Speech to Council: Budget 2013

 My speech to Council can be viewed here.

Leicester Town Hall“Thank you my Lord Mayor.

This is the most difficult time of the year for Leicester City Council. Two-thirds of the money that we get is from central Government and that funding is being slashed.

In a way to me it feels like a lot like we are in the eye of a hurricane: in that we have already had major cuts last year; and we’re going to have even more huge cuts to come over the next few years.

But today is also an incredibly difficult time for those of us who are Labour members. The people protesting outside the Town Hall tonight are just like us on this side of the chamber.

So for me and many other Labour members who are Labour Councillors, who are trade unionists, it is particularly painful and disheartening to be in here passing a Budget which inflicts cuts as a direct result of Tory and Lib Dem policies, than to be out there, protesting against this failed Government which has systematically – and is systematically – trying to: destroy the welfare state; foster inequality; persecute public sector workers; tax the poor to give to the rich; and attack hard working families here in Leicester and throughout the UK.

My Lord Mayor I remember vividly speaking in this debate last year and I said then that “this Tory-led Government was on the cusp of leading us into a double dip recession”. And that’s exactly what’s happened. Not only did Britain go back into recession but now, as we sit here tonight, we’re now teetering on the brink of a triple-dip recession, with a flat-lining economy.

And all because, my Lord Mayor: David Cameron, a former PR man; George Osborne, a former researcher; Nick Clegg, a former journalist; and Danny Alexander, a former press officer – the so-called ‘Quad’ – haven’t got the experience to run a business; haven’t got the experience on how to grow the private sector; and haven’t got the experience of how to get the British economy moving.

My Lord Mayor I was to just finish by saying that the people of Leicester have time and again put their trust in the Labour Party and the values and ideals for which we stand. And since having been elected two years ago I have seen and witnessed myself just how hard my Labour colleagues on this Council work, especially when it comes to Budget time.

This Labour administration: the Mayor; the Executive; the Chairs and Vice Chairs and members of the scrutiny commissions; put in months of preparation, hard work, long hours and meticulous planning and revision in order to try to mitigate against the worst excesses of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. And to try as best we can to protect frontline services from a cold, heartless, detached, out-of-touch Tory-led Government that does not, has not, and will never care about ordinary people in Leicester and families in our city.

Thank you.”

A bad Budget for Beaumont Leys

  • ‘Granny-tax’ will see hundreds of pensioners in Beaumont Leys paying more tax
  • Personal allowance rise is smoke and mirrors, equates to a few pounds a week
  • Child benefit cuts will leave hardworking middle-income families worse off
  • 3p fuel duty hike hits hundreds of Beaumont Leys residents who commute to work
  • 37p increase on packs of 20 cigarettes, 5p increase on the price of a pint
  • Minimum wage frozen for under 21s, no plan to create jobs for young people

Budget Response

“This is a bad Budget for ordinary hardworking people and middle-income families here in Beaumont Leys; the ward I represent on the Leicester City Council.

The population of Beaumont Leys is around 14,000 people – roughly the same as the number of millionaires around Britain who will save more than £40,000 in tax, as a result of today’s Tory / Lib Dem Budget.

By reducing the top rate of tax from 50% to 45% this Tory-led Government has cut taxes for the richest 1% in our country. With 23 millionaires in the Cabinet potentially benefitting from this reduction it is completely absurd for this Government to carry on claiming that “we are all in this together”.

Here in Beaumont Leys we have several residential homes and sheltered housing communities. By freezing personal allowances for pensioners this Tory-led Government is raising one billion pounds from the elderly to fund tax cuts for millionaires. This ‘granny-tax’ is yet another example of how the Tories are taking from the many and giving to the few.

For our many hardworking middle income families here in Beaumont Leys cuts to child benefits will leave hardworking people far worse off. And although raising personal allowances to £9,205 might sound impressive, in real terms it boils down to just a few pounds a week, which this Tory-led Government will instantly claw back by raising fuel duty later in the year.

