, who delivered the Browne review to the House of Commons pledged to vote against rises in tuition fees before May’s general election.

Video: Clegg summit draws hundreds of protesters

Hundreds of trade unionists and activists gathered outside the Town Hall yesterday, just as preparations were being made to host a council question and answer session with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Speaking after the demonstration, Paul Blomfield said, “[The protest] has been organised at very short notice and overall we’ve had about three or four hundred people here. It’s very positive.”

Although Mr Clegg did not arrive at the Town Hall until after the crowds had dispersed, Mr Blomfield remained hopeful he will respond to his invitation to face a public grilling, “So far he’s dodged every opportunity to meet the people of Sheffield in an open context, where people can fire questions at him without being stage managed. I hope he’ll do it.”

On the subject of Mr Clegg’s pledge to return any net gain on the sale of his house to the taxpayer, Mr Blomfield said “Well, that’s the test for him. And he may as well sell it, because he’s got no roots in Sheffield. He doesn’t come here very often.”

“Judas”: Clegg welcomed home by hecklers.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was welcomed back to Sheffield by a crowd of protesters, and hecklers today.

Mr Clegg had returned to Sheffield for a council Q&A session and to launch the region’s new Local Enterprise Partnership. As he was warmly greeted on the steps of the Town Hall by council leader Paul Scriven, protesters shouted “Judas” at the Deputy Prime Minister.

A Union organised rally, which dispersed minutes before Mr Clegg’s arrival, drew crowds in their hundreds outside the Town Hall. Chants of “Nick Clegg, Tory Boy” were heard through the protest, attended by a number of Labour councillors and Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield.

The insults were hurled by a small group of protesters who had stayed behind after the demonstration ended.

More on the protest to follow, including video of Paul Blomfield MP’s speech.

Clegg’s Sheffield home up for sale. Will he keep his promise to the taxpayer?

The Star reports this morning that Nick Clegg’s Ecclesall constituency home is up for sale. In the run up to the election, the paper notes, Mr Clegg told Andrew Neil that any profit made from the sale of his home “will go straight back to the taxpayer.”

Several months prior to the Andrew Neil interview, I spoke with Mr Clegg on this subject at a Lib Dem event at the University of Sheffield. This was shortly after he had agreed to pay back £910 of his £3900 gardening expenses claim, and he said a little more about his constituency home:

As you know, Sir Thomas Legg, who has conducted this retrospective review of MPs expenses, has retrospectively applied a number of rules of thumb, if you like, which he felt should have been in place when MPs made their claims. He has come up with a rule which says that…I forget the limit. He has come up with an annual limit of what he thinks MPs should have paid on maintaining their gardens and their properties. And in hindsight then calculated how much should have been spent for each MP. I could have quibbled about that. A lot of MPs are. I could have said I don’t understand the logic of retrospective rules. I could have argued that as it happens the home that I have here, in Ecclesall, on Knowle Lane was in a complete derelict state, the garden was an eyesore. My view of the money that I use, your money, taxpayers money doing my job is very, very simple. The home that I occupy, subsidised by the taxpayer is not my home. It’s on loan to me from you, the taxpayer. That’s why I think I’m pretty much unique in British politics in saying when I sell that property, any net gain goes back to you, the taxpayer. It’s not my money.

And that’s always the attitude, and that’s why I thought it was right for me to keep the garden in basic good nick. It was an eyesore for the neighbours otherwise. Sir Thomas Legg thought otherwise, but the last thing people want is politicians quibbling about this kind of thing. So I payed the money back. That’s the story and that’s the most candid and honest answer I can give to you on that.

Neither the estate agent, nor asking price has been revealed.

Mr Clegg has also said that he believes it is time to stop MPs from buying and selling property altogether, perhaps suggesting that he will take a rental property in his constituency after the sale of his home.

I assume Mr Clegg will shortly be implementing a procedure to return the gain on the sale of his property to the taxpayer, although how he intends to do this remains to be seen. If he keeps his word, it will set an interesting precedent, and perhaps rescue his credibility as a man at the forefront of “the new politics”.

Clegg to visit city to launch council enterprise deal

Deputy PM Nick Clegg

Deputy Prime Minister and Hallam MP Nick Clegg is to visit Sheffield tomorrow to help launch a new scheme intended to bring the council and local businesses together.

Mr Clegg will visit the Town Hall to help launch the new Sheffield Local Enterprise Partnership, introduced at last night’s meeting of the full council. The LEP is intended as a replacement for regional development agency Yorkshire Forward which is to be abolished.

He will also meet with local MPs, councillors and business and voluntary group leaders for the Sheffield First Partnership leadership summit at Mercure St. Pauls Hotel.

At last night’s meeting, Cllr Scriven, who has been involved in the founding of the LEP, said he hoped the replacement of Yorkshire Forward with a more private sector inclusive project would remove beaurocracy and stimulate growth.

