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Southampton Civic Centre

You're probably already familiar with our community newsletter "Focus". This Website is an online version of "Focus". If you visit this site regularly you'll see that we keep the site updated with information about Southampton and your community.

As you know, Liberal Democrats Campaigners and Focus Teams work all year round to improve your community. If there is any way we can be of help, please do get in touch!

If you share our passion for working for local people and believe in the Liberal Democrats aims, why not join us? By being a member you keep in touch with the Party throughout the year, join us at our regular social events, and get a vote in all Party Elections.

Recent updates

  • Maureen Turner
    Article: Aug 24, 2016
    By Maureen Turner in dailyecho.co.uk

    I was dismayed that Southampton's children and young people haves missed out on lottery funding of £10m to continue with Head Start which helps school-age pupils suffering from problems affecting their learning.

    But I am still more dismayed that the reason given for losing the funding was the disarray in Southampton's Children's Services.

  • Southampton Liberal Democrats Pint & Politics
    Article: Aug 12, 2016
    By Southampton Liberal Democrats

    Southampton Liberal Democrats held another successful 'Pint & Politics' event in the city this week.

    Chair of Southampton Liberal Democrats James Read said;

    "These events are a great way for our members, supporters and friends to meet up in an informal way, and share our thoughts and ideas.

    "I would urge anyone who is interested in getting involved with our campaigning activites to come along and have a chat."

  • Article: Aug 11, 2016
    In Liberal Democrat Newswire

    Out next month is The Alternative: Towards a new progressive politics edited by Green MP Caroline Lucas, Labour MP Lisa Nandy and Liberal Democrat candidate (and biographer of Nick Clegg) Chris Bowers. Its blurb says, "There is a growing recognition that cross-party cooperation among the progressives could reinvigorate politics and inspire a credible alternative to the Conservatives. Those who want a good society can and must work together - and, by doing so, they can deliver better answers and more inclusive government."

    Among the contributors are Norman Lamb (as revealed in LDN #75) and Lib Dem leader Tim Farron. Farron's chapter looks at immigration and you can read it exclusively below. The book itself is out next month and can be pre-ordered here.

    Celebrating the movement of people - Tim Farron

    For hundreds of years, migration has enriched our language, culture and society, and has helped to drive innovation, productivity and economic growth. Over the decades, we've seen ebbs and flows in how many people come into the UK, but over the last decade, due in large part to the adoption of free movement of people in the European Union, we have seen sustained higher levels of immigration. Sadly, misreporting and exaggeration by some politicians, pressure groups and sections of the press have turned this debate toxic, with immigrants blamed for all the ills of the country. This culminated in immigration playing a central though bogus and misrepresented role in the EU referendum debate, and following the narrow Leave vote, there is a bigger responsibility than ever for sensible, progressive politicians to frame the arguments in favour of immigration in a way that first acknowledges genuine concerns and then seeks to address them. There are challenges posed by high levels of immigration, and we should address them positively, not ignore them.

    A quick glance at national polls in the early part of this year - before the referendum debate got into full swing - shows that most people consider immigration to be the biggest challenge facing the country at the moment. However, it is striking that when people are asked what challenges face them and their family, immigration concerns drop out almost completely. Most people are scared of the abstract principle, rather than because they feel the impact of any problems themselves.

    Some of this has been to do with the pressures behind the EU referendum, but it is very unlikely that it will change. People will still come to the UK from overseas, whether under freedom of movement within the EU (in the short term) or migration from anywhere in the world. We will still face many challenges, and the fact that the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean is expected to be three times bigger in 2016 than it was in 2015 will ensure that the issue will not go quietly away. Too often progressives have resorted to burying their heads in the sand and hoping nobody asks about immigration on the doorstep or in media interviews, or, worse, defaulting to the easy attack of implying that everyone with worries about immigration is stupid or bigoted. It is high time for progressive politicians to take a fresh approach that address the concerns head-on. We need to have positive solutions and a clear vision.

