I'm delighted to address you as the Parliamentary Spokesperson for Chesterfield. It's been a very exciting past few months and a busy time as we have Council elections coming up on 2nd May. Now back in January, on a very snowy day, I took part in the seat selection hustings. It had been a year since I first started working with the local party in Chesterfield. I was very keen to make a good impression, all the advice I got boiled down to the same thing 'be yourself'… my daughter was horrified when I told her that I would be in Chesterfield 'being myself'
'So you'll be singing and wearing hair rollers…' She said, singing and wearing hair rollers? two words came to mind: Hilda Ogden.
Not quite the impression I was trying to make. But I survived, I'm here and very happy to look positively towards 2015.
Ahead of that we have to fight for our council seats.
I'll leave it to Michael Mullaney, when he speaks later, to remind you how awful the Tories are. In Chesterfield our opponent is Labour.
We all know the mess they made nationally.
Their last balanced budget was in 2001- seven years before the financial crash.
Even with the economy and tax receipts booming, they still borrowed huge amounts. After the crash of the financial sector, that they had deregulated in 1997, the economy went into a tail spin.
Yet to this day Ed Balls denies that there was ever a problem under their tenure.
And we have been left with the mess .Of course Milliband pretends that Labour oppose all the cuts that are being made.
Yet Labours last budget projection in 2010 showed that for every 7 Billion of cuts the Coalition are actually making, Labour had planned to make 6 Billion.
Ed Balls has even been forced to admit that in reality Labour would keep the cuts if they were in power.
And they talk about us 'helping the rich' - I didn't get into politics to help the super rich get richer. Labour cut Income Tax for millionaires every year until the final month.
Over the five years of this Parliament under the Coalition, a millionaire will pay £381,000 more tax on their income than they did under the last five years of the Labour Government.
Labour cut Capital Gains Tax for millionaires every year. We have increased it, so a hedge fund manager earning £1m will pay £477,000 more tax over the five years of this Parliament, than under Labour in the last Parliament.
Labour a dishonest, unprincipled Opposition offering no serious alternatives…
….Except borrowed ones like our mansion tax.
In Chesterfield they have wrecked, in just two years, much of the good work that our Liberal Democrat run Council did in eight.
Dithering, delaying and mismanaging our Market Hall modernisation. We have the biggest outdoor market in England. But it is blighted by scaffolding and a half done facilities.
Scrapping the world famous Crooked Spire logo in favour of some wavy lines.
The crooked spire! This is literally the only thing some people, in fact, most people associate with Chesterfield. And this 14th Century iconic image was replaced on council boards across Chesterfield ( at great cost to residents) by wavy lines, presumably representing the tortured brain waves of the person responsible for such a decision.
They've scrapped plans to work with a 'not for profit' Management Company preferring instead to sack 17 Leisure staff and borrow millions in order to build a smaller, inferior Sports Centre as a replacement for Queens Park Leisure Centre.
They have Scrapped the neighbourhood Community Forums and are to replace them with 4 giant panels, micromanaged from the Town Hall. It's crazy.
And worst of all trying, two years running, to needlessly increase the Council Tax.
Cynically hitting the poorest with Council Tax charges when they could have saved that money painlessly elsewhere - as Liberal Democrat Councillors showed. £400,000 ( over four years) could have been saved if they had extended our award winning partnership with Arvato. Jobs would have been guaranteed and new ones added.
Everywhere Labour councils are making cynical political decisions to cut council tax support for the most vulnerable.
Sheffield is hitting residents with a 23% cut in their council tax support, whilst ignoring a government grant of £1.1 million. They rejected a plan put forward by Liberal Democrats to accept this grant and use money from increasing taxes on second homes and empty homes that would keep the cut down to 8.5%.
Birmingham City Council is imposing 20% council tax charges after rejecting a government grant of £2.1 million.
They're cutting services and jobs and taxing the poorest because they believe this will anger the voters into blaming the Government.
In 2011 and 2012 that approach worked for Labour across the UK.
In 2013 Chesterfield are defending 5 of Derbyshire's 8 County Council seats. Four of these are tough defences against Labour.
With your help we can start the fight back against Labour's cheap and cynical politics.
And this is the first step to winning Chesterfield back in 2015.
There's a lot to be proud of in Chesterfield, most of it the legacy of our time running the council. As so often what's good is a result of Liberal Democrats working towards a strong economy and a fairer society.
You can see this everywhere . I'm visiting a local school in a few weeks; they will have had an investment, by the end of the next financial year, of £408,000 due to the pupil premium. It's a lot of money and I know what will mean to them…
…some of it will go to literacy and numeracy intervention, subsidised school trips and uniforms, mentoring, lunchtime homework clubs, a student based councillor and a pastoral care worker:
Targeted support resulting in every pupil - however financially disadvantaged - being able to improve their levels of attainment and progress.
And this sort of support is really working - I know this because I congratulated three schools in Chesterfield this year for their outstanding progress.
Secondary school performance tables revealed that three schools, Brookfield Community, St Mary's Catholic High and Hasland Hall Community School in Chesterfield are among the best in the country.
Liberal Democrats have shown that our aim is to help every child, irrespective of their background, to reach their full potential and see the attainment gap between the poorest pupils and their peers narrowing. And we are winning.
So when you're told on the doorstep that the voter is voting in a local election on national issues let them have it! Because our record stands up for scrutiny, it's one to be proud of and one which will see a victory for Mike Thornton and the Liberal Democrats in Eastleigh on Thursday.
Julia Cambridge PPC for Chesterfield
Regional Conference Saturday 23rd February 2013