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Lib Dem sets up Facebook Group to tackle West Street parking issues

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Parking is always a major problem in a Havant and West Street is no exception. Prospective local councilor for Bondfields, Catherine Billam, isn't waiting for the council to help out, she believes in community action and has taken the initiative by setting up a closed Facebook group for residents, called West Street Havant PO9. This will enable residents to get together to campaign for better parking on West Street.

Using this Facebook group as a focus, Catherine wants local people to come together digitally to share their concerns and help each other out. A closed group will give local residents the confidence that what they say will stay within a trusted group.

If elected, Catherine will set up local Facebook groups covering the whole of Bondfields so that local residents have a rapid way to contact her and each other with their concerns.

Catherine Billam stands as Lib­ Dem candidate for the vacant council seat in Bondfields, West Leigh

Thursday 18 February 2016

Havant businesswoman Catherine Billam is standing as Liberal Democrat candidate for Bondfields ward, West Leigh, Havant, in the Havant Borough Council by­election on 3rd March. The by­election follows the sad death of former Bondfields Councillor Frida Edwards shortly before Christmas.

Lib Dem Cllr, Faith Ponsonby, said "Catherine would make an excellent councillor. She has the expertise and ideas to cope with the pressures on Council services caused by the Conservative Government cuts, and the energy and time to help residents and build the community."

Catherine said "I've known Havant and Havant people all my life. As a local resident I want Havant to be a great place to live, work and relax. For that to happen there has to be good housing, parking, transport, jobs, shops and social amenities. It's great that we're getting more housing and more business in the centre of Havant, but these put pressure on parking and other services. I believe we need a parking policy that balances the needs of visitors with residents and people who work here.

"Bondfields ward, West Leigh, hasn't got its own Community Centre. Residents have told me that they would love to have one and I agree we should have one.

Green issues are important to me. I have an allotment in Durrant's Road, and I'm keen to see Havant improve its recycling rate. In particular I’d like to see kerbside glass collection. East Hampshire has it, so it should be possible for us.

I've worked as a management consultant in London for Ernst & Young and now run my own company, so I know how to manage change and make things happen. I'd love to have the chance to work on behalf of the people of Havant as a Borough Councillor."

Catherine grew up locally and attended Wakeford's School (now Havant Academy) and afterwards Havant College. As a management consultant she worked for Ernst & Young, where she specialised in change management. She was Head of human resources for AST Europe Ltd and she worked for BP Information Systems Services in business analysis, marketing, and finance.

Catherine has an MSc in Organisation Development from Sheffield Business School, a BA (Hons) in Economic and Social Studies from University of Manchester and is a qualified coach. She has sailed the Atlantic in a 32-foot yacht and is qualified as a Scuba Dive Master. Aged 54, Catherine lives in Havant with her partner, writer and journalist Richard Milton.

Catherine can be contacted via email at

Bed-blocking costs NHS over £11m per month

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Shocking figures just released show that on on a single day last October, across England, there were 5,328 patients spending the day in hospital despite being well enough to be discharged or transferred to social care. In Hampshire (including Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and Southampton) 247 people were stuck, ready to go home or into 'step-down' social care.

The cost of this to the NHS must be enormous. In England, during the whole month of October 2015, 160,094 bed days were taken up by people who could have gone home. If this is costed at the rate of about £500 per week (probably an underestimate of what it costs to keep a patient in hospital, excluding treatment) this is costing the NHS nationally over £11m per month. Locally in Hampshire, 7856 bed days were not available for other patients that month, probably costing over £500,000.

However it is not just the cost, but the knock-on effect on people waiting for operations or other treatments. We are approaching the busiest time of the year for emergencies as cold weather comes, and people on the waiting list to go into hospital may get the dreaded call “Sorry, we don't have beds available” and finding they have to bear the pain of a bad hip for weeks longer.

Cllr. Faith Ponsonby said "When I was in QA with a broken leg several years ago, I could have gone home 2 days earlier if the new plaster cast had been put on sooner and the various medications from the pharmacy sent up promptly. It was really frustrating for me and several other patients on the ward in the same boat, who were longing to get home. I have a friend now waiting to go into hospital for a scheduled operation in March, who is fearful that she may have to wait even longer if there are no beds."