    Progressives need to be making the positive case for immigration. There are many reasons and arguments for this. Firstly, a very simple view - immigrants are people too. They deserve opportunity and freedoms. This applies especially strongly to those seeking asylum. We know that people driven from their homes as a result of war and persecution deserve our help and support. The British public are at heart fair-minded people, and just as there was mass support for the Kindertransport, to save thousands of innocent children from the horrors of Nazi Germany, so we must muster support for the millions displaced from Syria and elsewhere. Of course we cannot house all of them, but then not all want to be housed - most just want to be able to go and live in their homes in peace. But we can make a difference to many thousands of people who need our help.

    So there is a clear moral case for immigration - and for many of us that is compelling. But we should also not be afraid to make other, more pragmatic cases - especially to persuade those unmoved by the moral arguments. We should be comfortable highlighting the benefits immigration brings to those of us already here. We should demonstrate that self-interest and generosity are in this case aligned. We need only to look to the National Health Service to see how important immigration is - statistics produced by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) showed that, in 2014, 26 per cent of NHS doctors were non-British, and the British Medical Association have been clear that, without immigrants, 'many NHS services would struggle to provide effective care to their patients'. With an ageing population placing more pressure on the NHS, immigrants will be instrumental going forward.

    The challenge for progressive politicians is to formulate and articulate an immigration policy that makes the most of the many benefits of immigration while reassuring British nationals that the overall balance is right. Changes to the current rules will happen as a result of the EU referendum - progressives need to use what influence they have to ensure that the new system is fair to everyone. Sadly, there are those who exploit the rules - we must be robust in tackling labour exploitation and those who abuse the spirit of Britain's willingness to welcome people from abroad.

    Migration does not benefit everyone equally

    A good place to start is to accept that, without certain policies in place, immigration does not benefit everyone equally, all the time. Much like trade, the overall economic benefit of immigration is indisputable, but that does not automatically equate to better circumstances for all. Current policies in the UK combine with immigration to make life harder for some people.

    The cry 'immigrants take our jobs' is crude and reductionist, but, as is the case with the trade of British versus Chinese steel, ultimately capitalism is driven by competition, and immigration introduces more competition into the labour market at the same time as it fills its holes. As the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) highlights, where immigrants do compete with the native work force, it tends to be a very localised problem and very much dependent on the specific industry of the area (MAC, 2015). This is supported by research by Christian Dustmann from the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London, which shows that while the majority of workers are either unaffected by migrant labour or positively affected, there is a negative impact on those with the lowest incomes. Often this is not because most migrants are low-skilled themselves, but because educational attainment and work experience do not translate well across borders, meaning many migrants find themselves 'downskilling' on arrival in the UK. Thus, when an employer has the choice of a British employee with low level skills or an immigrant with greater skills who is willing to take lower-paid work, the British worker is likely to lose out.

    So how can we make sure that migrants in the labour market do not undercut local wages or lead to the exploitation of workers by paying under minimum wage?

    Proper enforcement of the minimum wage is vital. The Gangmasters' Licencing Authority has done excellent work in this area - clamping down on unscrupulous businesses and helping exploited workers. Increased penalties for those who break the law, which came in as part of the Immigration Act that passed through Parliament in early 2016, are welcome. This is especially important given that the government is set to increase the minimum wage in this parliament. Without sufficient safeguarding, there is a serious risk that more companies will seek ways to prevent having to pay the increased rate. This method also creates a more predictable tax revenue from both native and foreign-born workers, and diminishes the risk of exploitation of other regulations, such as those around health and safety.

    Further research by CReAM shows that most migrants only stay downskilled for a short period of time - often it's just two or three years before they move on to higher-skilled placements. This means the low-skilled, low-paid part of the job market remains constantly busy. This trend could be mitigated by stronger policies around transference of qualifications between countries and sufficient investment in English language education. This first suggestion is especially critical when you consider the currently increasing holes in our labour market. In 2013, the so-called skills gap was particularly problematic in science, technology, engineering and maths ('Stem') industries, with an estimated shortfall of 30,000 graduates per year (CEBR, 2013). Where businesses can be confident that foreign educated workers have the transferable qualifications, they can hire them into those roles immediately and avoid any unnecessary pile-up in other parts of the job market.