Petrol and diesel prices are already at record levels. Here at the local Tesco garage in the Beaumont Leys shopping centre the cost of unleaded petrol currently stands at £1.359 per litre and diesel is priced at £1.429 per litre. These prices will increase by 3p in a few months’ time over and above any additional increases that Tesco decides to implement. Hundreds of Beaumont Leys residents who commute to work will be hit hard by this tax hike.

In this part of Leicester we also have some of the most deprived areas of social housing and under privileged people in the whole country. Whilst Leicester City Council continues to work hard to try to address underlying problems, this Tory-led Government has already slashed local authority funding, leaving people in Beaumont Leys and right across Leicester worse off in the months and years ahead.

Of course smoking is extremely harmful and I would actively encourage people to give it up. But for any local residents who choose to smoke in spite of the health risks, the cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes will increase by 37p this evening. The cost of a pint of beer will also go up by 5p, which is 2% above the rate of inflation.

Our young people in Beaumont Leys have also been hard hit. Not only has today’s Budget done nothing to actively create jobs for younger people, but this Tory-led Government has frozen the national minimum wage for all under 21 year olds. Workers under the age of 18 will see their minimum hourly rate fixed at £3.68 whilst the minimum hourly wage for 18 to 21 year olds remains unchanged at £4.98.

As a local Councillor for Beaumont Leys and as a local resident I am bitterly disappointed for my family and friends, and for thousands of my constituents who are being hit hard, as this Government chooses to cut taxes for millionaires.

Our pensioners are being forced to pay more, our young people are left to fend for themselves, middle-income families are being punished for working hard and motorists are being ripped off yet again. This is a bad Budget for Beaumont Leys and a bad Budget for Britain.”

Cllr Sundip Meghani

Statement regarding Police and Crime Commissioner elections

“After a great deal of consideration I have decided not to seek the Labour Party nomination for Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire.

This is for several reasons. Firstly I thoroughly enjoy my role as a local Councillor here in Beaumont Leys and I want to continue working hard for the people who elected me.

Also I have come to the realisation that I still have a number of personal reservations about this new system of elected Commissioners, and so I cannot in good conscience seek to do the job under such circumstances.

I take great interest in policing matters and I look forward to continuing my work on the Leicestershire Police Authority. I shall also continue to hold this Tory-led government to account as they make savage cuts to policing right across our country.

I would like to thank everyone who has given me such good counsel and support in recent weeks.”

Cllr Sundip Meghani

Labour protects neighbourhood policing and officer numbers‏ in Leicestershire

Members of the Leicestershire Police Authority (LPA) voted on Tuesday 21 February to increase the police precept by 2.5% for the coming financial year. Members rejected the Government’s offer of a one-off grant for a 0% precept freeze and opted instead for a baseline increase to secure a stronger financial position in the longer term.

Thanks to a concerted and united effort by Labour Members – Cllr Sundip Meghani, Cllr Barbara Potter, Cllr Lynn Senior (City Members) and Cllr Max Hunt (County Member) – together with the strong support of City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, the Labour Party managed to achieve a good result for the people of Leicestershire.

All four Labour Members voted in favour of the 2.5% increase whereas two Tory Councillors and one Liberal Democrat Councillor from Leicestershire County Council voted for a 0% freeze. To their credit the Chair of the LPA and all of the independent Members present also voted for the rise.

The 2.5% precept rise means that the average Band D property will pay an extra £4.24 a year. However by securing a 2.5% precept increase Labour has strengthened the position of the Police Authority in the longer term, saved nearly 200 police jobs and safeguarded neighbourhood and frontline policing.

Labour has also listened to the overwhelming majority of people in Leicester and Leicestershire, 75% of whom favoured a rise in the police precept when consulted by the LPA.