He said, “If this city is going to move forward over the next ten years that growth is going to have to come from the private sector. That means that his city is going to have to be business friendly, it’s going to have to be business smart and it’s going to have to have a vision about how it works for or with business.

“It’s not going to be about Town Hall knows best, it’s going to be about the business working with the council and different councils working throughout Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, to actually get the right kind of approach.”

The proposals were largely welcomed by both sides of the chamber, although Labour councillors stopped short of giving the plans their full support. Cllr Tony Damms pointed out that some in the private sector are reluctant to get involved.

“They’re against it because they don’t feel they’ve been consulted” he said, “and they think it’s a bit rich to call on a set of proposals as major as these, and claim that the business community’s on side when they’ve not even been asked. They’ve been ignored.”

He went on to voice uncertainty about whether the LEP would be the shot in the arm that Mr Scriven says it will, “We don’t feel we can support the scrapping of the regional development agencies, such as Yorkshire Forward, and their replacement with the Local Enterprise Partnerships, because we don’t know how they will work.” He said, “We don’t know if it will stimulate the economy, and we don’t know if it’ll prioritise certain things that won’t help this city. We might be worse off with this option.”

Clegg accused of deliberately misleading Commons over Forgemasters

Deputy PM Nick Clegg

Two Labour backbenchers have complained to the parliamentary standards watchdog, alleging Nick Clegg deliberately misled the House on the reasons for the cancellation of the loan to Sheffield Forgemasters, according to the Financial Times.

Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North, and Rachel Reeves, MP for Leeds West, have written to John Lyon, parliamentary commissioner for standards, claiming that Mr Clegg has knowingly misled MPs and tried to cover it up.

The claim relates to the Deputy Prime Minister’s assertion that Forgemasters shareholders had refused to dilute their shares to raise money. Mr Clegg has since admitted his mistake, but has yet to apologise to the house for this error, more of which here.

According to the FT, the letter reads:

“We believe that the Rt Hon member for Sheffield Hallam has misled the House. We believe that he did this knowingly.

“We consider that he has failed to take any opportunity to correct the record or to apologise to the House and that a serious contempt over an issue of considerable political importance has therefore been committed.”

A spokesperson for Mr Clegg has dismissed the complaint as “just another example of Labour MPs playing politics with the interests of Sheffield Forgemasters instead of facing up to the fact that it was the financial irresponsibility of the previous Labour government which made the loan unaffordable”
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Sheffield in Westminster – w/c 26th July 2010

We all see plenty of the Rt. Hon. member for Sheffield Hallam on News 24, but what of Sheffield’s other MPs? Here in a taster of what will (hopefully) be a regular feature after the summer recess, we’ll take a look at what your elected representatives are getting up to in the big smoke, as well as the less well covered items from Mr Clegg’s agenda.

Tuesday saw an exchange between David Blunkett and Nick Clegg over voter registration during Deputy Prime Ministers’ Questions.

Following a question from Southend Conservative MP David Amess on the effectiveness of voter registration, Mr Blunkett suggested that the proposed changes to constituency boundaries are not as fair as they are seem to be. The equalisation of constituency sizes in based on the electoral register. This raises concerns because high numbers of 16-19 year olds, private tenants, and black and ethnic minority people, and inner city residents are not registered to vote.

Mr Blunkett said,

“Perhaps the Deputy Prime Minister would turn his mind to the reality of what is about to happen with the boundary changes that we have been discussing. Is it not a fact that this is a straight gerrymander, and that if he meant what he said, he would delay the boundary changes until there was a full 100% compulsory register based on the reality of where people actually live so that we do not end up with the distortion of taking away seats in inner-city areas?”

To which Mr Clegg replied,

“The right hon. Gentleman talks about straight facts; here are some straight facts. Last December, Islington North’s electorate was 66,472. Just 10 miles away, East Ham’s electorate was 87,809. It cannot be right to have constituencies in which the worth of people’s votes is so very different from place to place. Fairness is a simple principle that should operate in our democracy.”

Earlier in the debate, Mr Clegg was questioned by Blackpool Labour MP Gordon Marsden on his commitment to localism, following the coalition’s abolition of regional development agencies, such as Yorkshire Forward, which employs 450 staff.

Mr Clegg said,

“I am interested that the hon. Gentleman should think that the abolition of the regional development agencies and Government offices is somehow a blow against localism. Our view is that the Government offices had become a representation of Whitehall in the regions, rather than a voice for the regions in Whitehall. Equally, some RDAs do a good job, but he knows as well as I do that many local communities do not identify with regional development agencies. That is why we were right to say that it was up to local communities to come together with the private sector and others to create local enterprise partnerships, which are genuinely representative of what local communities want.”

With Parliament having risen on Tuesday for the summer recess, it’s been a short week. If, however, you fancy some additional reading, crossbench peer Nicholas Le Poer Trench, 9th Earl of Clancarty, 8th Marquess of Heusden, spoke about the time he spent on income support in Sheffield in the 1980s, during a Lords debate on poverty last Thursday. Worth a glance.