    It is also worth emphasising at this point that we cannot continue to allow high-skilled immigration to make up for the continual failure to equip British people with the education needed to fill this shortfall themselves. More needs to be done to ensure that our school system gives children the best start in life, and that it is accessible to those at all stages of life who wish to train for higher-skilled, higher-paid jobs. The coalition made enormous leaps forward in increasing apprenticeships in the 2010-15 period, and this should be built on further. Immigration should complement the skilled workforce we already have in Britain, not replace it.

    One huge tragedy in UK immigration policy is the way that some of those on the right have attacked non-EU migrants excessively. New rules that came into force in April 2016 will see the majority of Tier 2 visa immigrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) having to earn £35,000 or more to qualify for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) - a move that will significantly impact immigrant teachers, nurses, scientists and IT professionals. It is possible that such rules will apply to immigrants from the EEA once Britain leaves the EU. Meanwhile, British citizens are separated from their wives or husbands, if they hold foreign passports, if the British partner earns below £18,600. Or, to put that another way, almost half of the British population do not earn enough to fall in love with a foreigner. This is cruel and unBritish.

    The right are obsessed with having a debate about numbers of migrants, which is a fight they cannot win without severely damaging our economy in the process. Until now, these measures could be applied to workers who come to the UK from within the European Union, so they have chosen to hit non-EU workers much harder and more brutally. With Britain's exit from the EU imminent, everyone from overseas stands to be treated with equal brutality. Such proposals do very little to ease pressure on the low-income labour market, while simultaneously having a negative impact on our universities and high-tech industries - and our humanity.

    The myth of diluted welfare

    Another topic that has dominated the debate on immigration is the notion that British citizens are benefiting less from the welfare state as a result of migrants coming here to receive state handouts. In many ways, this narrative is the fault of politicians, who have realised that tweaking welfare access for migrants is something that has very little impact but which is populist and within their ability to effect. Various parties have set their standards at different levels and use this as an easy policy to point to when attempting to prove they are strong when dealing with immigration. The most recent example of this was the current government's EU renegotiation plan, which included measures that would be used to deny EU migrants access to in-work benefits for four years. Despite what this race for longer waiting periods suggests, there is little evidence to prove that benefits are a 'pull-factor' for migrants to choose Britain, and consequently that making people wait longer for in-work benefits is in any way a deterrent.

    People do rightly raise concerns about limits on housing, on school places, and on the NHS. And they are right to do so - these are problems in many areas. But the solution to a shortage of school places is to expand schools or build new ones, not to blame the migrants that are coming here to contribute to society. They should not be blamed for government incompetence.

    Decades of failure to build sufficient housing, to provide adequate school places and to properly fund our NHS were exposed by the economic crisis in 2008, allowing migrants to become a convenient scapegoat for what had been a system left to crumble. Migration tends to be predictable, with areas of rapid population growth easily identifiable. However, it is surprisingly difficult to find localised information on migration and therefore difficult to analyse how immigration actually impacts on local services. The census is the only standardised model of collecting this data at the moment, but once a decade is not frequent enough to make use of the information for proper community planning. High priority should be given to developing mechanisms that take better account of pressures on public services in local areas facing rapid inward migration. And where pressures are identified, sufficient resources should be allocated to relieve them. In fact, the European Union has specific funding available for this, the European Social Fund, but the option of such funds being tapped and spent in areas where public services are strained has now gone with the Brexit vote. Calculations made by the Liberal Democrats in 2013 estimated the UK would be eligible for £1 billion from the ESF. This would not simply have assisted new provision for new residents, but would have been a genuine investment of help for the whole neighbourhood and community.

    If we accept the overwhelming evidence that immigration - from the EU and elsewhere - is good for our economy and, indeed, sustains our welfare system by reducing the ratio of workers to non-workers, we must ensure that we invest in using that strong economy to benefit all people. This is why progressives were in favour of Britain remaining in the EU - because freedom of movement helps our economy. Research by CReAM showed that over the period from 2001 to 2011, European immigrants contributed more than £20 billion to UK public finances. We can use that money to support public services like schools and hospitals in the areas where immigration is happening - and still leave more left over. Part of any progressive ethos should be to ensure that as much freedom of movement is protected as possible, and we have the example of Norway as a country that is outside the EU but has signed up to freedom of movement.

