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Happy New Year!

Saturday 14 January 2017

Local Lib Dem campaigner Philippa Gray wishes everyone a Happy New Year.

Philippa says “I hope everyone has had a wonderful and relaxing Christmas.

As we enter the year ahead we face a great many challenges in our local community, but, with your help, I think we can not just survive but prosper.

For too long, too much of our community spirit has been eroded by the same old politics by the same old politicians.

Let's make 2017 different. Let's make 2017 the year we stand up, as a community, for real change to our local area.


Debates in community centres, pubs and work places all over the country have highlighted that the vote on 23 rd June is something a lot of people are taking very seriously and are desperately trying to work out the ‘right’ answer. Exaggerated statements from both Remain and Leave have infuriated a public looking for solid facts amongst the spin. Economic models that are good enough for politicians to plan government budgets suddenly become only ‘matter of opinion’ to the same politicians. Amongst all this heated debate has the actual question being asked on 23rd June become confused?

The question on the ballot paper will be ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ That is it. There are no additional questions about why you vote to remain or leave. You are NOT being asked if you want sovereignty back (whatever that term means). You are NOT being asked if you want an additional £160 million a week spent on the NHS. You are NOT being asked if you want an Australian points system for immigrants. All these ideas have been floated by the Leave campaign but none are part of the question on the ballot paper.

Whatever the outcome of the vote on the Friday 24th June you will wake up and there will still be a Conservative government in power, one that is spilt virtually down the middle on whether to Remain or Leave. None of the above ideas were part of its manifesto in the general election – they can quite easily claim that there is no mandate for their government to implement one or any of these ideas. The referendum merely reflects the will of the British people in whether they want to remain or leave the EU, not what policies a government should implement if the British public do vote leave. Only at a general election could each party set out its manifesto on what it would do, only then would the British public see how many, if any, of the ideas become policy and for which parties. The next general election, barring the majority Conservative government losing a vote of no confidence, is set for 2020.

The outline of what a negotiated leaving of the EU would look like would be in place by 2019. The current Conservative government would lead the negotiations and decide how Britain left the EU, what model we would follow and the shape of the policies. This could mean that the British public has the chance to vote on remaining or leaving the EU but never has a chance to vote on what the shape and policies of the exit. In the meantime the Conservative government can follow its policy of extreme austerity, cutting any public services it thinks it can get away with and hollowing out beloved British institutions like the NHS through creeping privatisation.

For all Labour voters who think voting remain means supporting a neo-liberal project to exploit workers I have a question. How does leaving the EU help the cause of working people? The EU, imperfect as it is, at least tries to protect human and worker rights as well as the environment. Leaving the EU puts everyone in the hands of a British Conservative government with a clear aim of creating a neoliberal utopia where such protections become a distant memory.

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.

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

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