The simple truth is that unlike Conservative and Liberal Democrat County Councillors who tried to cut services and police numbers still further, Labour Councillors have succeeded in protecting hundreds of police jobs, protecting neighbourhood policing and protecting the integrity of a truly local and responsive police force here in Leicestershire.

As this Tory-led Government seeks to cut 30,000 police jobs and risk increases in crime and anti-social behaviour, Labour will continue to listen to the concerns of ordinary people, and continue to fight hard to protect neighbourhood policing and officer numbers right across our country.

Diary of a delegate: my week at Labour Conference 2011

SATURDAY 24 SEPTEMBER:

I arrived into Liverpool on Saturday afternoon and I was instantly impressed with the city. I was also pleasantly surprised with my accommodation; a spacious penthouse apartment with a balcony overlooking the docks and Conference venue. I spent the afternoon having drinks with my good friends and fellow Leicester Councillors Neil Clayton and Patrick Kitterick, as well as exploring the impressive Conference venue. Neil and I briefly gate-crashed the London reception, partly because there wasn’t really much else going on in the Conference venue, and partly because we wanted to hear Ken Livingstone speak. Just as we were leaving Harriet Harman entered the room and headed our way. We had a quick chat and I reminded her of her recent visit to the East Midlands Regional Conference, which I proudly explained had been held in Beaumont Leys, the very ward I represent on the Leicester City Council. We later headed over to the All Delegates reception where we were met by friends and colleagues from the East Midlands Labour Party regional office. It was great to meet up with fellow delegates and also spend some time getting to know our excellent East Midlands Labour team. We ended the night with more drinks and a bit of sightseeing around Liverpool. All-in-all a very warm and friendly welcome to Liverpool with a relaxed start to Conference 2011.

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SUNDAY 25 SEPTEMBER:

Sunday was the first full day at Conference. For me the day began at 12pm with the East Midlands delegates briefing lunch. We received a useful overview of processes and procedures, together with detailed information on the various votes that were due to take place. We also had a good talk from Vernon Coaker, Shadow Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice. The 2pm opening plenary session included a welcome from Liverpool City Council and various other speakers. A recommendation was made to Conference that the Refounding Labour report be accepted. Four CLPs spoke against it, on the basis that they wanted more time to consider it, but it was clear that the vast majority of CLPs were in favour. Both the outgoing General Secretary Ray Collins and the incoming General Secretary Ian McNicol gave excellent speeches. After the London Report, a vote on accepting the Refounding Labour report vote took place, which I’m proud to say that I supported on behalf of Leicester West CLP. After Conference was adjourned I headed over to the Progress Rally at 6pm. Douglas Alexander was a brilliant speaker and so was our own Leicester West MP Liz Kendall. Rachel Reeves was very impressive and clearly on top of her pensions brief. Ivan Lewis was a good speaker as well and gave a passionate rousing speech. Tessa Jowell also gave a lengthy speech in which she called herself a ‘veteran moderniser’. After the Progress Rally I headed over to the Movement for Change fringe event, which was extremely popular and very well attended with Stella Creasy, Chukka Umuna and David Miliband making up the panel. David was extraordinary. He was saying things that others still hadn’t said yet and his observations were insightful and accurate. David got a well deserved and lengthy standing ovation when the event ended. I later attended the East Midlands reception along with friends and colleagues from across the region. A few of us in the Leicester delegation ended the day with dinner in Liverpool’s famous Chinatown, which luckily for me, was just a short walk away from where I was staying.