    Another look at the polling reveals that the other big issue that concerns people is the economy, and evidence in a couple of our close European neighbours, Denmark and the Netherlands, shows that populist anti-immigrant policies can soon become less popular when clampdowns on immigration do start to have an economic impact.

    A programme for positive migration

    It is the job of progressive politicians - both during and after the period when Britain's exit from the EU is negotiated - to set out a programme for positive migration, one that voters can see is credible and works for them. This vision should be based on four things I have identified above:

  • Adrian Vinson
    Article: Aug 10, 2016
    By Southampton Liberal Democrats

    Southampton Liberal Democrats have welcomed in principle the proposed Solent Combined Authority, albeit with reservations.

    Southampton Lib Dems Economic Development spokesperson Adrian Vinson says:

    "This initiative will give Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight joint control of some £900M over 30 years, together with £400M retained business rates, to spend in the fields of economic growth, adult education and training, roads and transport, housing and health, along the lines of the Government's deal with Greater Manchester and other key regions.

  • Pint
    Article: Aug 9, 2016
    By Southampton Liberal Democrats

    Southampton Liberal Democrats are hosting a 'pint & politics' event in the city on Wednesday August 10th.

    As the local party is gearing up for a possible General Election in the near future, and a definite City Council Election in May 2018, it would be fantastic to have your input on local and national issues, and perhaps find out how you can get involved with our day-to-day campaigning.

  • Money / banknotes (pounds sterling) in hand
    Article: Aug 9, 2016

    Commenting on the decision of the Bank of England to cut interest rates to a record low, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson, Susan Kramer, said:

    "This is a necessary move by the Bank of England to help our economy as it reels from the impact of Brexit, but we cannot pretend this isn't a deeply worrying sign.

  • Tom call for a charge on single use plastic bags
    Article: Aug 3, 2016

    Plastic bag usage has plummeted in England since the introduction of a 5p charge last year, under the previous coalition government.

    The number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers in England has fallen by more than 85%. More than 7bn bags were handed out by seven main supermarkets in the year before the charge but this has been reduced to just over 500m in the first six months after the charge has been introduced.

  • Microbeads
    Article: Jul 29, 2016
    By Lewis North in bearder.ue

    The Liberal Democrats have written to Andrea Leadsom the new Environment Secretary calling on her to introduce a ban on the use of microbeads in cosmetic products.

    Previously ministers have claimed the government supports a ban but is working towards an EU-wide position before taking any unilateral action.

  • Redbridge Residents Association meeting on the Test Lane distribution centre development (dailyecho.co.uk)
    Article: Jul 28, 2016
    By Southampton Liberal Democrats

    Redbridge resident and Liberal Democrat campaigner Simon Stokes attended a community meeting last night to discuss the future of the controversial Test Lane distribution centre, specifically how to mitigate the effects on residents of the extra traffic that would use the area.

    Simon said;

    "Despite the fact that most people there had campaigned hard against this development receiving planning permission, the meeting for the most part remained on-topic, and I hope gave the panel some things to think about.

  • Article: Jul 27, 2016
    By Southampton Liberal Democrats
    Commenting on the decision by the Treasury to stop payments from the £3 billion European Development Fund, Liberal Democrat Economics Spokesperson Susan Kramer said:

    "Despite saying that nothing would change for the UK in the immediate aftermath of a Brexit vote it's now clear that the Government is quietly, without any public scrutiny, withdrawing billions of pounds that businesses rely on.

    "If Brexit was a self-inflicted wound then the Tory Government is now pouring salt into it. The Treasury has unilaterally made this decision and it will put jobs at risk. Any claims the Government has to economic credibility are totally undermined by this reckless and damaging behaviour.

    "The Treasury should immediately restart payments and Philip Hammond must issue a full statement to explain on what planet he thinks suddenly stopping funding to business is acceptable."

    Southampton Liberal Democrat Economic Development spokesperson Adrian Vinson adds;

    "This is a financial hit that businesses in Southampton and across the country cannot afford in the unstable economic situation we find ourselves in following the Brexit vote.

    "The Conservative government are failing to get to grips with the self-inflicted problems they brought about by holding a referendum in the first place."

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