"I would not want patients sent out of hospital before they are ready, but often they are held up because there can be delays within the hospital, or care is not there at home to support them while they are convalescent. We need much more 'joined-up thinking' between the different departments in the hospital, and also with social care agencies. We need to set up this commission to think again about how best to care for residents from the cradle to the grave."

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson, Norman Lamb, called for a national cross-party commission to tackle this crisis. He said "The NHS and social care face an existential crisis. Demand for services continues to rise year on year but funding is failing to keep up. The position in social care is perhaps even more serious."

"Growing pressures on services are so severe that all parties must come together to fundamentally re-think how we can guarantee the future of the NHS and social care services. The Government cannot avoid this issue any longer. Establishing this commission will show they are serious about protecting these vital public services."

Paul Gray's Conference Highlights

Thursday 24 September 2015

As a first time conference goer I approached the event with mild trepidation. I needn't have worried. From arriving on my first day, the second day of the conference itself, I immediately felt at home amongst a collective of people all determined to see liberalism grow on the British political landscape.

Before lunch on that first day I listened to passionate newcomers and experienced politicians alike speak about how they had, and how they were, promoting liberal values across their local communities, the entire country and the whole of Europe. Of particular inspiration was Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in t’Veld. Her party, D66, had faced an almost total collapse a few years ago but were able to recover via a stringent process of remodelling themselves and becoming more business efficient. In 2014 D66 were the most popular Dutch party in the Netherlands' European elections. All of that was achieved just a few years after nearly being wiped off the political map. It was a very strong message to the Liberal Democrats to get the party machine in order and she received a genuinely euphoric standing ovation for her speech.

One of the real standout things about conference which I had no prior concept of was the huge array of fringe events going on. And if you were lucky, you got fed in the process too! There were so many fringe events to choose from that I was really only able to scratch the surface. There were, to name but a few, events for Green politics, youth events, economic events, LGBT events, electoral reform events, secularist events, asylum seeker support events and EU events.  Picking out three in particular:

Feeding Britain and foodbanks: a liberal responsibility - This was an excellent event hosted by the Trusell Trust, an organisation responsible for many foodbanks across the country. Not only do they provide food however, much of their emphasis is on providing real longer term solutions to help people improve their own lives. These include such things as teaching people to cook well for less, a relatively easy thing to do but a basic life skill which many in our society are simply not equipped to do. Growing up with a chef for a mum, this has spurred me personally to get involved with the Trusell Trust and to get teaching!

"After the Storm" - This was Vince Cable, former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, in conversation with Lord Skidelsky, biographer of 'Keynes' and advocate of Keynesian economics. The discussion really centred around what the Liberal Democrats were able to do to curb the Conservatives in government and whether or not Vince was right to have stayed within the government when the Conservatives were determined to follow ideological rather than intelligent policy decisions. If that all sounds a bit complicated, it basically just boils down to the fact that trickle down economics is proven to fail and yet the Conservatives insisted, as they still do now, on continuing with it. The session then moved on to questions from the audience where it became clear that there was a universal feeling that 'Osbornomics' was the result of utter incompetence. Seemingly, if you want to unite a room of liberals who just might have an idea about economics, just mention George Osborne!

Attracting Liberal Youth - This was a workshop held by Liberal Youth available to all party members, young and old. The focus was on how to approach young people to join the party and the overriding message was to be ambitious and to focus more on national and international issues which will have attracted younger people’s attention. As one older member put it quite brilliantly, "They don’t care about pedestrianised town centres, they care about Syria!"

Conference was rounded off by Tim Farron with a truly inspiring speech. Tim has a genuine, down to earth approach and speaks passionately about improving things for everyone. He's not focused on special interests; he doesn’t have any desire to get involved with trade unions or get bought off by multi-millionaires. What he does want to see, and approaches intelligently with evidence based ideas, is a society in which everyone; rich, poor, young and old alike, get a fair crack at improving their lives. As liberals we place huge importance on people taking responsibility for their own actions but we are smart enough to recognise that people can't and won't do that without the right education, life skills and opportunities to control their own destiny. Tim Farron understands that better than anyone.

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