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MONDAY 26 SEPTEMBER:

I arrived at the main Conference venue and was briefed on attending a ‘compositing meeting’ that was due to take place later that morning. Essentially various motions had been submitted by CLPs around the country, and the most popular motions that had been chosen by the delegates, had to be amalgamated. Leicester West CLP was one such successful CLP and our motion on public sector pensions had to be amalgamated with those of several other CLPs with similar motions. After successfully compositing the Leicester West motion, and voting for Kevin Hepworth and Rose Burley for the National Constitutional Committee, I spent some time visiting the various exhibition stands. I spoke with a number of different organisations, including a representative from Women’s Aid, with whom I discussed domestic violence issues in and around Leicester. I made it in to Conference hall to watch Ed Balls deliver his speech, before traipsing up to the Novotel hotel for a fringe event on police and crime commissioners, organised by Policy Exchange. Hazel Blears and Vernon Coaker were on the panel and the event was standing room only. I asked questions on diversity and timetables, to which the panel made clear they thought there wouldn’t be many women or BAME police and crime commissioners, but that we did need to move fast in order to start selecting solid Labour candidates. I headed back to Conference venue for the prosperity and work debate and I was pleased to see that the Leicester West composited motion on pensions was accepted by Conference. I later visited Hill Dickinson LLP for The Law Society reception. I met up with a number of good friends, including Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, the next President of The Law Society, Carol Storer, Director of the Legal Aid Practioners Group, and Lord Willy Bach, Shadow Legal Aid Minister. I had a number of very useful discussions about legal aid cuts. Heading back to Conference venue I struck up a conversation with a diplomat from the US Embassy. We discussed British and American politics, foreign policy, and Labour Party politics, and she also kindly invited me to visit the US Embassy in the future. I later attended a law and order fringe hosted by the New Statesman, where Mehdi Hassan interviewed Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper. To end the evening a group of us headed over to the Diversity Nite dinner, hosted by Leicester’s own Keith Vaz, where hundreds of guests were entertained by an array of interesting speakers.

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TUESDAY 27 SEPTEMBER:

The third full day of Conference essentially revolved around the Leader’s speech. Prior to that however, I attended the sustainable communities debate in the Conference hall, where Tom Watson and Chris Bryant both spoke brilliantly in relation to phone hacking. There were major queues to get in to the Conference hall for Ed Miliband’s speech, although the queues did add a certain air of excitement to the whole thing. Ed Miliband spoke extremely well and got a very lengthy standing ovation. His key message of a ‘new bargain’ ought to resonate well with the British public if they get to hear about it. Throughout the week I did find myself in a ‘Conference bubble’, relying primarily on Twitter for up-to-date information, and the BBC News mobile website. Watching television or reading newspapers felt quite slow and laborious in comparison to the fast non-stop pace of Conference. After the Leader’s speech I drafted my own speech on the issue of policing cuts. Colleagues from Regional Office had convinced me to give it a go and to see if I could get called to speak at the following day’s crime and justice debate. I also managed to catch up my good friend Neena Gill, former West Midlands MEP, who was around for the day before having to catch a flight the following morning. In the evening a few of us headed over to the Liberty fringe event chaired by Shami Chakrabarti. It was great to see Leicester’s Keith Vaz on the panel and he spoke brilliantly on the issue of  legal aid cuts; he clearly knew the subject area very well. Shadow Solicitor General Catherine McKinnel was also very clued up and spoke brilliantly. I spoke with her briefly afterwards and invited her along to address the Junior Lawyers Division at some point in the future. After dinner with my good friends Vijay Riyait and Anne Glover, I attended the Co-operative Party reception. It was good to see so many Leicester friends, including Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth and fellow Leicester Councillor Rory Palmer. I spent the best part of the night partying with friends and it ended with another late 3am finish.

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WEDNESDAY 28 SEPTEMBER:

Wednesday was by far my favourite day of Conference as I had the most extraordinary honour and high privilege of being called to address delegates. I delivered my speech on policing cuts during the crime and justice debate in the morning session. I was called to speak by Angela Eagle, after I managed to catch her attention on my third attempt, using a blue flashing lighter that had been given to me by a constituent. It went down well and I felt that I managed to do my bit to contribute to the debate and underline the importance of the policing cuts issue. I subsequently received numerous calls from media outlets and agreed to do several interviews. Paul McKeever, Chair of the Police Federation also addressed Conference, giving an excellent speech for which he received a standing ovation. I managed to catch up with Paul afterwards and I had a fruitful discussion with him about how passionately the Labour Party is on board with this incredibly important issue, and how we recognise its significance for our country, and for all our police officers. After lunch I sat in on the health and education debates, and I really enjoyed listening to excellent speeches from one Liverpool head teacher in particular, and the head of Norwegian Labour Youth movement. Both speakers received standing ovations as did John Healey and Andy Burnham. Afterwards I attended the Electoral Reform Society fringe with friends, where John Denham for Labour, Andrew Boff for the Tories and Chris Huhne for the Liberal Democrats debated electoral reform. We later headed over to the #Lab11Tweetup organised by our very own Twitter queen Kerry McCarthy. It was brilliant to see so many friends and fellow tweeters and it was a really great event. Coupled with a relaxed dinner this was really a perfect end to a perfect day.

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THURSDAY 29 SEPTEMBER:

I had a very early start to my final day at Conference waking up at 7.30am after less than 4 hours sleep. I was really struggling to get my voice back following after the previous few days. Luckily I managed to find my voice in time for a BBC Leicester radio interview just after 8am. It was a tough interview but I felt that I managed to make clear that the previous day’s speeches on policing cuts were about highlighting an important issue that the public have a right to know, and that the loss of 16,000 police officers across the country may well impact on crime in the future. I finished packing and arrived at the Conference hall in time for some excellent speeches by Caroline Flint, Hilary Benn and Harriet Harman. After singing The Red Flag and Jerusalem, Labour Conference 2011 officially came to an end. We made our way back to Leicester feeling positive and optimistic, inspired to carry on fighting for Labour values, and for the values that matter to the British people.

Speech to Labour Conference on policing cuts

Speech delivered to Labour Party Conference on Wednesday 28 September 2011

Conference. I’m Sundip Meghani from Leicester West CLP.

I’m a solicitor, a newly elected Labour and Co-operative Councillor in Leicester, and a member of the Leicestershire Police Authority.

Yesterday our Leader Ed Miliband began the substantive part of his speech by saying “this is a dangerous time – a dangerous time for Britain”. And he’s absolutely right.

“By slashing police numbers the Tories are putting peoples’ lives at risk.” Not my words Conference – the words of a Merseyside police officer, a father of two, whom I spoke with right outside this venue.

Relying on the police is part of British society. We take them for granted. If our cars gets smashed or our homes gets burgled, the first thing we do is dial 999 – safe in the knowledge that police officers will arrive on the scene and be there to help us, protect us, and secure our property.

Now don’t get me wrong, the loss of up to 30,000 police jobs right across Britain will be a godsend. A godsend for those rioters and looters who were never caught and will probably commit crimes again, a godsend for serious and organised crime gangs for whom breaking the law is a way of life, and a godsend for those extremists in our midst, silently plotting to again bring terror to our streets.

When the riots took place in mid-August we also had disturbances in Leicester. Our directly elected Labour Mayor Peter Soulsby was himself out on the streets late into the night with the police, as gangs of youths attacked bars and local businesses. Conference, our Mayor Peter was forced to stand by and watch, as his own daughter’s bar in central Leicester was also smashed up.

In Leicestershire we’re losing more than 200 police officers and more than 200 support staff. So not only will we have fewer police officers on the streets, but when there aren’t enough support staff to do the admin, more police officers may end up in the back office.

The simple truth Conference is that this Tory-led government has lost the plot on law and order. They’re hell bent on making our Thin Blue Line even thinner. For those 20 millionaires who sit on the Cabinet, crime and anti-social behaviour is something that happens to other people, and police officers are just another casualty of Thatcherite economics.

Well we won’t stand for it Conference, and our party – the Labour Party – will stand by our police heroes, and fight to protect the safety and security of the British people.